By SCHUYLER DIXON, AP Game writer
DALLAS (AP) – Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban relied on Wednesday and the national anthem would be played before home games this season, as the NBA reiterated its “long-running league policy” to include the song was.
The league’s initial reaction to the Cuban decision was that the teams were free to conduct pregame activities as they wished with unusual circumstances created by the coronovirus epidemic. Most teams do not have fans in home games.
But the NBA suddenly overturned the Cuban decision nationwide, including a question from White House press secretary Jane Saki during her daily briefing. Athlete protests of social and racial injustice during “The Star-Spangled Banner” became a flashpoint between the then President Donald Trump and various leagues during his administration.
“With NBA teams now in the process of welcoming fans into their arena, all teams will play the national anthem in keeping with long-term league policy,” the league said.
Prior to Wednesday night’s 118–117 win over Atlanta, the Mavericks played a pre-made anthem with both teams standing along the free throw lines, as stated in NBA guidelines. In the past, there was always live performance of the anthem in Cuba, although this practice has changed in all sports due to the epidemic.
During vaccination, less than half of the approximately 1,500 vaccinated essential workers were in their seats. All the players and coaches were standing, including Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, who laid his hands on his heart.
“It’s an animated discussion, which is certainly not surprising,” Carlisle said before the game. “It was Mark’s decision. He was firm about it. It has been a long time. “
The Mavericks issued a statement from Cuba saying that the club would return to play the anthem.
“We respect and have always respected people with anthem and passion for our country,” Cuba said. “But we also hear the voices of those who feel that the anthem does not represent them.” We feel that their voices need to be respected and heard, because they have not been.
He said, “Our hope is that people will keep the same passion to come forward for this issue and apply the same amount of energy to listen to those who feel isolated from them.” Then we can go ahead and have a courageous conversation. Move this country forward and unite us. “
The Mavericks played their first 10 regular-season games against Minnesota without allowing fans for the first time on Monday for free without the requisite workers.
Rich Patterson, a 29-year-old who works in health care and participates in the Atlanta game with a colleague, said the anthem was important to him, but whether or not he played before the sporting events .
“It’s a sports event and I’m here to hang out,” said Patterson. “I’m not here to worry about politics.”
At the time, Cuban refused to elaborate on his decision not to play the national anthem, except that after 11 regular-season home games, no one noticed.
The move was not without support among NBA coaches.
“It should be everywhere,” New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy tweeted on Wednesday. “If you feel that the anthem needs to be played before the sporting event, then play it in every film, music, church service and every business before the start of every day. What is a good reason to play an anthem before a game? “
Van Gundy has been questioned for some time.
The NBA rule book does not specifically state that the anthem – or song, in games involving the Toronto Raptors – must be played before the game – in the Canadian Team League. The only rule regarding the lyrics states: “Players, trainers and trainers must stand and line up in a respectful pose with foul lines during the American and / or Canadian national anthem.”
That rule was put to rest in the NBA restart bubble at Walt Disney World last year, when the league took no objections from players kneeling for the anthem to show their desire to end racial injustice and police brutality.
Players were criticized for kneeling; Some people who stood out, such as Miami’s Meyers Leonard and Orlando’s Jonathan Issac, also faced backlash on social media for standing up. San Antonio coach Greg Popovich, a graduate of the Air Force Academy and coach of the American men’s national team, also stood up for cramps in the bubble.
In an interview with ESPN, Cuba said that playing the anthem for good was never his purpose. The head billionaire said the issue was part of an ongoing conversation with people in the community and the league, particularly as fans begin returning to the arenas.
“We have no problem playing the national anthem,” Cuba said. “I stand for the national anthem. My hand is always on my heart. The real issue is how you represent the voices of those who feel that the anthem does not represent them or makes them obfuscate. “
The backlash was intensified at the Texas Capitol for not playing the anthem, where Republican Lieutenant Government Dan Patrick urged Cuba to “sell the franchise and some Texas patriots would buy it.” Other GOP lawmakers suggested that the tax breaks received by the American Airlines Center should come under new scrutiny.
Patrick said he intends to introduce a bill in the Texas Senate that would ensure that the national anthem is played at all events receiving public funds. He said that the bill has wide support.
“It’s hard to believe it could happen in Texas, but Mark Cuban’s actions yesterday made it clear that we should specify that in Texas we play the national anthem before all major events,” Patrick said. “In this time when a lot of things divide us, sport is the one thing that brings us together – right, left, black, white and brown.”
AP basketball writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.
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