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Mavericks play odd American flag “tribute” video before the season opener

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It was an interesting — and somewhat confusing -- way to open the season.

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NBA: Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Before Wednesday night’s home and season opener tipped off, the Dallas Mavericks played a video “tribute” to the American flag, asking the audience to stand for the national anthem.

The video is strange. It may not be overtly offensive, but it also isn’t very effective in delivering its message. It’s a meandering narrative that’s tough to follow (there’s a lot about the Mavericks’ past success), but the message appears to be that the American flag has seen lots of great things, represents the pure ideals of America and can bring us together.

The video (in part a response to a memo the league sent out last month) airs against the impossible-to-ignore back drop of recent protests, which started back in 2016 (before the election) with then-quarterback Colin Kaepernick protesting racial inequality and police brutality against minorities during the national anthem before NFL games.

Unfortunately, the topics Kaepernick protested — racial injustice, police brutality — have hardly been discussed as the discourse has devolved into accusations of disrespect toward the flag and military (it isn’t hard to find out the meaning behind the protests; there’s even a Wikipedia article about it). The NFL took some better steps today, meeting with the NYPD and with players.

In that context, this video is disappointing and feels disingenuous. Mark Cuban has been very outspoken about players having the right to peacefully speak out on important issues, but last night’s offering fails to move the conversation forward from the muddled “respect the flag” debate to focus on what the protests are really about. Instead, the video’s upbeat tone and vague script seemed designed to reassure viewers that everything’s really okay.

But here’s the thing about protests — they’re meant to make you uncomfortable. Players aren’t exercising their right to protest during the national anthem because they hate America, the military or the flag. Rather, they’re taking advantage of the best opportunity for them to deliver a message they feel everyone needs to hear. It's okay to feel uncomfortable with these protests, but that discomfort is something that should push us to engage and thoughtfully discuss issues that matter, rather than push us to shut down.

There’s nothing wrong with displaying a message about how the flag and the anthem are symbols that can bring Americans together. But to really bring people together in this debate, you also have to acknowledge the strife and troubles a large group of people in this country are going through.

The Mavs dropped the ball with this one. All the video needed was a line about how America has its problems, but working together we can solve anything.

It didn’t do that, and that’s a shame.