Matt Lindsay is a senior journalism major.
Mark Cuban should be applauded for his decision to stop playing the national anthem.
The Dallas Mavericks made headlines in early February when The Athletic reported that the team hadn’t played the national anthem at any of its home games this season.
The NBA’s rulebook states that players must stand during the anthem, but commissioner Adam Silver relaxed this rule last year as most players kneeled during the anthem in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In a December press conference, Silver said that the issue “calls for real engagement, rather than rule enforcement.”
Until this February, Silver and the NBA spent more time listening to players than they spent enforcing rules. When NBA and WNBA players boycotted games after the shooting of Jacob Blake last summer, Silver voiced his support in this letter to league employees as a call for “real engagement.”
Unfortunately, Silver would rather his players boycott entire games than have one team boycott the national anthem.
The NBA has long required teams to play the national anthem before every game; however, teams have been given permission “to run their pregame operations as they see fit,” because of this season’s unique circumstances.
Following the revelation, the NBA enforced the rules on Mavericks’ owner, Mark Cuban.
Along with the NBA’s statement, came loads of backlash from what Cuban calls the “National Anthem Police.”
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick weighed in on Twitter and released an official statement declaring that the enforcement of the playing of the national anthem at all publicly funded Texas events would be one of his legislative priorities this year.
“In this time when so many things divide us, sports are one thing that bring us together — right, left, Black, white and brown,” Patrick said in the statement.
Patrick is right in saying that sports unite. Yet, if he really cared about bringing people together, he should support Cuban’s decision.
Ever since Colin Kaepernick kneeled in 2016, the national anthem has done nothing but further the social divide in America.
The popular argument against Kaepernick, which equates not standing for the national anthem to a lack of patriotism, is ridiculous. Cuban faced this criticism, despite launching the Fallen Patriot Fund years ago in order to help families of U.S. service people and first responders who have been killed or injured in the line of duty.
Not everyone feels represented by the national anthem and there’s no way to change how people feel, other than by changing the system that perpetuates racial inequality.
Last May, former NFL running back Arian Foster went on “Pardon My Take,” a Barstool Sports podcast, to talk about racial injustice.
“I was telling [Tomi Lahren] that you don’t have a monopoly on what it means to be American and how to feel in America,” Foster said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had… but the experience that I’ve had in America does not make me feel all happy-happy-joy-joy like it does for you when you say, ‘I’m American.’”
Foster’s appearance on the podcast has stuck with me for the last ten months because I’ve felt both sides of what he described. The idea of patriotism was constantly drilled into my head at a young age from educators, family members and through public opinion.
I used to feel the inherent pride Foster talks about every time I heard the anthem played before a sports game. As I got older and became more aware of my privileges as a white male, that great pride gradually dwindled away. Call me unpatriotic, but having the ability to be critical of our country is part of America’s beauty to progress.
It’s possible to love America and everything that makes it so great while pushing to change the country for the better. We’re all lucky to have the freedom this country grants, but anyone who thinks this country is perfect is blinded by their privilege.
Regardless of whether not playing the national anthem before Mavericks games made any real societal impact, it was a decision Cuban made to bring the Mavericks community together.
“One thing I’ll say about Mark is he’s not scared of what’s being talked about,” Mavericks center Willie Cauley-Stein said. “When you’ve got a guy that shows his full character and he’s not being a businessman and he’s like human, that’s big-time for a player to go through.”
After the NBA said that all teams will play the national anthem before each game, Cuban responded with a statement on the team’s behalf, which is something we could all learn from.
The national anthem will play prior to tonight’s game and Mark Cuban has released the following statement. pic.twitter.com/rEAD9jXbSw
— Mavs PR (@MavsPR) February 10, 2021
If Dan Patrick truly cared about bringing people together and if Adam Silver embraced engagement over enforcement, they would support Cuban’s decision to stop playing the anthem before Mavericks games.
Do I think not playing the anthem is the simple solution that’ll fix racial injustice in the country? No, but Mark Cuban brought his people together and stopped playing it based on their engagement.
Regardless of where one stands, they should, at the very least, respect Cuban for listening. Arguing about standing for the national anthem or whether we should play it at all won’t push for social reform.
We need to have more honest conversations with people from diverse backgrounds and different views if we want to create genuine change.