Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf Was the ‘Colin Kaepernick’ of 1996. Here’s What Happened to Him…

Twenty years before Colin Kaepernick chose to sit down during the National Anthem, upcoming NBA star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf did the same thing.

Abdul-Rauf played point guard for the Denver Nuggets. He was born Chris Jackson but changed his name after converting to Islam in 1991.

Like Kaepernick, Abdul-Rauf had personal feelings about “The Star Spangled Banner.”

On March 10, 1996, Rauf, who was his team’s star player at the time, decided to do something controversial during the National Anthem. 5280.com gave a breakdown of what Abdul-Rauf did while the song played:

  • At the “twilight’s last gleaming,” he had his hands on his hips.
  • At the “perilous fight,” he was stretching.
  • When the words “gallantly streaming were heard,” Abdul-Rauf still stretched.
  • And he sat down right after everyone in the arena heard “our flag was still there.”

When Abdul-Rauf was asked why he did it, he responded:

“The flag is a symbol of oppression, of tyranny. This country has a long history of that. I don’t think you can argue the facts. You can’t be for God and for oppression.

It’s clear in the Koran, Islam is the only way. I don’t criticize those who stand, so don’t criticize me for sitting. I won’t waver from my decision.”

While the 49ers didn’t discipline Kaepernick for taking a similar stance to Abdul-Rauf, the ex-NBA player paid a big price for it.

They suspended him indefinitely for breaking the rule that said players have to “line up in a dignified posture” during the anthem. The suspension only lasted one day, but it cost Abdul-Rauf over $30,000.00.

Moving forward, the NBA made a compromise with Abdul-Rauf, where he still had to show “dignified posture” during the anthem but didn’t have to look at the American flag.

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 15: Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (C) bows his head in prayer 15 March in Chicago, Illinois, during the singing of the national anthem before playing the Chicago Bulls. Abdul-Rauf was suspended for one-game after refusing to stand for the national anthem earlier in the week, but reached a compromise with the National Basketball Association. AFP PHOTO Eric CHU (Photo credit should read ERIC CHU/AFP/Getty Images)
Image Credit: Eric Chu/Getty Images

Another view:

Two years later, however, Abdul-Rauf wasn’t playing in the NBA anymore. Instead, he was playing ball in leagues in Greece, Russia, Italy and Japan.

And he believes it partially has to do with the controversy he created by not standing during the National Anthem.

In an interview with Hoopshype, Abdul-Rauf said:

“After the national anthem fiasco, nobody really wanted to touch me. Then there was the HBO interview with Bryant Gumbel. After that, it was like it killed everything. Because that was after September 11.

I could not even get an invitation to go try out with a team. I just laid low, stayed at home, spent more time with my family, trying to do things in the community and see if eventually I could get back into it.”

According to Abdul-Rauf, this wasn’t the first time he sat out the National Anthem. In fact, he said that he sat out most games of the 1996 season and waited in the locker room until the anthem finished. It wasn’t until a reporter saw what he was doing in March that the controversy was in the headlines.

Independent Journal Review reached out to Abdul-Rauf for comment on the Colin Kaepernick controversy, but hadn’t received word by the time of publication.

[Editor’s note: This article was corrected to accurately reflect that Abdul-Rauf’s flag protest took place 20 years ago.]

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