Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, an NBA player for the Denver Nuggets and a Muslim, refused to honor the national anthem during the 1995-1996 NBA season.
It all started on March 10, 1996, when Abdul-Rauf sat down in the middle of the anthem, and said that the American flag was “a symbol of oppression, of tyranny.”
He also cited religious reasons for his rejection of the national anthem. Abdul-Rauf said, “I’m a Muslim first and a Muslim last. My duty is to my creator, not to nationalistic ideology.”
The NBA suspended him without pay based on a rule that requires players to “stand and line up in a dignified posture” during both the U.S. and Canadian anthems.
After the NBA suspended him, Abdul-Rauf decided to stand during the national anthem. Rather than place his hand on his chest, he held his hands up in prayer.
For the rest of his career, Abdul-Rauf endured great scrutiny and criticism. He ended up finishing his career playing for different international clubs.
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf undoubtedly paved the way for Colin Kaepernick, and we salute him for his courage to speak truth to power.
Read more about the racist history of the national anthem here.