Pelicans head coach questions playing national anthem before games

Pelicans head coach questions playing national anthem before games
New Orleans Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy signals in the fourth quarter during an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King) (Source: Andy Clayton-King)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy is siding with Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban in questioning whether the national anthem should be played before basketball games.

The support came after Cuban decided to discontinue the long-held practice after consulting with NBA commissioner Adam Silver. The national anthem had not been played before any of their 13 preseason and regular-season games at the American Airlines Center this season.

“This should happen everywhere,” New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy tweeted Wednesday. “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. What good reason is there to play the anthem before a game?”

Originally following Cuban’s decision, the NBA said teams were “permitted to run their pregame operations as they see fit.” The league later reversed its stance, reiterating its policy that “all teams will play the national anthem.”

“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,” the league said.

The Mavericks played a prerecorded anthem with both teams standing along the free throw lines, as spelled out in NBA guidelines, before Wednesday night’s 118-117 win over Atlanta. In the past, Cuban always had live performances of the anthem, although that practice has changed across all sports because of the pandemic.

The Mavericks played their first 10 regular-season games without fans before allowing essential workers in for free for the first time Monday against Minnesota.

Less than half of the roughly 1,500 vaccinated essential workers were at their seats during the anthem. All players and coaches stood, including Dallas coach Rick Carlisle with his right hand over his heart.

Rich Patterson, a 29-year-old who works in health care and attended the Atlanta game Wednesday with a colleague, said the anthem was important to him, but that he wasn’t hung up on whether it was played before sporting events.

“This is a sporting event and I’m here to have fun,” Patterson said from seats a few rows from the front of a platform about a dozen feet above the playing area. “I’m not here to worry about politics on either side.”

Cuban says his organization has no problem playing the anthem, and that the decision not to do so was the product of ongoing conversations with members of the community who felt the tradition “did not fully represent them.”

Following the NBA’s announcement, the Mavericks said they would play the anthem starting Wednesday night while releasing a statement from Cuban.

“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. 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.”

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick urged Cuban, in a tweet, to “sell the franchise & some Texas Patriots will buy it.’' Other GOP lawmakers suggested the tax breaks the American Airlines Center receives should come under new scrutiny.

Patrick said he intends to introduce a bill in the Texas Senate that will ensure the national anthem is played at all events that receive public funding. He said the bill has broad support.

“It is hard to believe this could happen in Texas, but Mark Cuban’s actions of yesterday made it clear that we must specify that in Texas we play the national anthem before all major events,’' Patrick said. “In this time when so many things divide us, sports are one thing that brings us together -- right, left, Black, white and brown.’'

Before the NBA resumed play after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, in July of 2020, players with the New Orleans Pelicans and the Utah Jazz, along with coaches and officials, took a knee during the national anthem.

Members of the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz kneel together around the Black Lives Matter logo on the court during the national anthem before the start of an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Members of the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz kneel together around the Black Lives Matter logo on the court during the national anthem before the start of an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool) (Source: Ashley Landis)
Members of the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz kneel together around the Black Lives Matter logo on the court during the national anthem before the start of an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
Members of the New Orleans Pelicans and Utah Jazz kneel together around the Black Lives Matter logo on the court during the national anthem before the start of an NBA basketball game Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool) (Source: Ashley Landis)

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