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NBA SUSPENDS ABDUL-RAUF SUSPENDED OVER ANTHEM FLAP
Published March 13, 1996
Nuggets Guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was suspended by the NBA without pay for refusing to stand during the playing of the national anthem. Abdul-Rauf: "My beliefs are more important than anything. If I have to give up basketball, I will." Abdul- Rauf said due to his Muslim religion, he does not believe in recognizing nationalistic ideology. Calling the U.S. flag a "symbol of oppression, of tyranny," Abdul-Rauf added, "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." Abdul-Rauf meets with NBA Commissioner David Stern in New York today to discuss the issue (John Mossman, WASHINGTON POST, 3/13). REAX: Charles Lyons, President of Nuggets' parent company, Ascent Entertainment, supports the league. Lyons: "The NBA's rule on this point is very clear." But Shaquille O'Neal, a college teammate of the former Chris Jackson at LSU, backs his friend: "It isn't dishonorable. Mahmoud is Muslim, and you have to respect that. Chris is a good person. He's not a butthole" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE-TELEGRAPH, 3/13). Nuggets teammate Dikembe Motumbo: "They should have known that Mahmoud never participated in that. It's like the man be coming in your house and be sleeping with your wife and you don't know" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/12). TNT's Ernie Johnson: "I don't think the NBA wants a political or religious -- or any kind of situation on its hands -- that might divide it" ("NBA on TNT," 3/12). LEGAL ANALYSIS: ABC Legal Editor Arthur Miller, from this morning's "Good Morning America": "This is not completely irrelevant to the business of basketball. The business of basketball is pleasing fans, and if it a characteristic of fans that they are patriotic, that they want respect shown to the flag, it is quite reasonable for the employer to say, `We want you to show that type of respect.' ... The question is if there is a legitimate business purpose to be insistent by the league that the rules be obeyed. That's a very delicate question. I can see a judge or a jury saying, `Look you can't have absolute obedience to religion when it offends the customer.' A waiter who refuses to bathe or shave on grounds of religion need not continue in employment" (ABC, 3/13).