Dion Waiters calls national anthem controversy “a big misunderstanding”

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See if you can keep up here: first, a report emerged last week claiming that Dion Waiters skipped the national anthem because he is a Muslim. Then, Waiters took to Twitter to call the entire story “a damn lie” despite having been quoted on the record in the original story saying he sat out the anthem “because of my religion.” Now, Waiters says the whole thing was a misunderstanding, without actually clarifying anything.

From ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin:

“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.”

Waiters didn’t deny that he originally told Northeast Ohio News Group that he was a Muslim, but he didn’t confirm it, either. He claimed he didn’t remember what he said.

“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 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.”

This entire controversy seems overblown and a non-issue. Waiters shouldn’t have to confirm to reporters that he loves his country just because he didn’t stand for the national anthem at a basketball game. He also shouldn’t have to tell people what his religious beliefs are — he’s entitled to practice whatever religion he wants, and it’s nobody else’s business but his own.

But the way Waiters has handled the story has been suspect at best. If he’s quoted on the record saying he skipped the anthem because of his religion, he can’t later deny saying that. He didn’t have to volunteer the information. That’s why this whole mess came up.

Either way, everybody is about ready for this story to go away.