Attacks on the national anthem are nothing new – especially in the wide world of sports. The latest challenger was Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. The NBA has long required that the national anthem be played before games. The Mavericks haven’t been playing it at their home games, however. Cuban told the media Tuesday, Feb. 9, that he had instructed his team to stop playing it.
That went over about as well as one would expect: like a lead balloon, as the saying goes. The revolutionary revelation inspired intellectuals yet again to ask the question: Should we honor the anthem? The story made its way through the media and into the Texas legislature and even the White House before coming full circle just a day later. The NBA declared the anthem mandatory and Cuban found himself backpedaling, claiming that he didn’t cancel the anthem and that he simply wanted to start a conversation.
Do as You See Fit
Since the Coronapocalyspe put an end to social events as we knew them, many teams don’t host fans at home games. Because of this, the NBA had relaxed pregame regulations, allowing teams to pretty well do as they wish. The result? The Star-Spangled Banner hasn’t played before any of the Mavericks’ 13 preseason or regular season home games. This little omission occurred quietly and in the background until team owner Mark Cuban announced it months after the decision was made – an odd fact, whether he genuinely wanted to start a debate worth having or simply virtue signal to the woke crowd. In either case, one might expect he would have made some noise about it before the team reached 13 anthem-free games.
A Worthy Conversation
Whatever Cuban’s intentions, he definitely got the conversation started. The story took off in the media and, of course, was received more warmly in some circles than others. The Dallas Morning News said that his experiment gives courageous conversations a chance to continue. USA Today called the decision “long overdue.” Stan Van Gundy, head coach for the New Orleans Pelicans, threw his support behind Cuban as well. “This should happen everywhere,” he wrote. “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 the game?”
At a White House press conference, Jen Psaki managed to express support for the right to protest without committing one way or the other to whether the anthem should be played, but not all politicians took that route. Fort Worth Police Officers’ Association Vice President Anthony White tweeted, “Get woke, go broke! I won’t spend another cent on @dallasmavs.” “Makes sense,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) quipped, “the NBA needs space to play the Chinese National Anthem before games.” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was so outraged he called for Cuban to “sell the franchise” so some Texas patriots could buy it. He’s pushing a new bill, the Star Spangled Banner Protection Act, to require the anthem to be played at any event that receives public funding. In the face of reactionary bills like this, however, one must ask why national symbols like the anthem and the flag are worthy of respect. Is it allegiance to the U.S. government, or the ideals of liberty for all on which it was founded? Can the act of legislating behavior toward the anthem itself actually render the symbol unworthy of respect?
Cuban’s Star-Spangled Bummer
Many fans were outraged, and the NBA itself quickly stepped in to end the argument. “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,” read a statement from the association.
Cuban relented, saying they would start playing it again. The anthem played before the game Wednesday night. “We have no problem with playing it,” Cuban told The Dallas Morning News. “But we do want these very important conversations to continue.” So, was this whole ordeal just virtue signaling to the woke athletes, or does Cuban really support the anthem, as he now says, and merely want to spark a conversation? Folks are certainly talking, but Cuban may not like what he hears.
Read more from James Fite.