DALLAS Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has stopped the national anthem from being played before games – a decision that has sparked fury from fans.
The Mavericks played their first 10 regular-season home games without fans and Cuban said on Tuesday he made the change in November.
The club had fans for the first time in Monday’s 127-122 win over Minnesota.
Dallas is allowing 1,500 vaccinated essential workers to attend games for free.
Cuban didn't elaborate on his decision not to play the anthem, which was reported by The Athletic, saying that nobody had noticed.
NBA spokesman Tim Frank said: "Under the unique circumstances of this season, teams are permitted to run their pregame operations as they see fit."
Cuban was outspoken against critics of NBA players and coaches kneeling during The Star-Spangled Banner when the 2019-20 season resumed in the bubble in Florida last summer.
The pregame national anthem is a staple of American sports at both the professional and collegiate level.
The decision to cut the tradition has sparked outrage with one user saying "this breaks my heart."
One user fumed: "Another reason why Mark Cuban deserves to be in a trashcan or a sewer either way."
However, plenty of people rallied to support Cuban's decision, with one user calling it "my favorite thing" he has done.
Another went to the extreme of suggesting, "I would vote republican if Mark Cuban ran for office."
Head Coach of the New Orleans Pelican, Stan Van Gundy, agreed with Cuban's decision, saying, "This should happen everywhere.
"If you think the anthem needs to be played before sporting events, then play it before every movie, concert, church service and the start of every work day at every business," he tweeted.
"What good reason is there to play the anthem before a game?"
This is the second time in under a year that Cuban has spoken out about NBA protocol.
Back in June, Cuban said that if NBA players on his Texas-based team decided to kneel to protest racial injustice, he'd "be proud of them."
“Hopefully we’ll be adapting. Hopefully, we’ll allow players to do what’s in their heart — whether it’s holding an arm up in the air or it’s taking a knee, whatever it is.”
Cuban continued: “I don’t think this is an issue of respect or disrespect for the [American] flag, or to the anthem, or to our country. I think this is more a reflection of our players’ commitment to this country.”
Per the basketball league’s rulebook, "Players, coaches, and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the National Anthem."
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