There is the old proverb “timing is everything.”
We are guessing Mark Cuban missed that memo when he decided to stop playing the national anthem at Dallas Mavericks games.
The National Basketball Association — hardly a bastion of conservatism and flag-waving — stepped in and told its teams and owners, including Cuban, to keep playing the Star-Spangled Banner.
Still, Cuban’s move has reopened the controversy over the anthem and racial justice previously stirred by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and former President Donald Trump.
We had actually made it through the Super Bowl (and Tom Brady’s seventh ring) without a political controversy.
Enter Mark Cuban.
The Mavs owner, Trump critic and “Shark Tank” host announced his NBA team would not be playing the anthem before games.
The move opened the contentious anthem debate again.
It comes after the extremely divisive 2020 election and all its fallouts — including questions about voter fraud, the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and Trump being banned from Facebook and Twitter. It comes as Democrats try to cobble together enough Senate votes to get an impeachment conviction and keep Trump from potentially running for president again in 2024.
In other words, we have enough contention, distress and division without another battle over playing the anthem at sporting events.
Cuban, LeBron James and NBA coaches such as Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich certainly have the right to their opinions on race, Trump and a country that has made them very rich and admired. That’s the beauty of the First Amendment.
But those who disagree with Cuban’s opposition to the anthem also have the free speech rights to criticize that move and also can vote with their money and time as consumers. The NFL, NBA and other professional sports leagues — as well as ESPN and other sports media — have previously seen the peril in mixing politics with sports and entertainment.
For every person who wants the NBA or NFL to take a stand on social justice issues there are others, including veterans, who are upset by players not standing for the anthem — or in Cuban’s instance, trying to silence the Star-Spangled Banner altogether.
And there are even more folks who simply want professional athletes, as well as movie and television stars, just to avoid politics (including Trump). Everything does not have to be political.
What’s not up for debate is the incredibly poor timing of Cuban’s decision. The country has been through so much stress and anxiety from the pandemic, job losses and social isolation, as well as the election and Jan. 6.
Most of us want to find something positive to move forward with in 2021. Many of us are just hoping the economy and our jobs can survive.
We need to have serious discussions on race, class and healing historical and contemporary wounds that divide us along those lines.
We need criminal justice reforms.
But another fight now over the national anthem being played at sporting events is not the way, nor the time, to approach those needed conversations.