Remembering Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf

 featured image credit to Joe Mahoney

The outcry of the oppressed is a shriek contained in a box where sound doesn’t bounce around and ring into the ears of its containers. No, It is more of an annoyance that only causes them to silence their prey in a moment’s notice. As fast as possible. Without hesitation.

The screams of the hurt will only sound like scratches on a chalkboard to their killers. When those that screamed for “black lives matter”, the oppressed screamed louder ” all lives matter” when systemic oppression and racism reigned over the black and brown bodies and we asked to stop shooting us they tried to silence us in a hurry. And when Colin Kaepernick kneeled for the national anthem, The NFL silenced him faster than a rat gets…. you know the rest.

Kaep was a beacon for those crying for freedom. He became a marauder in the same breath. His name will be mentioned with the Mohammed Alis, the Kareem Abdul Jabbars, the Jim Browns, the Bill Russells and the LeBron James’.

But, what if I were to tell you about a marauder that media had forgotten? The initial national anthem protestor, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. Nba point guard for the Denver Nuggets and the Sacramento Kings in the 90s. He was a sharpshooter, some might say he was Steph Curry before Steph Curry. Yeah, he was that good. 14.6ppg, .354 3pt. fg%, 90.5% on free throws for a career. He was a shooter for real and a damn good one at that.

He was a star player out of LSU, scoring more 30ppg. his freshman in college, not bad for the former Chris Jackson, a young child with Terrets. He became the 3rd overall pick in 1990 due to a stellar collegiate season.  This was done with Shaquille Oneal on his team too, imagine that.

 

However, this wasn’t the only reason why he was remembered in the NBA.

The undeniably great NBA point guard was also known for one controversial decision, he didn’t stand for the national anthem. And he was blackballed out of the NBA for it.

Struggling in his first two seasons due to personal identity crises and injury, Mohmoud turned to Islam and changed his name from Chris Jackson to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. This led to a successful NBA career. From that point on his confidence resurged and he was torching the NBA. This occurred until the 1996 NBA season… When he chose to sit for the national anthem due to the fact that he believed it stood for tyranny and oppression. 

For a long time, the silent protest went unnoticed. In fact, Abdul-Rauf didn’t even call it a protest. It wasn’t until March when a reporter brought it to attention. Then David Stern, The commissioner of the NBA at the time suspended Abdul-Rauf for one game without pay.

 

this is the beginning of the end for the young Star’s short career. The NBA threatened to continue to suspend him without pay if he chose to sit. He sat. he stood on his beliefs

“You can’t be for God and for oppression. It’s clear in the Quran, Islam is the only way,” he said at the time. “I don’t criticize those who stand, so don’t criticize me for sitting.”-The undefeated 

Abdul-Rauf’s choice to sit during the national anthem brought a massive weight of criticism and backlash. This combined with death threats and the over looming potential of losing his livelihood.

Abdul-Rauf eventually compromised with the NBA, allowing him to stand and pray, however, the damage had already been done. At the end of the season, the Denver Nuggets had traded Mohmoud Abdul-Rauf to the Sacramento Kings, and from there, it was over. Struggling with minute restrictions, Abdul-Rauf was eventually ousted by the league and forced to sign a deal in Turkey to continue his basketball career.

“It’s a process of just trying to weed you out. This is what I feel is going to happen to [Kaepernick],” Abdul-Rauf said. “They begin to try to put you in vulnerable positions. They play with your minutes, trying to mess up your rhythm. Then they sit you more. Then what it looks like is, well, the guy just doesn’t have it anymore, so we trade him.” –The undefeated

“It’s kind of like a setup,” he said. “You know, trying to set you up to fail and so when they get rid of you, they can blame it on that as opposed to, it was really because he took these positions. They don’t want these type of examples to spread, so they’ve got to make an example of individuals like this.”

 

In recognition of the battle for social justice, we as black and brown folks fight for with our every breath, we must remember the fight that Mohmoud Abdul-Rauf fought 23 years ago. To this day, he still doesn’t stand for the national anthem, and he feels no regret for it.

“It’s priceless to know that I can go to sleep knowing that I stood to my principles,” Abdul-Rauf told The Undefeated. “Whether I go broke, whether they take my life, whatever it is, I stood on principles. To me, that is worth more than wealth and fame.”

 

We must remember him as we remember Kaepernick, for before Kaepernick sat, Mohmoud Abdul-Rauf sat. And he sat before social media. This man is a marauder who was wrongfully blackballed out of the NBA for sitting against racial injustice of the black and brown Americans of this country. At a time where he was at the peak of his powers, had he not been blackballed who knows what he could’ve accomplished.

His actions raise the issue of the NBA and its dark past. In light of the distrust many have in the NFL, we must remember the types of action that had taken place in the NBA as well. These corporations have a brand to protect and will go to any means to protect them. Much like them, we must protect our own as well.

Let us remember Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, The originator of the sit-in for the national anthem on a national stage.

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