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March 14, 1996 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1996-03-14

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10A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, March 14, 1996

NBA won't stand for Rauf's antics

The Associated Press
NEW YORK - The NBA found
itself at the center of a controversy
encompassing basketball, religion and
freedom of speech yesterday as a Den-
ver Nuggets player held firm in his
refusal to stand for the national an-
them.
The NBA has suspended Mahmoud
Abdul-Rauf indefinitely without pay
-a move that is costing the Nuggets'
leading scorer $31,707 per game.
Abdul-Rauf says he means no dis-
respect to the flag, but his religious
principles are more important than
his job. He feels "The Star-Spangled
Banner" is a symbol of tyranny and
oppression, and contends the Koran
forbids nationalistic ritualism.
The Koran doesn't address the topic
specifically, which Islamic experts ac-
knowledged has led to some disagree-
ment among Muslims.
"My intentions were not in any way
to be disrespectful to those who re-
gard the national anthem as a sacred
ceremony," Abdul-Raufsaid in a state-
ment issued yesterday. "I am an Afri-
can American, a citizen of this coun-
try, and one who respects freedom of
speech and freedom of expression.
"From this point on, it is my inten-
tion to try and live a peaceful life,
play basketball, and perfect my hu-
manity to the highest level possible."
Abdul-Rauf, who converted to Is-
lam in 1991 and changed his name
from Chris Jackson in 1993, began

refusing to stand for the anthem at the
beginning of this season. Sometimes
he would stay in the locker room or sit
and stretch in his chair. Sometimes he
faced away from the flag.
The Denver Nuggets notified the
league a month ago and the NBA
asked the team to
solve the problem
quietly. The
league contends
that teams must
abide by its rule
requiring players,
coaches and train-
ers to "stand and
line up in a digni-
fied posture" dur-
ing the U.S. and
Abdul-Rauf Canadian an-
thems.
The NBA decided to suspend
Abdul-Rauf on Tuesday after the is-
sue became fodder for Denver talk-
radio stations and Abdul-Rauf dis-
cussed his beliefs at a morning prac-
tice.
"It's clear in the Koran: Islam is the
only way. I don't criticize those who
stand, so don't criticize me for sit-
ting," he said. "I won't waver from
my decision."
Theplayers' union said it supported
Abdul-Rauf's free expression rights
but was urging a compromise.
The Nuggets, whose next game is
tomorrow, lose Abdul-Rauf at a bad
time. With only 20 games left in the

season, they are 1 1/2 games back in
the race for the eighth and final play-
off spot in the Western Conference.
"The ball's in his court," said league
spokesperson Brian McIntyre. "This
is not a religious issue, it's a simple
procedural rule."
The dispute is believed to be un-
precedented in professional sports.
Some athletes have refused to play
on certain holy days, most notably
Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles
Dodgers, who refused to pitch in a
1965 World Series game that fell on a
Jewish holiday. But none have been
punished before for refusing to stand
for the national anthem, and no play-
ers have been known to take such a
public position on the issue.
Among Muslim athletes,
Muhammad Ali was banned from
boxing after refusing to serve in the
Army during the Vietnam War, citing
religious reasons.
Not all Muslim athletes share
Abdul-Rauf's beliefs about the an-
them.
Hakeem Olajuwon, the star center
for the defending NBA champion
Houston Rockets, said the Koran
teaches respect for the customs and
traditions of the country in which one
lives.
"It's tough for me to understand his
position, but in general the Muslim
teaching is to obey and respect. To be
a good Muslim is to be a good citi-
zen," Olajuwon said.

The Eastern Michigan Eagles practice yesterday in Indianapolis, the site of their NCAA tournament first-round game. The
upstart Eagles (24-5) are seeded ninth in the Southeast Regional, pitting them against No. 8 seed and traditional power
Duke (18-12). The game begins at approximately 2:45 p.m. today. The Blue Devils have fallen from their usual dominance
this year and were beaten by Michigan this season, but Eastern will have to shut down guard Chris Collins to upset Duke.

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