Chris Jackson knew at the age of nine he wanted to be a professional basketball player. In 1991, he converted to Islam and adopted the name Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf — which later became a name we would never forget.
Mahmoud Adbul-Rauf was a phenomenal basketball player, averaging about 19 points a game for the Denver Nuggets. During the 1995-96 Nuggets season, Abdul-Rauf decided not to stand or salute the American flag during the games’ National Anthem.
Very few noticed the lack of acknowledgement Abdul-Rauf had for the nations symbol, but it wasn’t until a local reporter observed the No. 8 seed’s actions and decided to investigate. “The flag is a symbol of oppression, of tyranny,” Abdul-Rauf said in an interview. “This country has a long history of that. You can’t be for God and for oppression.”
After the interview went global, the NBA allowed the Nuggets’s star guard to look downward and close his eyes during the anthem, but in return he had to stand.
From then on, Abdul-Rauf decided to say a Muslim prayer quietly to himself during the National Anthem because as the Quran states, “Islam is the only way.”
Abdul-Rauf’s decision to put his beliefs first caused a series of events to unfold; from being traded to different teams, enduring injuries, and to his contract expiring — his presence in the NBA began to diminish.
After being shunned by the NBA, the Mississippi native lost millions of dollars and respect from the public. Abdul-Rauf tells Yahoo Sports if he had the platform he has now back then, he truly believes his NBA career would’ve sustained.
To this day the activist spends his time sharing his story and preaching the positives of the Nation of Islam. He commends athletes like Colin Kaepernick for standing up — or refusing to — for what they believe.
Nevertheless, Abdul-Rauf is proud and has no regrets.