The Dallas Mavericks haven’t played “The Star-Spangled Banner” before any home games this year. That is, counting Monday night’s win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, 13 games and counting. No one said anything until The Athletic‘s Tim Cato noticed and asked about it. The team’s proprietor, Mark Cuban, confirmed to Cato that they had stopped doing so at his request.
Because of the song in question and the length of time before anyone paid attention, it reminds me of Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protest, which was going on long before it became the kind of controversy that politicians could hijack for their own ends, twisting the meaning until Kaepernick was eventually drummed out of the league.
What will happen to Cuban? Well, certainly not that. He’s a white billionaire, and this is not the first time—nor, I suspect, the last—that he’s found himself in choppy waters. Beyond that, he’s got a pretty decent history of supporting the military. I’m sure people will show photos of Cuban and his family at the Black Lives Matter protests from this summer as effort to say something, to tie this to some barely related statement, but the anthem is not now nor has it ever been about police.
Ted Cruz is probably already tweeting about it, but that is a lot easier to withstand than it would be if, say, a certain tangerine-hued real estate developer was still allowed to use Twitter. The people who will make the loudest noise about this aren’t Mavericks fans anyway, and probably don’t like the NBA either. It’s a big deal and it also isn’t.
To put it plainly, Cuban is right. They don’t play the anthem every morning in your office before work. There is no reason to do it at every sporting event. At this moment, it divides us more than it unites us. Watch this and hear the “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
I only wonder if other teams will follow Cuban and the Mavericks’ lead, now that everyone is aware and paying attention. There is a long history of playing the anthem at sporting events, but has anyone ever really considered why it has to be that way? What is the actual point? What do you think about when the anthem is played? What do you think you should be thinking about? Because it’s about you, the fan, not the players.