By Ken Reed

Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks played their first 13 home games this season without playing the national anthem before tip-off. And nobody noticed. Finally, somebody at The Athletic noticed and reported it.

Cuban didn’t give a reason. He simply said he had decided before the season not to play the anthem.

At first, the NBA was okay with Cuban’s decision, saying teams could “run their pregame operations as they see fit.” Not long after, they reversed their stance, releasing a statement saying:

“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.”

Cuban then relented and said, in part, in a team statement:

“Our hope is that going forward people will take the same passion they have for this issue and apply the same amount of energy to listen to those who feel differently from them. Then we can move forward and have courageous conversations that move this country forward and find what unites us.”

The key question here is, why is it necessary to play the national anthem before sporting events? The simple answer is, it’s not. We don’t play the anthem before other events where people gather except sports. Not at Broadway plays or school plays. Not at concerts or movies. Not at church services or business seminars.

Well, it’s the traditional thing to do, you say. Yes, that’s true, and that is a reason, but is tradition enough of a reason? I think not.

People go to sporting events to be entertained and have fun. If the playing of the anthem — or what people do during the anthem, whether that’s kneeling in peaceful protest, going to the bathroom, or buying a hot dog — is going to cause people to get upset, and maybe violent, then let’s not play it. If the playing of the anthem does more dividing than unifying then it simply isn’t worth it.

Here’s a thought. Instead of spending so much time and energy on whether or not the anthem is played before a game, and who’s doing what during the anthem, or who’s a true patriot and who isn’t, how about we all focus on living up to the ideals represented in the American flag: freedom and justice … for all of us.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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