Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks stopped playing the national anthem before their NBA home games in February, in what is believed to be the first professional sports team to ban “The Star-Spangled Banner” before games. Texas Republicans were dismayed that the Mavericks wouldn’t play the national anthem before their games, so they hit back at Cuban where it hurts: in the purse strings.
“The Mavericks did not publicize the anthem’s removal,” The Athletic writer Tim Cato reported in February of the NBA team’s decision to stop playing the national anthem. “Multiple team employees described only noticing the anthem’s removal on their own, as it was also not announced or explained internally.”
Cuban attempted to justify not playing the national anthem in 11 regular-season games in February.
“We respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and our country. I have always stood for the anthem with the hand over my heart — no matter where I hear it played,” Cuban told NPR. “But we also hear the voices of those who do not feel the anthem represents them. We feel they also need to be respected and heard, because they have not been heard. The hope is that those who feel passionate about the anthem being played will be just as passionate in listening to those who do not feel it represents them.”
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was outraged that the Dallas Mavericks stopped playing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and fired off a rebuttal to Cuban.
“Your decision to cancel our National Anthem at @dallasmavs games is a slap in the face to every American & an embarrassment to Texas,” Patrick tweeted. “Sell the franchise & some Texas Patriots will buy it. We ARE the land of free & the home of the brave.”
With pushback from the NBA, the Mavericks resumed playing the national anthem on Feb. 10.
In March, Republican state Rep. Dustin Burrows reacted by sponsoring Senate Bill 4, also known as the “Star-Spangled Banner Act.” The bill allows sports franchises the option to play or not play the national anthem, but teams who don’t play “The Star-Spangled Banner” will forgo any funding from the state.
“It’s very simple. If they do not want to play the national anthem, they don’t take the tax dollars,” Burrows said, according to the Texas Tribune. “If we’re going to go ahead and subsidize with hard-earned American dollars the sporting facilities and the teams in the different ways that I think is articulated in this bill, then this would apply.”
Texas Republicans passed “The Star Spangled Banner Act” on Tuesday, and the bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott to be signed into law.
However, opponents of Senate Bill 4 question the constitutionality of the legislation, and whether linking funding to the playing of the national anthem is an attack on free speech.
“Once again, we’re carrying legislation that is openly and aggressively unconstitutional,” Democratic state Rep. Gene Wu said.
During the debate over the “The Star-Spangled Banner Act” on Monday, Texas Democrats proposed that teams be required to play both the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is the so-called “black national anthem.”
“I don’t even understand why we would feel the need to force someone into singing any song,” Rep. Jasmine Felicia Crockett said. “But if we are going to force people to sing a song, we should at least be mindful of the people playing on these teams, the people that are actually in the stands supporting these teams.”
Despite the decision by the Mavericks, the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars both pledged to play “The Star-Spangled Banner” before games this season.