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Kaepernick situation evokes LSU’s Chris Jackson

by J.W. Miller on 05/22/17

There really is no “off-season” in the NFL, but if you follow the NGS, the “no-games season,” which we are in at present, then you know the draft is over and virtually all the valuable free agents have re-signed with their old teams or sought greener pastures elsewhere. However, there is one player still available who at one time was considered a rising star. Colin Kaepernick led the 49ers into the playoffs in 2012 and 2013, had some rough patches and injuries in 2014 and 2015 then decided to kneel during a national anthem during the 2016 preseason. 

Last season, the 49ers organization descended to the level of dysfunction and the team finished 2-14. It wasn’t all Kaepernick’s fault, as his NFL QB Rating was 17th in the NFL and his 16-4 TD to Interception ratio was the best of his career. He’s still only 29, usually the prime for an NFL QB, but he is also unemployed. There are many theories as to why. Teams are punishing him and fear he will do it again on their sidelines. His mobile style of play isn’t in vogue anymore. He isn’t worth the distractions he creates. Each theory makes some sense, but I am not suggesting Kaepernick as a possible signing for the Saints. I only bring him up because of an article I saw last week about an athlete far more familiar to local fans who engaged in a similar protest and believes he was blackballed for it. 

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf’s two years at LSU as Chris Jackson are among the best seasons anyone has ever put up in college basketball history. A freshman campaign featuring a 30.2 scoring average, an NCAA record, and countless tales of 50-point nights led Jackson to be called the Next Pistol Pete. It’s even more remarkable when you consider in his sophomore season Jackson had to share the ball with teammates like Shaquille O’Neal and Stanley Roberts. Jackson was the third overall pick in the 1990 NBA draft by Denver, and three times averaged over 18 points per game. He was a 90.5% career free throw shooter which would have been best ever if he was not 40 free throws short of qualifying for the career title. 

Then at the beginning of the 1995-96 season, he decided he would not stand during the national anthem before games. Few noticed this for most of the season as Abdul-Rauf would just stretch during the song or stand with his hands on his hips. It wasn't until March that a local reporter noticed and wrote about it. On March 12, 1996, commissioner David Stern passed down a one-game suspension to Abdul-Rauf for his refusal to stand. Two days later, the NBA compromised, forcing Abdul-Rauf to stand during the playing of the national anthem, but allowing him to close his eyes and look downward. Abdul-Rauf decided to say a Muslim prayer quietly to himself instead, but the damage had been done. 

Abdul-Rauf decided that standing during the national anthem and saluting the American flag wasn't a part of his Islamic belief system. Abdul-Rauf's willingness to stay strong for what he believed in ultimately helped lead to an early exodus from the NBA. He played his last NBA game at age 28 then played in Turkey, Russia, Italy, Greece, Saudi Arabia and Japan before retiring in 2011. Today, he is still playing basketball, touring with a three-on-three league, but he is speaking out.

Last year Abdul-Rauf told the website The Undefeated that he views the American flag as a symbol of oppression and racism, similar to Kaepernick’s remarks. He has been silently protesting oppression and racism for more than 20 years. “I hold true to it,” he told Jerry Tipton of the Lexington Herald-Leader last week in a story about the three-on-three league. “If you feel there’s something wrong and you want to change it, whether you’re an athlete, whether you’re a doctor, whether you’re a garbage man, we all have been given a voice by God, and we have a right to voice our concerns,” he said.

Reasonable people can disagree on how best to voice concerns, he told Tipton. Each person must decide a course of action. “Whatever it is, you have to live with those consequences,” he said. Colin Kaepernick has learned that lesson the hard way. 

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