Abdul-Rauf Suspended Over National AnthemJOHN MOSSMAN , Associated Press
Mar. 13, 1996 2:55 AM ET
DENVER (AP) _ Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, the reed-thin guard who is one of the NBA's smallest players, has created one of its biggest controversies by refusing to stand during the national anthem because of his Islamic beliefs.
The Denver Nuggets' leading scorer was suspended indefinitely and without pay by the NBA on Tuesday.
Abdul-Rauf requested and was granted a meeting with NBA commissioner David Stern today in New York to discuss the issue, sources said.
NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik said Abdul-Rauf violated a league rule that requires players, coaches and trainers to ``stand and line up in a dignified posture'' during the U.S. and Canadian anthems.
``The NBA's rule on this point is very clear, and all our rules apply equally to all players,'' he said.
Granik said the suspension will continue for as long as the player refuses to comply with the rule.
Charlie Lyons, president and chief executive officer of Ascent Entertainment Group, which owns the Nuggets, said the NBA's action ``speaks for itself. The league's rules and regulations apply to everyone involved in the NBA.''
Abdul-Rauf, who stopped standing for the anthem at the start of this season, was not at McNichols Arena for Tuesday night's 110-93 victory over Orlando and was unavailable for comment.
At a shootaround earlier in the day, however, Abdul-Rauf said he doesn't believe in standing for any nationalistic ideology. The Koran, he said, states nothing should come between him and Allah.
``My beliefs are more important to me than anything,'' Abdul-Rauf said before learning of the suspension. ``If I have to, I'll give up basketball.''
Abdul-Rauf is in the second year of a four-year, $11.2 million contract that pays him $2.6 million this season.
Calling the American flag ``a symbol of oppression, of tyranny,'' Abdul-Rauf said: ``This country has a long history of that. I don't think you can argue the facts. You can't be for God and for oppression. It's clear in the Koran, Islam is the only way. I don't criticize those who stand, so don't criticize me for sitting. I won't waver from my decision.''
Ed Wearing, state commander of The American Legion veterans organization in Colorado, suggested that Abdul-Rauf renounce his U.S. citizenship.
``Refusing to stand up and recognize the unity of this nation as embodied under the flag to me is tantamount to treason,'' Wearing said.
Abdul-Rauf, the former Chris Jackson who starred at LSU, embraced Islam in 1991. Last summer, he was the keynote speaker at an Islamic conference of 700 in Orange County, Calif.
The 6-foot-1, 160-pound guard, who is averaging 19.6 points, has typically done stretching while sitting on the bench during the anthem. His policy has drawn criticism from some fans. Recently he stayed in the locker room during the anthem and then joined his teammates on the bench just before tipoff.
``I'm a Muslim first and a Muslim last,'' he said. ``My duty is to my creator, not to nationalistic ideology.''
Abdul-Rauf's teammates, although reluctant to talk about the dispute, generally supported him.
``I wish those of us who are Christians were as dedicated to our religion as he is to his,'' LaPhonso Ellis said. ``I admire the guy for his perseverance.''
Dikembe Mutombo was critical of the timing of the suspension.
``If the league knew he was not standing for the anthem during the whole season, they should have approached him the first or second game,'' Mutombo said. ``It's ridiculous that they did it now. They've made this into a national issue. We love Mahmoud, and we can't be upset with what he is doing.''
Orlando Magic center Shaquille O'Neal, whose team played the Nuggets Tuesday night, defended Abdul-Rauf's position.
``People have different beliefs,'' O'Neal said. ``People should respect that. It isn't dishonorable.''
Magic Johnson, who in a sponsorship flap draped himself with an American flag during the gold medal ceremony at the 1992 Olympics, said he respects Abdul-Rauf's right to act on principles.
``Do I think it's right? No,'' he said from Inglewood, Calif., before the Lakers played Portland. ``I don't think it's right in my mind. But if that's what he decides to do and he thinks it's right, that's up to him.''