Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said Tuesday night that he had instructed the team to stop playing the national anthem before its home games this season.
“It was my decision, and I made it in November,” Cuban said. He declined to comment further.
The Mavericks did not announce the new policy, but Cuban was allowed to enact it because the N.B.A. has permitted teams “to run their pregame operations as they see fit” because of “the unique circumstances this season,” according to a league spokesman.
Nearly two-thirds of the league’s 30 teams are still not admitting fans to home games, as the N.B.A. grapples with the complexities of trying to stage a 72-game season in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Dallas is believed to be the only team in the league that has abandoned the anthem at home games, a decision that was first reported by The Athletic. Other teams have continued to play recorded versions of the anthem.
The league rule book has required players to stand during the national anthem since the 1980s, but Adam Silver, the N.B.A. commissioner, said in December that the rule would not be strictly enforced this season. The league also chose not to enforce the rule during its restarting of the 2019-20 season in a bubble environment at Walt Disney World in Florida, where many players opted to kneel during the anthem to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and to demonstrate against systemic racism and social injustice in the United States.
“I recognize that this is a very emotional issue on both sides of the equation in America right now, and I think it calls for real engagement rather than rule enforcement,” Silver said in December.
The anthem has not been played at American Airlines Center in Dallas before any of the Mavericks’ 13 preseason or regular-season home games this season. In a victory on Monday night over Minnesota, Dallas became one of the 11 teams in the league that are admitting reduced crowds — 1,500 frontline workers in the health care and food-service industries, as well as police officers, firefighters and other emergency workers.
This, however, is not the first time in franchise history that the club has declined to play the national anthem before games. For the club’s first 16 years of existence, when it was owned by Donald Carter, “God Bless America” was sung instead before home games at the old Reunion Arena. The Mavericks began playing the national anthem after the team was purchased by Ross Perot Jr. on May 1, 1996. Cuban bought the Mavericks in January 2000.
In an interview on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” last June, before the N.B.A. resumed the 2019-20 season, Cuban said he would support players who knelt during the anthem as a form of protest.
“If they were taking a knee and they were being respectful, I’d be proud of them,” Cuban said. “Hopefully I’d join them.”
Cuban did not accompany the Mavericks to the bubble at Disney World, but he said via Twitter shortly after his ESPN appearance: “The National Anthem Police in this country are out of control. If you want to complain, complain to your boss and ask why they don’t play the National Anthem every day before you start work.”