NBA Mavs' owner Cuban would join players in kneel protest

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Thursday he would join his team's NBA players in a kneeling protest and encouraged players to speak out on social justice matters.

Cuban, speaking on ESPN, said he hoped the league would scrap a rule requiring players to stand for pre-game renditions of the US national anthem if players wanted to make a kneeling protest.

"Hopefully, we'll be adaptive," Cuban said. "Hopefully we'll allow players to do what's in their heart.

"I'll stand in unison with our players and whatever they choose to do."

Cuban said that feeling extended to kneeling with players before games if that's what they decided to do in the wake of the anti-racism and social justice protests following the killing of George Floyd while in police custody.

"I'd be proud of them. I'd join them," Cuban said. "We've learned a lot. We've evolved."

"I'll stand in unison with our players and whatever they choose to do."

The 61-year-old US billionaire said he sees no insult to the American flag, the nation or its military in kneeling.

"This is more a reflection of what's in their hearts," he said. "Hopefully we'll let the players do what they think is the right thing to do."

Some NBA players, including Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn's Kyrie Irving, have suggested that the NBA return would distract from an ongoing movement for social change.

They have said they don't suggest players participate in the NBA's planned "bubble" games starting next month in Orlando in a return from the coronavirus shutdown that began March 11.

Cuban said he was uncertain if enough players could reject the idea to scuttle the NBA's proposed return.

"I really don't know but I encourage them to speak up and say what's on their minds," Cuban said. "Their perspectives are important.

"Hopefully guys will want to play, but it really comes down to them."

NBA players have until Wednesday to let their teams and the league know if they will report to the Orlando "bubble" even as Florida faces record levels for new coronavirus positives.

The NBA has sent out a 113-page plan of safety protocols for the "bubble" plan, which would include 22 clubs.

"This has been our entire focus since March 11: how do we get back safely?" Cuban said. "If there's a way we can do it, we're going to pull this off."

The NBA continues talking to medical experts and watching to see protocols used by other sports organizations in preparing to safely return.

"Every precaution that can be taken, that's exactly what we'll do," Cuban said.

Cuban backs the NBA in whatever move they make regarding high-risk groups if they catch the deadly virus, including those over age 65, a set of people that includes three NBA head coaches.

"I have to defer to the NBA, to doctors and the scientists we've been getting advice from," Cuban said. "It's obviously a concern but we have to take every possible precaution."