Waiters addresses anthem absence

ByDave McMenamin ESPN logo
Sunday, November 9, 2014

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Dion Waiters said that a report stating he missed the national anthem in Utah earlier this week for religious reasons was a "big misunderstanding," adding he was undergoing his "normal routine" in the locker room when he lost track of time.

"It was a big miscommunication," Waiters said after Cleveland Cavaliers' practice Sunday. "Big misunderstanding. I love my country. I love the United States of America. I'd rather be here than any place else. It was just a big misunderstanding on both parts."

The Northeast Ohio Media Group quoted Waiters on Friday saying, "It's because of my religion. That's why I stayed in the locker room."

When asked to elaborate on what happened in Utah on Wednesday after the Cavs' 110-101 win against the Denver Nuggets on Friday night, Waiters volunteered the word "religion" again in his answer.

"I don't really want to talk about that," Waiters said. "It's my religion. I don't really want to talk about that. I want to talk about basketball. I'm not being rude, but, you know."

On Saturday morning, Waiters took to Twitter to claim he had been misquoted.

Waiters was asked on Sunday if he ever brought up his Muslim faith to Northeast Ohio Media Group.

"I don't know," Waiters said. "I ain't sure. If I did, I did, but it had nothing to do with the national anthem, whatever the case may be."

The third-year veteran said it has been his custom his entire career to retreat to the locker room 5-to-7 minutes prior to tipoff, before coming back out in time for the anthem.

"I went in the back for my normal routine that I normally do and it just happened to take longer than what I expected," Waiters said. "I missed [the anthem] one time and, you know, this happened. So I'm not worried about it."

Waiters would not provide further detail on what his normal routine consists of, other than to say it does not involve his religion.

"I'm not praying," Waiters said. "I'm not praying. I'm going through my routine. It has nothing to do with religion when I go back there."

It was peculiar timing for Waiters to miss the pregame ceremony considering that it was the first game that he was benched in favor of Shawn Marion in the starting lineup. However, Cavs coach David Blatt said he told Waiters about the lineup decision at the team's morning meeting on Wednesday, so he had time to process the news before tipoff.

And Waiters said he actually approached Blatt after the second game of the season -- an overtime win in Chicago -- about moving to the second unit.

"I knew it was going to happen sooner than later," Waiters said. "I was actually thinking about it myself because it's better for the team. I had went to coach and told him it might just be better for me to come off the bench, by myself."

Waiters said that the scrutiny he felt surrounding the anthem controversy "wasn't that bad," but his phone started ringing with phone calls about the story on Saturday morning.

"I don't be on Twitter no more. I actually deleted the app a couple weeks ago," Waiters said. "I had to address that. I had to make sure I addressed that and then I deleted the app again."

Blatt, who said he was unaware of Waiters missing the anthem when asked about it on Friday, has since hashed it out with his backup shooting guard.

"I talked to Dion," Blatt said. "I think that a little bit too much has been made of that. I have spoken to him. Dion will be out for the national anthem on a daily basis and we're ready to move forward from that."

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