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Waiters skips anthem, cites faith

DENVER -- Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters excused himself from the national anthem before his team's game against the Utah Jazz earlier this week for what he said were religious reasons.

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

Waiters, a Muslim, was nowhere to be found during the national anthem in Utah on Wednesday. He stayed in the visitors locker room until after the singing group at EnergySolutions Arena finished its performance, joining the bench just before tipoff.

Waiters told Northeast Ohio Media Group he is rededicating himself to his Muslim faith.

On Friday night, however, Waiters was back on the court, standing with his teammates for the national anthem in Denver.

"I don't really want to talk about that," Waiters said after the Cavs' 110-101 win over the Nuggets. "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."

Waiters had 17 points and two steals in 24 minutes off the bench against Denver, his best performance of the young season.

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

Cavs coach David Blatt did not realize Waiters abstained from the anthem in Utah and had not spoken to the third-year guard about his decision.

"I wasn't aware of it so it's hard for me to make a comment," Blatt said. "I don't know anything about it."

During the 1995-96 season, Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was suspended for sitting down during the national anthem, citing his Muslim beliefs as his reasoning. The league contended that Abdul-Rauf was breaking a "procedural rule" in its explanation of the punishment.