The NFL protests sparked by President Trump’s tweets over the weekend are certainly not going to be limited to football.
Basketball and hockey seasons are just around the corner, and players in those leagues will undoubtedly be just as passionate about the issue as NFL players have been. Billionaire businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban never shies away from a political discussion, and the #TakeAKnee issue is no different.
I spoke with Cuban this morning about his views on the NFL protests, whether Trump should be sticking his nose into an issue like this, and what he would do if his players took a knee during the anthem.
He’s said that if his players want to voice their opinion on an issue, he’d air it on the JumboTron in the Mavericks arena before a game, rather than making them choose secondary forms of communication such as kneeling. I asked him if he’d air opinions on any hot-button issues that his players felt strongly about, or whether he would limit it to the anthem issue:
“I don’t have any hard and fast rules. I would discuss issues that are important to the players,” he said. “Realize I already have an idea of what those issues are based on what their foundations do. All of our players are active in the community.”
Many players manage or participate in foundations that reach across a wide spectrum of issues to give back to the community, and Cuban suggested that working in those foundations and continuing to give back might be an effective tool that players in all of sports should consider.
Asked whether the anthem issue is one that athletes should focus on or let be, he only reiterated that point, “They are citizens,” he explained. “It’s their choice. I expect them to be good citizens and contribute in the community. We have programs. We have foundation efforts they support and they have their own foundations and efforts.”
“I can’t tell them those are okay but try to stop them if I disagree with their stance,” he added.
He’s already tweeted numerous times about the issue:
NFL players across the league chose to either kneel, lock arms, or remain in the locker room during the national anthem at their games this weekend, but Cuban doesn’t think the same behavior will occur at NBA games once their season begins:
I think it’s more effective in the NBA to leverage the platforms that players have available. But NBA players are much more recognizable, visible, and have bigger social media platforms than NFL players. For NFL players their biggest platform is to join protests that get coverage. I’m not even sure that the NFL even shows on TV the national anthem being played. Do they? And here is another indicator for you: Do fans make an effort to be in their seats to honor the flag? Look at how full stadiums are during and after the anthem. I think that tells us more about this issue than what the players do. Have you been to a football game (since they are in season) and walked the concourse to see what fans do when they hear the anthem come on? Almost all keep doing what they were doing.
Cuban suggested, however, that the political world may be making this a bigger deal than most of the country will:
“95% of the people can tell you more about Beyoncé than what is happening with this issue. Those of us who pay attention to politics tend to make everything the president says about issues not related to his job much bigger than the rest of the country.”
Trump also found time over the weekend to rescind the invitation for the Golden State Warriors to visit the White House following their Finals win in June after Steph Curry said he didn’t want to go (side note: can you disinvite someone if they’ve already said they aren’t going?). I asked Cuban if he thought the president’s behavior warranted all teams ceasing visits until his term is over, and he, like many of us, found it hard to predict our political future:
“He is going to be who he is… I don’t know. Knowing President Trump as I do, much could change in a day week or month.”