Team owner Mark Cuban confirmed to the Athletic that it was him who made the decision but declined to make further comment or explanation.
The Mavericks, featuring Slovenian superstar Luka Doncic, have played 12 home games so far this season. They haven’t played the national anthem in any of those games, as well as in any of the pre-season games held on their home floor.
Cuban and the Mavericks didn’t publicize the removal of the national anthem prior to their home games. A number of team employees said that it was not announced or explained internally.
The Athletic reached out to the team after realizing that the national anthem wasn’t played before the matchup between the Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, Feb. 8. It was the first game in Dallas this season with a small number of fans allowed in the stands.
The Mavericks are one of the favorites to contend for the title this year following their strong performance in the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers last season.
But with a 12–14 record as of writing, the Mavericks are in danger of missing the post-season this year. They trailed the Golden State Warriors (13–12), the Sacramento Kings (12–12) and the Memphis Grizzlies (10-10) in the battle for the eighth spot in the loaded Western Conference.
For more than two decades, the Mavericks have been led by international players. German Dirk Nowitzki, arguably the greatest European player to play in the NBA, led the team to its only title in 2011 by beating the Miami Heat in the championship series, 4–2.
Nowitzki retired in 2019 after playing 20 seasons with the Mavericks. Canadian Steve Nash, a two-time league Most Valuable Player (MVP), also played for Dallas from 1998 to 2004.
The Mavericks drafted Doncic in 2018 after swapping picks with the Atlanta Hawks and immediately made the 6-foot-8 EuroLeague MVP their starting point guard. They also acquired 7-foot-3 Latvian center Kristaps Porzingis last season to bolster their frontcourt.
They were an outlier in a league dominated by African Americans. Perhaps, they wanted to start a different kind of trend by not playing the national anthem in home games.
NBA teams used to show stance in racial equality during national anthem
For several years now, the NBA has been a vocal proponent of racial equality.
Players and coaches took a knee during the national anthem in the first set of games during the 2019-2020 season restart. The demonstration, inspired by free-agent National Football League (NFL) quarterback Colin Kaepernick, called attention to racial injustice and police brutality. (Related: In our twisted “progressive” society, what takes real courage is STANDING for the national anthem… #BoycottNFL.)
The league made it a priority to promote racial equality when it restarted the season in the Orlando bubble last year. It allowed players to wear jerseys with social justice messages such as black lives matter, anti-racist, equality and reform.
“The league and the players are uniquely positioned to have a direct impact on combating systemic racism in our country, and we are committed to collective action to build a more equal and just society,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at the time. “A shared goal of our season restart will be to use our platform in Orlando to bring attention to these important issues of social justice.”
Before the restart, the NBA got permission to make the “John Lewis: Good Trouble” documentary available to all head and assistant coaches. Lewis was an American civil rights activist and leader, who served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia’s fifth congressional district from 1987 until his death in 2020.
NBA head coaches also contributed. Dallas’ Rick Carlisle started every interview session by reading something that happened in the country’s racial history. Toronto’s Nick Nurse often wore Black Lives Matter shirts to practice. Orlando’s Steve Clifford showed his team the documentary on the life of Lewis instead of pre-practice films.
“I’m inspired by how this movement still has great stamina, and I think our ability to go there and still keep the conversation alive with our platforms is important,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said at the time. “The next step that everybody wants to see is action and lasting, sustainable change in areas of systemic racism and social inequalities.”
Spoelstra is the only Asian-American coach to win an NBA championship – winning the title in 2012 and 2013 with a Heat team featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. His mother, Elisa Celino, is a Filipina from San Pablo, Laguna.
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