The Dallas Mavericks have ceased playing the national anthem before home games this season and do not plan to play it moving forward, a decision made by owner Mark Cuban that he confirmed to The Athletic on Monday evening.
None of 13 preseason and regular-season games played at the American Airlines Center this season have featured the anthem before the game, including Monday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the first played this season with a limited amount of fans in attendance.
The Mavericks did not publicize the anthem’s removal, and The Athletic was the first media organization to reach out about the change after noticing its absence on Monday. Multiple team employees described only noticing the anthem’s removal on their own, as it was also not announced or explained internally.
Cuban declined a request for further comment or explanation Monday evening. The Mavericks organization also declined comment Tuesday.
Well I suppose that's one way to avoid any future "kneeling during the anthem" controversies right? Kind of odd that it took this long for this story to get out. Like I know that Monday's game was the first with fans, but there were no fans during the Orlando bubble and the national anthem was a big deal back then. Everyone had their eyes on the TV to see if any players or coaches wouldn't kneel. TV stations showed the anthem on their broadcasts instead of cutting to commercials.
So again it's rather surprising that no media member covering the Mavs reported on this prior. Or opposing teams' writers for that matter. And I'm sure the Mavs have had their share of nationally televised games as well. Anyway, I'm sure many people will have strong opinions regarding the removal of the anthem one way or the other. If I'm correct playing a national anthem is rather unique to the United States. Maybe some of our international readers can verify that?
One thing I can strongly predict is that I expect other NBA teams to follow suit and to remove the anthem. And if they don't I could definitely see players exerting pressure on their ownership groups to cease playing it. And the last thing teams want is for the story to become about their star players refusing to come out for the anthem, so they will capitulate. It would be a PR disaster otherwise.
My guess is the Mavs and the NBA REALLY wanted this to be a story that no one reported. The kneeling for the anthem stance by the players alienated a portion of the fan base last summer and its just an issue that teams would prefer not to deal with. Not sure when fans will be returning to the TD Garden, but once they do they might notice this one pregame tradition having been removed.
Unless something major happens this season (off the court, politically, from players, etc), I would guess that the Celtics will continue to play the anthem through the remainder of the 2020-21 campaign and then join the majority of other teams who will cease playing it starting next season.