Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has relented and the national anthem will be played before home games this season after the NBA reiterated its “longstanding league policy” to include the song.
The league’s initial reaction to Cuban’s decision was to say teams were free to conduct pre-game activities as they wished with the unusual circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic.
Most teams don’t have fans at home games.
But the NBA abruptly reversed course with Cuban’s decision reverberating around the country, including a question put to White House press secretary Jen Psaki during her daily briefing.
Athlete protests of social and racial injustice during the “The Star-Spangled Banner” became a flashpoint between then-President Donald Trump and various leagues during his administration.
“With NBA teams now in the process of welcoming fans back into their arenas, all teams will play the national anthem in keeping with longstanding league policy,” the league said.
The Mavericks said they would play the anthem starting on Wednesday night against Atlanta while releasing a statement from Cuban which said the Mavericks respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and the United States.
Dallas played their first 10 regular-season games without fans before allowing 1,500 vaccinated essential workers to attend Monday’s game against Minnesota for free.
New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy tweeted” “If you think the anthem needs to be played before sporting events, then play it before every movie, concert, church service and the start of every work day at every business. What good reason is there to play the anthem before a game?”
Psaki said she had not spoken to President Joe Biden about the issue.
“I know he’s incredibly proud to be an American and has great respect for the anthem and all that it represents,” Psaki said.
“He’d also say, of course, that part of pride in our country means recognising where we as a country haven’t lived up to our highest ideals.”
Last June, during an interview on ESPN, Cuban expressed support for NBA players kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest.