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Mark Cuban: ‘Hopefully I’d join’ Mavericks players in kneeling during national anthem

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban doesn’t know if his players will take a knee, or protest in some other way, during the national anthem when the NBA resumes play next month at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. 

But if that’s the case, and he’s able, Cuban plans to kneel right alongside them.

“If they were taking a knee and they were being respectful, I’d be proud of them,” Cuban said on ESPN on Thursday. “Hopefully I’d join them.”

The league is currently planning to resume play on July 30 in Florida after what will be a more than four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Several players, led most notably by Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, have advocated that players sit out of that restart largely due to the Black Lives Matter movement and the fear that playing would take away from that fight. Others have reportedly considered sitting out — something the league won’t penalize players for — for numerous other reasons, including safety concerns around the coronavirus. 

Dozens of NFL players have already committed to taking a knee during the national anthem during their season this fall, too, continuing the protests that Colin Kaepernick started in 2016. 

While the NBA does require players and coaches to stand during the anthem, Cuban is hopeful commissioner Adam Silver will alter those rules and “allow players to do what’s in their heart.”

“Whether it’s holding their arm up in the air, whether it’s taking a knee, whatever it is, I don’t think this is an issue of respect or disrespect to the flag or to the anthem or to our country,” Cuban said on ESPN. “I think this is more a reflection of our players’ commitment to this country and the fact that it’s so important to them that they’re willing to say what’s in their heart and do what they think is right.

“I’ll defer to Adam on any final judgements and [players’ union executive director] Michele Roberts. But the reality is, my hope is we’ll let the players do exactly what they think is the right thing to do.”

Cuban had said in 2017 when these protests started expanding through the sports world that he will stand with his hand over his heart during the national anthem, and that he expected the players to do so, too. 

He didn’t, however, criticize those who did protest for speaking out. Instead, Cuban applauded them.

But now, three years later, Cuban has changed his stance on the issue. Though he isn’t going to lead the charge for some sort of protest or demonstration during the national anthem, Cuban will stand with his team, whatever they choose to do.

“I think we’ve learned a lot since 2017,” Cuban said on ESPN. “I think we’ve evolved as a country. And this is really a unique point in time where we can grow as a society, we can grow as a country and become far more inclusive and become far more aware of the challenges that minority communities go through.

“So I’ll stand in unison with our players, whatever they choose to do. But again, when our players in the NBA do what’s in their heart, when they do what they feel represents who they are and look to move this country forward when it comes to race relationships, I think that’s a beautiful thing and I’ll be proud of them.”

If his players take a knee, or protest some other way, during the national anthem, Dallas owner Mark Cuban wants to join them. (AP/David J. Phillip)

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