In Abrupt About-Face, NBA Says Teams Must Play National Anthem Before Games

A day earlier, the NBA said it would permit teams “to run their pregame operations as they see fit” after the Dallas Mavericks said it wouldn't play the anthem.

The NBA said Wednesday that all teams must play the national anthem before games “in keeping with longstanding league policy.” The announcement comes just a day after the league said teams could choose not to play “The Star-Spangled Banner” before home games.

The NBA was compelled Tuesday to weigh in on the anthem issue after Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said his team had stopped playing the anthem before home games last year ― and had no plans to start the tradition up again.

When asked about Cuban’s decision, an NBA spokesperson told Bleacher Report that because of “the unique circumstances of this season,” in which a majority of NBA teams are currently playing home games without fans due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it was permitting teams “to run their pregame operations as they see fit.”

The league, however, changed its tune Wednesday, saying that “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 told The New York Times that the Mavericks ― who have started allowing a small number of fans to attend home games ― are “good” with the league’s position and would play the anthem before their home game against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.

“We respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and our country. But we also loudly hear the voices of those who feel that the anthem does not represent them. We feel that their voices need to be respected and heard, because they have not been,” Cuban added in a statement.

“Going forward, our hope is that 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,” he said.

Cuban has been vocal in his support of players and coaches kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality.

“If they were taking a knee and they were being respectful, I’d be proud of them. Hopefully, I’d join them,” Cuban said last year. “Whether it’s holding their arm up in the air, whether it’s taking a knee ... I don’t think this is an issue of respect or disrespect to the flag or to the anthem or to our country. It’s a reflection of our players’ commitment to this country.”

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