The NBA and the National Anthem

Eva Smith, Sentry Reporter

For as long as the National Basketball Association (NBA) has been playing basketball, the national anthem has been played before every game. In February, Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, announced that the Mavericks will not play the national anthem before games. Shortly after, the NBA announced that all teams are required to play the anthem before games, prompting a wide array of reactions. 

During COVID-19, NBA teams have not had any fans present at games, and pre-game operations have been decided by individual teams. The Mavericks had not been playing the national anthem during this season prior to Cuban’s announcement. The NBA’s decision to require that the anthem be played may have had to do with the fact that a limited number of fans were able to attend games starting that week. As fans started returning to arenas, the NBA wanted to reemphasize its national anthem policy. 

The NBA’s Chief of Communications, Mike Bass, called playing the national anthem “a longstanding league policy.” 

In past years, the time when the national anthem is played before a sporting event has been used for a silent protest. These protests have been controversial in the past. Recently, the NBA has chosen not to enforce their policy of requiring players to stand during the national anthem, as many players have started kneeling as a silent protest. Not enforcing this policy could be a step towards allowing teams to decide whether they play the national anthem in the future. 

Cuban said that he had talked to members of his community about the national anthem and found that not all people felt fully represented by the anthem, and he wanted to acknowledge their voices. The decision was not meant to offend anybody but instead was made to honor members of the Mavericks’ community that had not always been recognized. 

Even though this decision was short-lived, there were many responses to it. Texas Governor Dan Patrick was not happy with this decision and intends to introduce a bill that will require all public-funded events to play the national anthem. Rick Carlisle, the coach of the Mavericks, did not have much to say about the decision but did mention that it was completely Cuban’s decision. 

This decision by the NBA has started conversations about traditions like the national anthem and how much control a team should have over game operations. For the time being, it does not seem like the national anthem policy will be changing, but Cuban’s decision has started a conversation that could be continued in the future.