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'We as a country haven’t lived up to our highest ideals': Biden backs athletes' right to protest during national anthem, Psaki says
Players from Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks kneel during national anthem at Denver's Ball Arena, Jan. 7, 2021. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

'We as a country haven’t lived up to our highest ideals': Biden backs athletes' right to protest during national anthem, Psaki says

Comment from White House press secretary comes in wake of renewed anthem-kneeling controversy in NBA

On the heels of the NBA's roller-coaster ride this week over the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday told reporters that while President Joe Biden respects the national anthem, he also respects the right of players to kneel in protest while it's played.

What are the details?

A reporter asked Psaki what position Biden is taking on Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban reportedly deciding to stop playing the anthem before his squad's home games.

While Psaki said she hasn't spoken to Biden about the specific issue, she did say, "I know he's incredibly proud to be an American and has great respect for the anthem and all that it represents — especially for our men and women serving in uniform around the world."

She added, however, that Biden also would say "that part of pride in our country means recognizing moments where we as a country haven't lived up to our highest ideals, which is often and at times what people are speaking to when they take action at sporting events. And it means respecting the right of people, granted to them in the Constitution, to peacefully protest. That's why he ran for president in the first place, and that's what he's focused on doing every day."

What's the background?

After the anthem hasn't being played before Mavericks home games, the National Basketball Association on Wednesday issued a statement saying the anthem indeed will be played at every league game for every team.

According to MarketWatch, the league's statement was "in response" to the Mavericks' omitting the anthem. And it was quite a shift from NBA spokesman Tim Frank's earlier statement to the Associated Press, according to NBC Sports: "Under the unique circumstances of this season, teams are permitted to run their pregame operations as they see fit."

The New York Times reported that Cuban said "we are good with it" in regard to the league's insistence on the anthem being played — but the opinionated owner reportedly had other things to say following the NBA's declaration.

Shams Charania of the Athletic tweeted a partial statement from the Mavericks owner: "We respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and our country. I have always stood for the anthem with [my] hand over my heart — no matter where I hear it play. But we also hear the voices of those who do not feel the anthem represents them. We feel they also need to be respected and heard, because they have not been heard."

Cuban reportedly added in the statement that "the hope is that those who feel passionate about the anthem being played will be just as passionate in listening to those who do not feel it represents them," Charania noted.

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