The owner of the NBA franchise Dallas Mavericks has nixed the playing of the National Anthem before games this year. Apparently this has been the case since the start of the season, but is just now making headlines because fans are starting to attend games.
Cuban is well known for being a vocal owner, and is no stranger to a little controversy. However, this doesn’t seem to be a measure taken to create headlines, nor to grandstand on the political stage. Typically, the team’s P.R. department would have leaked the info much earlier if they were trying to make a statement. The fact that it has just now come out signals that it was more of a move to avoid controversy than to create it. It’s my guess that Cuban simply removed a polarizing element from the product to avoid putting players in a position of choosing to kneel or not.
This will obviously reignite the debate over kneeling during the anthem, which is not a topic I can take a hard stance on. I believe the players have taken something that at one point blindly united everyone in a stadium, and brought awareness to an issue that clearly a good portion of the population was (and remains) ignorant towards. It’s also understandable that some people are offended that it’s happening during what they feel is a symbol of what they or ones they loved risked their lives for.
The biggest question for many people is why do we play the national anthem before sporting events not held in international competition? Apparently, it started during World War I as a way to inspire a terrified nation of people before World Series. It became seen as tradition after that and was adopted by almost every professional sport league since. Tradition and sports go hand-in-hand and people are often reticent towards letting them go.
While the people most angry about Cuban eliminating the song will be the same people who were upset about the players kneeling, there will undoubtedly be anger on both sides. This could easily be seen as an attempt to relieve White Guilt; if we don’t have to confront the problem, we don’t have to feel bad about it. It also eliminates a prominent stage for players to make their voices heard. I don’t want to mischaracterize Cuban, as he is well known for advocating for his players. But he is a businessman first, and it certainly seems like the motive was to avoid the issues that came with playing the anthem. Unfortunately for him, it seems that he has inadvertently created a whole new set of problems.
The NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, has yet to weigh in on the situation, despite the fact that the established rules and guidelines call for the National Anthem to be played before games. I suspect he is waiting to see what the customers and investors have to say before making a call. It could very well be that they would like the tradition to go away, but would never proactively do it themselves, as it would be seen as unpatriotic.
Regardless of the outcome, this is sure to be a tricky situation for the NBA to navigate, and it will be interesting to see how it all turns out.