Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf revisits anthem protest, nuanced legacy in ‘Stand’

Mahmood Abdul Rauf knew that all this would happen.

He didn’t know when or how soon.

Originally Chris Jackson, Abdul Rauf is publicly rediscovering his groundbreaking legacy in a new Showtime documentary, “Stand,” out Feb. 3. Now 53, he’s also exploring darker elements of his story that weren’t so well known. .

“For the longest time I felt I had something to say, but the older I got, the more I read, the more I experienced and saw, I think things were right. , Abdul Rauf told The Post ahead of the film’s premiere. “I love the film, and I’m just curious to see how other people will see it. The goal is always to make people think and benefit someone.

Most importantly, and as similar debates continue in modern discourse, Abdul Rauf wants people to think about his message, perhaps a little more closely than before.

One of the NBA’s smartest ball handlers and best shooters — Phil Jackson once compared him to Stephen Curry — with the Nuggets, he converted to Islam in 1991 and changed his name in 1993. . In 1996, he caused widespread controversy when he refused to stand for the national anthem, claiming that as a Muslim, he could not stand for injustice in the country.

Mahmood Abdul Rauf
Mehmood Abdul Rauf feels it is the right time to reassess his legacy.
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Unlike other demonstrations by athletes (Colin Kaepernick, with whom he has a personal and professional relationship), Abdul Rauf did not draw attention to himself or necessarily intend to be seen. When the national anthem was played, Abdul Rauf either sat on the bench or moved to the side and warmed up. He did this for four months without realizing it in public and it wasn’t until a sports radio host saw it happen and asked him about it that he got attention. Normally soft-spoken, Abdul Rauf explained his objection to the anthem, calling the flag a symbol of oppression amid numerous questions.

Instantly, his actions and words became a national story. He was immediately suspended by the NBA. Two years later, he was out of the league, unable to find a team willing to sign him.

“It started as a personal protest, because of the things I started seeing in my reading and talking to people,” Abdul Rauf said. “What I thought was going to happen, eventually happened. Because when you do something like that, the more I read, the more my attitude towards certain things started to change. And that’s how I ended up with a guy like that. The one who was quiet, not wanting to get involved in arguments and arguments, went to someone who was willing to throw information out there and see how it felt.

“I think black people especially but a lot of people, we’ve learned to live life apologizing — apologizing for being black, apologizing for being rich, apologizing for being smart. I said. You know what? I’m not going to live my life as an apology.’ I felt it was going to happen at some point. [his not standing being noticed]. And when it does, I’m going to address it. And it came before I thought, and I did what I thought I was going to do, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Mahmoud Abdulk-Rauf talks in his new Showtime documentary, "The Stand."
Mahmoud Abdul Raouf talks in his new Showtime documentary “Stand.”
Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Born into poverty in Gulfport, Mississippi, and raised by a single mother, Abdul Rauf overcame Tourette syndrome to become one of college basketball’s greatest scorers and shooters of all time, and his He later became one of the most polarizing figures in the sports world while in the NBA.

He averaged 29 points a game in two seasons at LSU and played alongside freshman Shaquille O’Neal as a sophomore. Chris Jackson also led the SEC and was second in the nation in scoring as a freshman and then led the SEC in scoring again as a sophomore. The 30.2 points per game he recorded his freshman season is the 10th most in a single season in NCAA history. He was named SEC Player of the Year and First Team All-American both seasons before leaving for the NBA.

After convincing teams that his Tourette syndrome would not hinder his ability on the court, he was drafted No. 3 overall by the Nuggets in 1990. He made the All-Rookie Second Team his first season and started during his third season in 1992. 93, scoring 19.2 points a game and earning the league’s MVP award.

Steph Curry speaks in "The Stand."

Steph Curry speaks in “The Stand.”

Jillian Rose speaks in "The Stand."

Jillian Rose speaks in “The Stand.”


Steve Kerr speaks in "The Stand".

Steve Kerr speaks in “The Stand”.


Abdul Rauf led the league in free throw shooting twice in 1993-94 and 1995-96, but it was his shooting from deep and off the dribble that grabbed the attention. Steph Curry, who stars in the documentary along with O’Neal, Steve Kerr, Jalen Rose, Ice Cube, Mahershala Ali and many others, was impressed by Abdul Rauf’s style and willingness to shoot from anywhere. O’Neal claims that playing with Abdul Rauf “was like watching God play basketball.”

However, none of that mattered after his comments on the anthem. Abdul Rauf found himself isolated.

Unlike some of his athlete-activist predecessors before him, such as Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and others, as well as modern athlete-activists who have strength in numbers, Abdul Rauf did not receive much, if any, support. Other players around the league. In the film, Rose, who starred opposite Abdul Rauf on Nuggets, claimed that “we should have had his back and we didn’t.”

Mahmood Abdul Rauf
Mahmood Abdul Rauf’s shooting skills have inspired a plethora of modern players.
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Mahmood Abdul Rauf
Mahmoud Abdul Rauf, then Chris Jackson, was one of the best scorers in the country with LSU.
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“When you take some position that you think is fair, you hope people will get it,” Abdul Rauf said. “That they’ll support it, because it’s the right thing to do. But you won’t be surprised when it doesn’t, because there are so many social situations that happen throughout life. “Oh shut up. Do your job. Protect. Don’t say anything.’ And so you end up as a person who, no matter how much money you have, the idea is, there’s a fear of losing something. As opposed to gaining something, it can benefit everybody. . And you start to become a person that you start living, and not living. And so it’s frustrating, but I’m not surprised, because of social conditions.

“And another thing that’s frustrating is that a lot of these conversations, people are having on the bus. They’re having it in practice. They’re having it on the plane. They’re having it in barbershops. But when it comes time to go out in public, it’s fear. It’s very frustrating, very frustrating.”

After being suspended, Abdul Rauf made a compromise with the league where he would stand, but pray during the anthem. After the season, though, the Nuggets traded Abdel Rauf to the Kings, and his playing time immediately decreased significantly. He was constantly bullied and threatened by fans, and then-Nuggets coach and general manager Bernie Bakerstaff called Abdel Rauf a “distraction” before trading him despite leading the team in points and assists. After his contract expired after two seasons, he couldn’t find another NBA sweater. Abdul Rauf then played overseas in Europe before returning briefly with the Grizzlies for the 2000–01 season.

Mehmood Abdul Rauf praying during the national anthem.
Mahmoud Abdul Rauf reached an agreement with the NBA where he will stand during the national anthem, but pray.
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Yes, he was able to return to the court after his protest, but Abdul Rauf feels he was blackballed and cheated by the NBA for most of his career — a sentiment that still lingers. .

“Am I at peace? As an individual for the most part, yes. But I am not at peace either because there is no peace without justice,” Abdul Rauf said. “So it’s constantly going up and down. Do I resent it? Yes, as long as things stay the way they are, and people are doing pretty much the same things, I’m going to resent those things. In me now There’s bitterness, too, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I’m still calm, there’s a lot I’m thankful for. But the NBA presents itself as being progressive. Compared to the NFL. Me, a lot. But they’re savvy, they’re aware of how they approach it.

“And another thing that’s frustrating is that a lot of these conversations, people are having on the bus. They’re having it in practice. They’re having it on the plane. They’re having it in barbershops. But when it’s time to go out in public, it’s fear. It’s very frustrating, very frustrating.”

In many ways, Abdul Rauf has seen his legacy follow a similar path to that of other activists. Like Ali, Tommy Smith, and other civil rights activists, he was ridiculed and confronted during his time. But like his predecessors, Abdul Rauf has seen his legacy and seen it change more positively over time in the eyes of others. After retiring and attempting to return to his native Mississippi, Abdul Rauf’s newly constructed home was burned down by the Klux Klan. Now, he says he is constantly stopped by people in public to thank him for what he has done.

Mahmood Abdul Rauf
Mahmud Abdul Rauf was handed over to the kings after his protest.
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“What it says about activists, often you hear the phrase ‘they were ahead of their time.’ But what does it say about us and the system that the system is so intelligent, they are able to fool us and make someone into a person that we embrace, make them an enemy,” Abdul Rauf said.

But it is not necessary for Abdul Rauf to apologize for how everything happened. What he hopes, though, is that his efforts help prevent the same mistakes from happening. Through the power of social media, he has seen progress in athletes coming together to make their voices heard and maintain collective power. He’s also frustrated, as he was after Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem, that the messenger is being treated the same way over and over again.

Currently, Abdul Rauf lives in Atlanta. He trains many NBA players, is a public speaker and even competes in Big3 basketball tournaments.

Mahmood Abdul Rauf
Mahmood Abdul Rauf has seen his legacy change over time.
Courtesy of SHOWTIME

And if he could do it all over again, he wouldn’t hesitate.

“I’m not perfect, but if people can say, ‘You know what, this dude, he was raw. And he was working tirelessly to try to live the most truthful, God-conscious, righteous life that he could.’ He could have lived, until the day he died,” Abdul Rauf said. “And it came from a place of love, because it’s like the old saying, ‘Justice is what love looks like.’ If they can remember it, I’m fine. If they don’t, God knows best.”

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