June 18, 2020 / 8:15 PM / 21 days ago

Mavericks owner Cuban says NBA should allow 'take a knee' protests

FILE PHOTO: Mark Cuban, entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, speaks at the WSJTECH live conference in Laguna Beach, California, U.S. October 21, 2019. REUTERS/ Mike Blake/File Photo

(Reuters) - Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said on Thursday he hopes the National Basketball Association will allow players to take a knee during the national anthem to support protests over the May 25 death of African American George Floyd in police custody.

Video footage showed a white police officer in Minneapolis kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes before the unarmed 46-year-old man died, triggering outrage and protests across the United States and in other countries.

NBA rules require players and coaches to stand during the national anthem, but Cuban told ESPN the league can soften its stance and give players the freedom to express themselves in a respectful manner.

“If they were taking a knee and they were being respectful, I’d be proud of them. Hopefully, I’d join them,” Cuban said.

“Whether it’s holding their arm up in the air, whether it’s taking a knee ... I don’t think this is an issue of respect or disrespect to the flag or to the anthem or to our country. It’s a reflection of our players’ commitment to this country.

“I’ll defer to Adam Silver on any final judgment... but the reality is, my hope is we’ll let the players do exactly what they think is the right thing to do,” Cuban said, referring to the NBA’s commissioner.

Cuban’s stance has changed since 2017, when he said he expected his players to stand during the anthem after President Donald Trump had criticized NFL players who were kneeling to promote social justice.

“I think we’ve learned a lot since 2017. I think we’ve evolved as a country,” the 61-year-old Mavericks owner added. “This is really a unique point in time where we can grow as a society and become more inclusive and aware of challenges that minority communities go through.”

Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Paul Simao

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