The NBA & the Star Spangled Banner

It’s on. It’s off. Mark Cuban was brilliant. Mark Cuban is an anti-American communist. People get in trouble for kneeling. Others get blowback for standing. Do we? Do we not?

Politics is a fickle beast.

This issue isn’t as cut and dry as many think. In an interview, Cuban implied it was less a rebellion or political statement and more of a social experiment.

To hear Mark Cuban explain it now, the national reaction he sparked, which began as a low rumble and quickly swelled to a detonation of debate, positive and negative, was his plan all along … Mavericks owner Cuban’s decision not to play the Star-Spangled Banner before Dallas home games was, he says, a social experiment of sorts.

Dallas Morning News

And then there is the public/governmental support of the teams. Cuban may own the team, but he plays in a house mostly built by citizens tax money – and continues to get tax breaks. It may say American Airlines on the building, but they don’t have the final word either.

Then there is the fan issue. Cuban did all this during a period of few, if any, fans in the arena. So why play a song when nobody is there to honor it? What do fans want? Do a few fans dominate the desire of the majority? And don’t forget the NBA guidelines. Cuban is part of a bigger organization. The latest word is Cuban has reinstated the anthem at the goading of the NBA officials and at the beginning of the efforts to get fans back in the seats.

So is this a PR and economic decision or one that really cares about the real issue? Will we ever know? It’s so messy.

How do we respond? What should be our reaction?

Apparently, we can’t say “fight for what we believe!” That seems to be political incitement. We shouldn’t be blind followers, like lemurs following the crowd. That yields to oppression and a witless society – and descending into the abyss.

So again. How do we respond? I think we talk it out, we have solid conversations … not out of antagonism or vitriol, but out of a willingness to learn and share our point of view. We also need to live with each other. So if Cuban had this in mind, kudos. If not, I hope this is the result anyway.

But let me share a bit more specific about Christians going against a culture that is more and more not what I would call friendly to Christians. First let me be clear the national anthem at a sporting event is NOT a Christian issue. But there are many issues that are and they need to be addressed. There is a culture war going on.

Let me share 5 ways Richard Niebuhr says Christians respond to culture wars … Christ of culture (conform to culture), Christ against culture (demonize the other side), Christ above culture (arrogance and looking down on the other side), Christ and culture in paradox (settling in a niche and hoping for the best – think Amish), and Christ transforming culture.

His last one is the ideal. Speak the truth but in love. Be a light and the salt. Stand for what’s right (not necessarily your societal rights) and be grounded in the word to discuss it in kindness, gentleness, firmness, and seeking the best for the other person – not just to win.

David Platt, in Counter Culture, says we have two options. We can retreat or risk. I would add a third – riot. But retreat and riot are not the way. Risk is the way and the right word. To take a risk, to speak the truth in love, may be costly. In some places, the risk is one’s life. But in America, we’re not there yet.

So be the light but not the flame of destruction. Be the salt but not salt in the wound, rubbing anything in. Speak the truth … in love, kindness and with the hope to be a blessing to the listener.

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