Twenty years ago, Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refused to stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner”, and says he understands what Colin Kaepernick is going through during his own protest today.
Abdul-Rauf changed his name from Chris Jackson when he converted to Islam; he maintains that the United States’ flag represents “tyranny and oppression” on a global scale.
My latest piece.
— Khalid Salaam (@MrKhalidS) September 9, 2016
The explosive, high-scoring guard says he was blackballed by the League for his political beliefs.
Per Bleacher Report:
For those who don’t remember, can you explain why you protested against the national anthem?
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf: “Couple of reasons, actually. I couldn’t stand for a flag that represented tyranny and oppression. Not just from a domestic perspective but from a global one. It’s supposed to represent equality and justice for all, and I believe the flag is a symbol that’s supposed to represent the character of the people. When that character is not in line with what I believe in, then I’m opposed to that symbol. I couldn’t see myself standing and still can’t.”
Do you believe you were blackballed because of your stance?
AR: “When I really look at how it went down, yeah, because I was in my prime, and after the incident, my minutes went down. But you can’t just say, ‘we’re getting rid of him for that’—they had to create an environment where [it was] ‘let’s change his minutes, and let’s mess up his rhythm.’ A lot of things began to happen, so definitely that’s why my career was cut short.”
The support you received wasn’t as widespread as what Kaepernick is getting. Is that fair to say?
AR: “There was some support [for me]. Shaq [O’Neal] ended up saying something. Dikembe Mutombo, some of my teammates and Dale Ellis on one of the nights stood up in the opposite direction from where everyone had turned. The people who really knew me and had similar feelings voiced their support. But it’s not like it is nowadays, with the advent of social media. […] A lot of people when I was coming up—you can’t call it support [because] it was more like anonymous support—supported me but, for their own reasons, just didn’t have the strength to come out, and I understand it. Not that I agree, but people think of themselves and [their] families and how that can affect it. This is why Kaepernick says it’s bigger than football. This is why we love those from the past—the Muhammad Alis, the Paul Robesons. Those who stood up for principles.”