Texas legislature passes bill forcing sports teams to play national anthem

Lt Gov goes after Dallas Mavericks owner after team stops playing national anthem before games

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 03 June 2021 21:13 BST
Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign a law requiring sports teams, like the Dallas Mavericks, to play the national anthem before games.
Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign a law requiring sports teams, like the Dallas Mavericks, to play the national anthem before games. (AP)
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Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban decided to stop playing the national anthem before his team's games earlier this year, prompting Texas Republican lieutenant governor Dan Patrick to push for the so-called “Star-Spangled Banner Protection Act”.

The law pushed by conservatives requires any professional sports teams which have contracts with the Texas state government to play the national anthem before games. The bill would remove state funding and any business relationships a team may have with the state of Texas if they choose not to play the anthem.

“Your decision to cancel our National Anthem at... games is a slap in the face to every American & an embarrassment to Texas. Sell the franchise & some Texas Patriots will buy it. We ARE the land of free & the home of the brave,” Lt Gov Patrick tweeted at Mr Cuban on 10 February.

The legislation was passed by the Texas Senate in April and by the statehouse last week. The law is now awaiting the signature of Republican governor Greg Abbott.

Protesting the national anthem became a partisan, divisive issue in 2016 when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem to protest police brutality against black Americans.

Mr Patrick announced that the bill was one of his legislative priorities in February as Mr Cuban stopped playing the anthem during his team’s games. The team owner's decision went mostly unnoticed with no fans in the audience due to pandemic restrictions.

But the move quickly outraged conservatives. Mr Cuban said he supported the anthem but team leaders “also loudly hear the voices of those who feel that the anthem does not represent them”.

“Once again, we’re carrying legislation that is openly and aggressively unconstitutional,” state Rep Gene Wu, a Democrat from Houston, said when the law was being debated on the floor of the statehouse.

“It’s very simple. If they do not want to play the national anthem, they don’t take the tax dollars,” Republican Rep Dustin Burrows responded. “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.”

Overruling Mr Cuban, NBA spokesman Mike Bass said on 10 February: “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 87th session of the Texas legislature ended on 31 May, and Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign the bill into law.

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