Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf of the Denver Nuggets making du’a during “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Abdul-Rauf, born Chris Jackson, initially refused to come out of the locker room at all during the national anthem, saying it’s “a symbol of oppression, of tyranny, so it depends on how you look at it. I think this country has a long history of that. If you look at history, I don’t think you can argue the facts.”

With the help of Denver talk show hosts, fans who were unhappy with Abdul-Rauf’s decision turned the issue into a nationwide commotion, forcing the NBA –- who originally had no problem with the player –- to take action, suspending him indefinitely. The suspension lasted one game; Abdul-Rauf agreed to remain on the floor as long as he could look down at his hands and pray. 

The Denver Nuggets sold the player after the season ended, despite Mahmoud being their highest scorer for the past four seasons.

His house was burnt down in 2001, reduced to just its brick frame. A sign nearby was spray painted with the letters “KKK” and the contractor received calls threatening his life.

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