The Dallas Mavericks became the first NBA team, and perhaps the first team in all of North American professional sports, to cease playing the national anthem before games this season, according to The Athletic's Tim Cato. The Mavericks did not comment on the decision but confirmed to Cato that they have not played the national anthem prior to any home games this season. The Mavericks have hosted 12 regular-season games so far this season along with a single preseason game.
According to Cato, there was no internal announcement about the decision. Team employees only found out when they realized it for themselves. The NBA's other 29 teams have found ways to play the anthem without having a singer in the building, largely by using recordings, but the league itself has permitted the choice not to play it at all. "Under the unique circumstances of this season, teams are permitted to run their pregame operations as they see fit," a league spokesman told The Athletic.
League rules state that players must stand for the national anthem, but those rules have not been strictly enforced in recent years. Players on every team in the Orlando bubble knelt for the anthem when the season resumed last summer. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban supported the decision, and the league as a whole used the Disney bubble to promote the social justice messaging such protests inspired.
The Mavericks are the first major North American professional sports team known to stop playing the anthem, though MLS did not use it for its Orlando tournament last summer. When it returned to home stadiums, though, it resumed the practice. The Mavericks have not. They have offered no comment on their long-term plans, but for the time being, the anthem will not be played at Mavericks games in Dallas.
According to an ESPN report, the NBA on Wednesday issued a statement saying that wouldn't be the case.
"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," the league said in a statement.