Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf: The Original Flag Protestor

Before the start of a 2016 NFL Preseason game, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decides to kneel during the commencement of the National Anthem. He was protesting for his belief that the United State has oppressed against African-Americans, and other people of color. Many people have supported Kaepernick since his stance of individual freedom, joining him in sitting during the National Anthem. Others, however, have threatened Kaepernick and have exemplified strong hate against him for not standing.

However, over twenty years ago, there was an NBA player who did the same thing that Kaepernick did by protesting the American flag. His name was Chris Jackson.

The story of the original flag protestor started in Gulfport, Mississippi, where a single-mother named Jacqueline Jackson raised Chris and his two brothers Omar and David. At times during Jackson’s childhood, his mother experienced periods of severe poverty where she did not have enough money to provide proper nutrition for her three sons.

But the hardships didn’t stop there.

Throughout his adolescence, Jackson endured a moderate form of Tourette syndrome, a condition that went undiagnosed until Jackson was 17. Fortunately, Jackson managed to peddle past his arduous upbringing to become a basketball prodigy for Gulfport High School.

While in high school, Jackson was named Mississippi’s Mr. Basketball in 1987 and 1988. During his senior season, he averaged 29.9 points and 5.7 assists, becoming a McDonald’s All-American. When the time came to decide what college he would attend, Jackson stayed in-state and committed to play for the LSU Tigers.

As a freshman, Jackson rattled off the greatest season in NCAA history as a freshman, averaging a freshman-record 30.2 points per game and set a career-high 55 points that year against Ole Miss. His sophomore year saw prolific production once again, averaging 27.8 points per game, ultimately securing Jackson consecutive SEC Player Of The Year honors.

In the 1990 NBA Draft, Jackson was selected third overall by the Denver Nuggets. During his rookie season, Jackson made the NBA All-Rookie Second-Team, where he flourished as one of the game’s premiere up-and-coming two-way players: averaging 14.1 points, 3.1 assists per game and leading the NBA in free throw percentage (he did this again in 1993 through 1995).

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf’s, formerly known as Chris Jackson, professional career began as a member for the Denver Nuggets. Photo by

But things in his life changed after 1991 when he converted to Islam. In 1993, he legally changed his name from Chris Jackson to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. During the 1995-1996 season Abdul-Rauf sat down for the National Anthem believing that the flag was a symbol of oppression, similar to Kaepernick’s recent beliefs, and considered that the United States had a long history of tyranny.

On March 12th, 1996, the NBA suspended Abdul-Rauf and fined him $31,707 per game for the duration of the 1995-96 season. He did end up working out a deal, however, with the NBA and agreed that he would stand during the National Anthem, but only with the admittance of keep his eyes closed and saying an Islamic prayer.

Because of his stance, his career in the NBA would go downhill quickly. Despite being the best player on his team, Abdul-Rauf was traded to the Sacramento Kings in which his stats and playing time would drop significantly. He was released by the Kings two years later and signed a two-year, $3.4 million dollar contract with the Fenerbahçe Dogus of the Turkish basketball league. Abdul-Rauf later left the club and retired due to his lost of interest in the game of basketball. However in 2000, he ended up signing with the Vancouver Grizzlies and played one season. His professional career ended in 2011 in Japan playing for the B. League team the Kyoto Hannaryz.

Today, Abdul-Rauf teaches the game he loves at youth camps across the country. He recently visited The Islamic Center in Detroit with an estimated 50 percent population of Muslims to talk about his beliefs on President Donald Trump’s travel ban. Abdul-Rauf ended up meeting Colin Kaepernick and is 100 percent on Kaepernick side, saying that he admires how he feels about with his protest. Abdul-Rauf still plays basketball in Ice Cube’s Big 3 League for the Three-Headed Monsters, showcasing the assortment of skills that he still has that made him a stalwart back in his prime.

On a personal note, I do believe that a person should stand and show respect to the American flag, which has given the American people many opportunities to succeed – that almost every country can’t provide anywhere in the world. However, I do respect Abdul-Rauf and Kaepernick for exercising their first amendment rights that is given in the United States Constitution.

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