With Potential Protest Looming, Mark Cuban’s Support is Vital

Kneeling during the national anthem is likely coming to NBA games next week.

Like it or not, and Republican Senator Ted Cruz made it clear where he stood during his Twitter battle with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on Monday — that’s where we’re headed here.

NBA players have never been more vocal or supported when it comes to the conversation about Black Lives Matter, and those who would know within the league are expecting some players to peacefully protest the national anthem when it’s played before games that begin in Orlando on July 30.

One NBA agent predicted that “entire teams might kneel.”

Yet contrary to what Cruz claimed at the start of his back-and-forth with Cuban, when he argued that players kneeling would be like the NBA “telling everyone who stands for the flag, who honors our cops and our veterans, to ‘piss off,’” the message would be the same now as it was when Colin Kaepernick first started kneeling during NFL games back in September 2016: The disproportionate and unjustified violence being administered by police on Black people in America must stop. And for anyone who might have forgotten, the man who convinced the exiled quarterback to kneel rather than sit during the anthem was a veteran himself, former Seattle Seahawk and Green Beret soldier Nate Boyer.

The easiest way to mute that message, is to change the narrative and accuse peaceful protesters of lacking patriotism or disparaging people who aren’t even part of this conversation (good cops and servicemen and women).

It will be a very interesting dynamic to see play out considering the NBA still has a rule that requires players to stand during the anthem. Some have wondered if the NBA would fine, or discipline players for breaking the anthem rule. We don’t know the definitive answer to that, but we have an idea.

Sources have said the league would not discipline players for peacefully protest as long as it is deemed respectable. And that is where the trust between players and Commissioner Adam Silver shines brightest. NBA players have never requested the rule to be changed, they’ve all proudly stood for the anthem in the past. They never put Silver in a position to have to enforce the rule and discipline them.

“When you have great leadership that communicates honestly and transparently with partners and (the) workforce, it’s not difficult to jointly recognize the best way to approach important issues,” Cuban said. “That is the type of relationship we have with our players and the NBA.”

When Cuban took his stand on Monday, saying goodbye to anyone who disapproves of anthem kneeling and even helping people who want to boycott his businesses figure out how to do so, it was the most public support of player kneeling that we’d seen from an NBA owner to date. And that support will be needed if and when players decide to take a knee.

Hatred and critics will fly in from all different directions, including from Donald Trump, so having owners support will be immense in setting the tone for response.

After being accused of being anti military and police, Mark Cuban responded via an email to The Athletic.

“We honor our veterans and thank them every day,” Cuban began. “We have had Seats for Soldiers every year for the past 15 years where we fly in wounded soldiers who have made incredible sacrifices for our country and honor them by partnering with our season ticket holders and giving them every front row seat around the court.

“Every available inch of the arena is re-made to honor them. We allow the fans to honor them with an incredible ovation. And for every home game, we ask all those who have served to stand up and be recognized, and of course we give away I don’t know how many tickets and offer discounts for anything and everything. I encourage everyone to Google ‘Mavs Seats for Soldiers’ and watch the videos. They will give you chills.”

Cuban addressed Cruz’s accusation about dishonoring police officers as well.

“While we don’t have a singular day for our officers, we have incredible programs with the Dallas and local Police Departments,” he said. “Our players, our staff, our community relations group work very closely to recognize them and to create programs that allow local kids to get to know them better and recognize the hard work they put in. I have met personally with the Chief of Police to discuss programs and ways to move forward . As I told her, I am not a fan of defund(ing) the police , but I am a fan of disrupting the police and allowing them to focus on their core competencies and sharing other responsibilities with those outside the DPD.

“And when 7/16 happened (the killing of five Dallas police officers by a military veteran who was targeting white officers), we stood side by side with the Police Department to show our support  And not long afterwards, when the Pulse Nightclub shooting happened (in Orlando in June 2016), we provided the funding necessary to allow the DPD to buy needed equipment and to pay overtime to patrol the OakLawn area where LGBTQ were being targeted for violence and harassed.”

Cuban appears to have all sides covered, including backing his players decision to protest as they wish and the critics wish list. You could say he is playing both sides, but in reality he is managing the situation to the best of anyones ability.

Willfully putting his neck out on the line, risking all of his business ventures, to ensure his players can protest and make an impact is unlike any other owners commitment to their players.

Going forward, Cuban’s support will be immense to weathering the impending storm of sports and politics colliding.

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