It turned into quite the eventful Wednesday for Mark Cuban, Rick Carlisle and the entire Mavericks’ franchise.
Reaction poured in about the decision to not play the national anthem during the first dozen home games of the season, and the NBA’s response that all teams will be required to play the song pregame moving forward.
Cuban, never afraid to make bold moves, made the decision well before the season began to suspend playing the national anthem. With no fans in the stands until this week, it went unnoticed by many.
Now, it could help revive conversations about social justice and equality for everyone.
Carlisle saw it as an opportunity to spike discussions about equality and freedom of expression.
“It’s a logical progression,” he said before Wednesday’s game against Atlanta at American Airlines Center. “And I think anything like this, any time you have a result from something like this, you got to embrace it.
“This is an opportunity for people to look at things a different way. And whether you agree or disagree, we must all agree that as Americans, we support the right to choose how we express ourselves. And that’s another fundamental thing that’s very important with this.”
The Mavericks did play The Star-Spangled Banner pregame. And the 1,500 or so front-line healthcare workers mostly applauded at the end of the anthem.
Earlier Wednesday, the NBA released a statement that read: “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.”
Cuban, who has owned the team since 2000, elaborated on his reasoning in a statement released by the Mavericks.
“We respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and our country. But we also loudly hear the voices of those who feel that the anthem does not represent them. We feel that their voices need to be respect and heard, because they have not been.
“Going forward, our hope is that people will take the same passion they have for this issue and apply the same amount of energy to listen to those who feel differently from them. Only then we can move forward and have courageous conversations that move this country forward and find what unites us.”
Mavericks’ players said it was a strong sign from the owner that he listens to concerns that players have and understands the gravity of social issues that have become touchpoints over the past year.
“That means a lot for myself and obviously for my teammates, especially coming from Mark,” said third-year guard Jalen Brunson. “Mark’s an owner who is very involved to say the least. For him to have his voice and use it the way he does, no matter what the situation, it shows what type of person he is.
“He’s someone you’ll run through a wall for. And he’s someone who always has your back, no matter what the situation is. I’ve learned that in my 2½ years here. And he’s a guy who’s for his players, for the guys coaching the players.”
Running through walls was also a phrase used by Willie Cauley-Stein in describing Cuban.
“One thing I’ll say about Mark is he’s not scared of what’s being talked about,” Cauley-Stein said. “And he’s not scared of doing what’s right. He’s got a very diverse team and for us as players, when your owner is behind you like that, that’s big.
“When I read that (about the anthem), I was like . . . it’s not just a business to him. When you have a guy whose character shows and he’s not being a businessman, he’s being a human, that’s big time for a player. You’ll run through a wall for that.”
Carlisle called the fallout from news of the anthem issue “an animated discussion.”
It is notable that 12 games – 11 in the regular season, one in the preseason – were played before the non-playing of the anthem became a hot topic.
No fans were allowed at AAC until Monday’s game against Minnesota. The team elected to trickle back fans, starting with 1,500 essential workers at the first two home games with spectators.
That number will increase slowly in coming home games.