Dion Waiters says he is a Muslim, plans to skip national anthems

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UPDATE: Waiters called this report — one which he was directly quoted in — a “damn lie.”

Things haven’t exactly gone smoothly for the Cleveland Cavaliers since LeBron James and Kevin Love joined the team this summer. Not only is the club off to a 1-3 start to the season, but they’re already dealing with reports of locker room discontent that the players were forced to deny just as soon as they got the chance.

The team has also undergone a change to its starting lineup.

Dion Waiters started the first three games of the season, but given the way the losses have piled up, head coach David Blatt felt that a change was necessary, and swapped in Shawn Marion instead.

Evidently, the effect on Waiters was him rededicating himself to his religious beliefs.

From Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:

Prior to the Cavaliers getting set to take on the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, one of their players was missing from the pregame opening events.

Dion Waiters was nowhere to be found when the national anthem was being sung. He was absent when the starting lineups were introduced. …

Waiters informed Northeast Ohio Media Group that he is a Muslim and that he plans to excuse himself prior to the national anthem from here on out.

It’s an interesting coincidence that this gesture from Waiters coincided with him being removed from the starting lineup.

No matter where you stand on religion, there’s no disputing the fact that Waiters going down this road draws unnecessary attention to a team that has more than enough of it to deal with in the early stages of the season. Waiters is a nice young player to be sure, but if he becomes more trouble than he’s worth, a trade out of town in exchange for a more stable veteran presence might make some sense — especially while LeBron is there, and championships are the goal for every season that’s the case.

Waiters did stand with his team during the anthem before Friday’s win over the Nuggets, so perhaps James or one of the other leaders on the team explained how this could potentially become a needless distraction.