( ENSPIRE Sports ) Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf’s 1996 Protest and How it Impacts Athletes Today
ENSPIRE Contributor: Tylah Willis
Over this past year, we’ve seen many athletes take a knee during the national anthem as a form of peaceful protest against police brutality. Many believe that this gesture began with Colin Kaepernick in the summer of 2016 when he decided to sit through the national anthem because of the oppression black people faced in this country. But that isn’t quite the truth. In fact, before Colin Kaepernick began his protest against oppression, former Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (formerly Chris Jackson) protested the national anthem in 1996 for the same reasons, as well as religious reasons. Mahmoud created the blueprint of protesting the national anthem which honestly led him to be blackballed in the NBA, diminishing his career. He also believes the same thing is happening to Colin Kaepernick. Ever since his bold act of free speech, we’ve seen the sports world drastically change from sports to politics. This subtle yet influential impact of a rebellion started with Abdul-Rauf in 1996 and Kaepernick reinforcing the same in 2016 only shows history repeating itself when it comes to injustice against black athletes in America.
In September 2016 before Kaepernick lost his NFL career, Abdul-Rauf stated in an interview with Undefeated, “It’s a process of just trying to weed you out. This is what I feel is going to happen to Kaepernick. 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.”Racism and police brutality is prevalent within the black community. Now we have a President who doesn’t condemn these actions, instead, he calls the perpetrators “very fine people.” On September 11th, 2017, ESPN reporter Jemele Hill made remarks on Twitter about President Donald Trump stating, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself with other white supremacists.” This comment sparking outrage from Republicans and demanded her release from ESPN. Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling called her statement “racist” and reasons she should be fired for. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the comment “outrageous.” Jemele Hill recently has been suspended from ESPN for two weeks for her comments.
After the white house called for Hill’s release, President Trump held a rally in Huntsville, Alabama and spoke about the Kaepernick protest. He declared, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag. Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out.” His comments sparked a surge of many to join Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem.
Fans of these teams were outraged by the actions and in return, burned the jerseys of the football players who are boycotting the NFL. Jason Whitlock also made comments about the protest stating, “Most of the players are out beyond their skis. I don’t think these guys are experts in this cause they’re taking up.” The fact that most of the NFL protesters are black in America, that alone is credentialled and qualified enough to be apart of this movement. According to the Washington Post, black Americans are 5 times more likely to be shot by police compared to white people in America.
This is the foremost reason Colin Kaepernick is protesting, that is why football and basketball players are taking a knee or locking arms. This isn’t a case of being unpatriotic, this is about bringing awareness to deeply rooted injustices that have been occurring for 400 years yet it hasn’t been addressed. As Spike Lee stated in his interview with CNN, “Politics and sports have always been intertwined.” Kaepernick’s movement is one of many small steps toward solutions in attempts to fix a substantial problem in America…….. WHICH IS OPPRESSION AGAINST BLACK PEOPLE.