Dion Waiters is denying reports he missed the playing of the national anthem before the start of the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night 102-100 loss to the host Utah Jazz because of his religious beliefs.

“It’s because of my religious beliefs the Northeast Media Group reported Waiters responded on Friday when asked why he returned to the locker room just before the playing of the anthem began. “That’s why I stayed in the locker room.”

Several media outlets later reported the 22-year-old Waiters is a Muslim committed to “rededicating” himself to his faith. Back in the 1990’s, the NBA suspended fellow Muslim player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauof for a game after he refused to stand for the playing of the banner.

Early on, the 2014 NBA season has been a time of major controversy for the volatile Waiters, who recently lost his starting job and was moved to the role of sixth-man after the much celebrated Cavs got off to a 1-3 start, including losses to the lowly Jazz and Knicks.

Four-time league MVP and Cleveland native LeBron James returned to the team as a free agent over the summer, but even with him in the lineup the Cavs, who also feature all-stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, have struggled to find chemistry.

Now in his third-year out of Syracuse, Waiters has averaged 15 points and three assists over his short career. He came off the bench to score 17 points and grab two rebounds in the Cavs’ 110-101 win over the Denver Nuggets Friday night.

[Photo Credit: Moondog Mascot]