The NBA’s Dallas Mavericks stopped playing the national anthem before home games at the direction of owner Mark Cuban in February. In reaction to the move, Texas Republicans passed a bill called the “Star Spangled Banner Act,” requiring the anthem to be played before professional sports games in Texas lest teams want to give up their funding and business relationship with the state.
The legislation passed last week and is headed to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for signature.
The anthem snub by the Mavericks, which lasted 13 games (including some pre-seasons games), was said to be “the first instance we know of a pro sports team striking the U.S. anthem from the pre-game,” according to Tim Cato, the reporter who broke the story for The Athletic.
Cuban confirmed to Cato that he was the one who decided the Mavs should pull the anthem.
“None of 13 preseason and regular-season games played at the American Airlines Center this season have featured the anthem before the game, including Monday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the first played this season with a limited amount of fans in attendance,” Cato reported at the time. “The Mavericks did not publicize the anthem’s removal, and The Athletic was the first media organization to reach out about the change after noticing its absence on Monday. Multiple team employees described only noticing the anthem’s removal on their own, as it was also not announced or explained internally.”
In response, NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass issued a statement stating that the anthem must be played by all teams. “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 statement said, as reported by NBC News.
The Texas Tribune reported that Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick “made the bill one of his legislative priorities,” according to ABC 13.
“[Mark Cuban,] your decision to cancel our National Anthem at [Dallas Mavericks] games is a slap in the face to every American & an embarrassment to Texas,” Patrick reacted in February. “Sell the franchise & some Texas Patriots will buy it. We ARE the land of free & the home of the brave.”
.@mcuban Your decision to cancel our National Anthem at @dallasmavs games is a slap in the face to every American & an embarrassment to Texas. Sell the franchise & some Texas Patriots will buy it. We ARE the land of free & the home of the brave. https://t.co/4xfY5loqQQ
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) February 10, 2021
“During Monday’s debate on the House floor, opponents questioned the constitutionality of a law that they said ties funding to free speech by threatening negative action against sports teams that choose to express their opinions by declining to play the anthem,” ABC 13 highlighted.
However, Republican Rep. Dustin Burrows, the bill’s sponsor, “said the bill does not violate free speech because teams can still choose not to play the anthem and forgo the funding and business relationship with the state,” the report added.
Debate over the national anthem was first sparked in 2016, when then-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the anthem because, according to Kaepernick, America “oppresses” minorities and allows its cops to “murder” innocent people of color.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told Steve Wyche of NFL Media at the time. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
“This is not something that I am going to run by anybody,” he continued. “I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”