With the NBA playing their season opener games this week, it has caused speculation as to whether the players will protest in a similar manner to the NFL. Many NFL players have been kneeling as a direct protest to the social injustices that people of color face in the United States. President Trump and many others have seen this as an attack on the U.S. military and as a direct hit on the Administration, however the present-day movement started when President Barack Obama was still serving.
It’s no secret that Golden State Warriors player Steph Curry denied a White House invitation, which sparked agreement from sports arch nemesis, Cleveland Cavaliers player LeBron James. While they may face off on the court, the players have come together in unison off the court. The pair are even featured in a doctored Sports Illustrated cover photo standing arm in arm with the words, “A nation divided, sports united.”
But, a little-known rule bars NBA players from doing anything but standing during the National Anthem.
So, what can players do to make a statement? James wore shoes to the Cavaliers season opening game with “EQUALITY” stitched onto the back, which is hardly a coincidence. During the National Anthem, the Cavaliers players linked arms, whereas the opposing Boston Celtics stood normally during the song.
While many see former San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick as the start of the kneeling movement, the first notable, yet often-forgotten instance was over twenty-years ago. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf is a former NBA player who saw his career crash and burn after people started to notice that he was absent during the Star-Spangled Banner.
Abdul-Rauf was eventually fined and suspended, but struck a deal with the officials that required him to stand, but allowed for him to bow his head and shut his eyes. Perhaps ahead of his time, the then-recent Islam-convert said that the flag was a symbol of oppression and that the U.S. had a tyrannical history.
Abdul-Rauf’s civil disobedience led him to a fate that Kaepernick is living out now. Kaepernick remains unsigned by any NFL team and Abdul-Rauf eventually left the NBA, ending his career before his time was up. “No question. It’s a duplicate pretty much,” Abdul-Rauf said in a recent interview. “The hate mail, the attacks on his character, his personality, his race. ‘As an athlete, this is not what you should be doing. You should be either a social activist or an athlete.’ The same things.”
But the main difference between Abdul-Rauf and Kaepernick is the amount of support that Kaepernick has received. Perhaps Abdul-Rauf was way ahead of his time.