Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf knew all of it was going to comply with. 

He simply didn’t know when and fairly how rapidly. 

Initially Chris Jackson, Abdul-Rauf is publicly re-exploring his nuanced legacy in “Stand,” a brand new Showtime documentary debuting on Feb. 3. Now 53, he additionally examines deeper parts to his story that hadn’t been as well-known. 

“For the longest I’ve felt like I had one thing to say, however the older that I’ve grow to be, the extra that I’ve learn, the extra that I’ve skilled in addition to seen, I feel the circumstances had been proper,” Abdul-Rauf instructed The Submit forward of the movie’s premiere. “I be ok with the movie, and I’m simply anxious to understand how different individuals will view it. The target is at all times to get individuals to suppose, and for somebody to learn from it.”  

Most significantly, and as comparable debates proceed in fashionable discourse, Abdul-Rauf needs individuals to consider his message, maybe a bit nearer than they did initially. 

One of many NBA’s slickest ball handlers and finest shooters — Phil Jackson as soon as in contrast him to Stephen Curry — with the Nuggets, he transformed to Islam in 1991 and in 1993 he modified his title. In 1996, he sparked wide-scale controversy when he refused to face for the nationwide anthem, claiming that, as a Muslim, he couldn’t stand for injustice that was current within the nation.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf feels it’s the proper time to re-examine his legacy.
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In contrast to different protests by athletes (Colin Kaepernick, whom he shares a private {and professional} relationship with), Abdul-Rauf didn’t draw consideration to himself or essentially intend to be seen. When the nationwide anthem performed, Abdul-Rauf both sat on the bench or continued to stretch and heat up off to the aspect. He did it for 4 months with out being observed publicly and it wasn’t till a sports activities radio host noticed it occurring and requested him about it that it gained consideration. Usually soft-spoken, Abdul-Rauf defined his objection to the anthem and amid myriad of questions labeled the flag as an emblem of oppression. 

Instantly, his actions and phrases erupted right into a nationwide story. He was promptly suspended by the NBA. Two years later, he was out of the league, unable to discover a workforce keen to signal him. 

“It began off as a private protest, due to the issues that I started to come back throughout by way of my studying and speaking to individuals,” Abdul-Rauf mentioned. “What I believed was going to occur, did ultimately occur. As a result of while you do one thing like that, the extra I learn, the extra my habits started to vary in direction of sure issues. And so I finally went from a man who was silent, didn’t wish to interact and get into battle and debates, to an individual that was keen to throw info on the market and see the way it feels.

“I feel black individuals specifically however lots of people, we’ve discovered to dwell strolling via life apologizing – apologizing for being black, apologizing for being wealthy, apologizing for being sensible. I mentioned ‘you already know what? I’m not going to dwell my life as an apology.’ I felt that was going to occur sooner or later [his not standing being noticed]. And when it did, I’m going to deal with it. And it simply got here prior to I believed, and I did what I believed I used to be going to do, and I’ve been doing that ever since.” 

Mahmoud Abdulk-Rauf speaks in his new Showtime documentary "Stand."
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf speaks in his new Showtime documentary “Stand.”
Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Born into poverty in Gulfport, Mississippi, and raised by a single mom, Abdul-Rauf overcame Tourette Syndrome to grow to be one of many biggest faculty basketball scorers and shooters ever, and subsequently one of many sports activities world’s most-polarizing figures whereas within the NBA. 

He averaged 29 factors a sport throughout two seasons at LSU and as a sophomore performed with a freshman Shaquille O’Neal. Nonetheless Chris Jackson on the time, he led the SEC and was second within the nation in scoring as a freshman after which led the SEC in scoring once more as a sophomore. The 30.2 factors per sport he recorded his freshman season is the Tenth-highest of any single season in NCAA historical past. He was named SEC Participant of the Yr and a first-team All-American each seasons earlier than leaving for the NBA.

After convincing groups his Tourette Syndrome wouldn’t hinder his capacity on the court docket, he was drafted No. 3 general by the Nuggets in 1990. He made the All-Rookie second workforce his first season and broke out throughout his third season in 1992-93, scoring 19.2 factors a sport and incomes the league’s Most Improved Participant award. 

Steph Curry speaks in "Stand"
Steph Curry speaks in “Stand”

Jalen Rose speaks in "Stand"
Jalen Rose speaks in “Stand”


Steve Kerr speaks in "Stand"
Steve Kerr speaks in “Stand”


Abdul-Rauf led the league twice in free throw taking pictures, in 1993-94 and 1995-96, nevertheless it was his taking pictures from deep and off-the-dribble that commanded consideration. Steph Curry, who together with O’Neal, Steve Kerr, Jalen Rose, Ice Dice, Mahershala Ali and lots of extra are featured within the documentary, was heavily-influenced by Abdul-Rauf’s model and willingness to shoot from anyplace. O’Neal claims taking part in with Abdul-Rauf was “like I used to be watching God play basketball.” 

None of that mattered after his feedback on the anthem, nonetheless. Abdul-Rauf discovered himself remoted.

In contrast to some athlete-activist predecessors earlier than him similar to Invoice Russell, Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and others, in addition to fashionable athlete-activists who discover power in numbers, Abdul-Rauf didn’t discover a lot, if any, assist from different gamers across the league. Within the movie, Rose, who performed with Abdul-Rauf on the Nuggets, claimed “we must always have had his again and we didn’t.” 

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf’s taking pictures prowess influenced a plethora of recent gamers.
Getty Photographs

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, then Chris Jackson, was among the best scorers within the nation with LSU.
Getty Photographs

“If you take sure positions that you just suppose are simply, you’re hopeful that individuals will get it,” Abdul-Rauf mentioned. “That they’ll assist it, as a result of it’s the proper factor to do. However you’re not stunned when it doesn’t occur, as a result of there are such a lot of social circumstances that happen all through residing. ‘Oh, hold your mouth shut. Defend your job. Don’t say nothing.’ And so you find yourself being an individual that, irrespective of how a lot cash you’ve gotten, there’s this concept, this concern of shedding one thing. Versus gaining one thing, that may profit all people. And also you begin turning into an individual that you just begin surviving, and never residing. And so it’s disappointing, however I’m not stunned, due to the social circumstances.

“And one other factor that’s disappointing is that lots of these conversations, individuals are having on the bus. They’re having in observe. They’re having on the airplane. They’re having within the barber retailers. However when it’s time to go public, there’s this concern. It’s very disappointing, very disappointing.”    

After he was suspended, Abdul-Rauf labored out a compromise with the league the place he would stand, however pray through the anthem. After the season, although, the Nuggets offloaded Abdul-Rauf to the Kings, and his taking part in time promptly diminished considerably. He was heckled and threatened by followers always, and then-Nuggets coach and normal supervisor Bernie Bickerstaff referred to as him a “distraction” earlier than buying and selling him regardless of Abdul-Rauf main the workforce in factors and assists. After his contract expired two seasons later, he couldn’t discover one other NBA suitor. Abdul-Rauf then performed abroad in Europe earlier than a quick return with the Grizzlies for a part of the 2000-01 season. 

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf prays during the national anthem
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf made a compromise with the NBA the place he would stand, however pray, through the nationwide anthem.
Getty Photographs

Sure, he was in a position to return to the court docket after his protest, however Abdul-Rauf feels he was blackballed from the NBA and cheated out of a lot of his profession – a sentiment that continues to be. 

“Am I at peace? For probably the most half as a person, sure. However I’m additionally not at peace as a result of there’s not peace with out justice,” Abdul-Rauf mentioned. “In order that’s always fluctuating. Do I’ve resentment? Sure, so long as issues proceed to be the way in which that they’re, and individuals are doing just about the identical issues, I’m going to resent these issues. I nonetheless have bitterness, nevertheless it doesn’t cast off the truth that by and enormous I’m nonetheless at peace, there’s quite a bit that I’m grateful for. However the NBA presents itself as being progressive. Compared to the NFL, very a lot so. However they’re savvy, they’re savvy in how they strategy it.” 

“And one other factor that’s disappointing is that lots of these conversations, individuals are having on the bus. They’re having in observe. They’re having on the airplane. They’re having within the barber retailers. However when it’s time to go public, there’s this concern. It’s very disappointing, very disappointing”

In some ways, Abdul-Rauf has seen his legacy comply with comparable trajectories as different activists. Like Ali, Tommie Smith and different civil rights activists, he was ridiculed and met with vitriol in his time. But additionally like his predecessors, Abdul-Rauf has seen his legacy and the way he’s considered by others change extra positively over time. After he retired and tried to maneuver again to his native Mississippi, Abdul-Rauf’s newly-built home was burned down by the Ku Klux Klan. Now, he says he’s always stopped by people in public thanking him for what he did. 

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was traded to the Kings after his protest.
Getty Photographs

“What it says about activists, oftentimes you hear the phrase ‘they had been earlier than their time.’ However what it says about us and the system is that the system is so savvy, they’re in a position to proceed to idiot us and to make somebody an individual that we must always embrace, make them the enemy,” Abdul-Rauf mentioned. 

However Abdul-Rauf doesn’t essentially need an apology for the way all the pieces transpired. What he does hope for, although, is that his effort helps stop the identical errors from being made. He’s observed strides, via the facility of social media, in athletes coming collectively to make their voices heard and maintain collective energy. He’s additionally been upset, like within the aftermath of Kaepernick’s kneeling through the nationwide anthem, that the identical conversations are occurring time and again in how the messenger is handled.

At the moment, Abdul-Rauf lives in Atlanta. He trains a plethora of NBA gamers, is a public speaker and even competes within the Big3 basketball match. 

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf has seen his legacy change over time.
Courtesy of SHOWTIME

And if he may do it another time, he wouldn’t hesitate. 

“I’m not good, but when individuals can say ‘you already know what, this dude, he was uncooked. And he was relentless with attempting to dwell probably the most truthful, God-conscious, justice-inspiring life that he may dwell, till the day that he died,’” Abdul-Rauf mentioned. “And it got here from a spot of affection, as a result of it’s just like the previous saying goes, ‘Justice is what love seems to be like.’ If they’ll keep in mind that, then I’m OK. In the event that they don’t, then God is aware of finest.”