February 04, 2010
In an outstanding interview with HoopsHype.com, ex-NBA guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who gained notoriety for his refusal to stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner" in 1996 because of his Islamic beliefs, discusses, as he calls it, the "national anthem fiasco":
What do you think is the perception NBA fans have of you after all the controversy about the anthem?
[Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf]: You're gonna have people that focus on the basketball aspect and appreciate my abilities and you're going to have some that focus on what they perceive is the negative — the national anthem, the interviews and anything I did that didn't coincide with their views. For me, really, I don't care about that. As long as I can I can say I went out and did the best I could and stayed true to my heart and my conscience, that's something I can deal with.
But I will tell you this ... When I'm on the streets, it's a difference from what the media says as far as me being a troublemaker because of the anthem. When I'm walking on the streets, the response I get is different. When it's all said and done, people on the street know or got a sense about how certain people are. And I get a lot of people that come to me and say, 'Man, you had a lot of game' or 'You could play' or 'Man, they gave you a raw deal' or 'Thank you for doing what you did and standing up!' I get that a lot more than the negative. At the end of the day, people are going to have their opinions. You know what they say about opinions? (laughs) It's like a-holes, everybody's got one.
What happened in the offseason of 1998-99? Did you receive offers to keep on playing in the NBA?
MAR: Oooh, man, that's a long, long time. I will tell you this ... After the national anthem fiasco, nobody really wanted to touch me. Then there was the HBO interview with Bryant Gumbel. After that, it was like it killed everything. Because that was after September 11. I could not even get an invitation to go try out with a team. I just laid low, stayed at home, spent more time with my family, trying to do things in the community and see if eventually I could get back into it. At the end, I said ... Man, I still have a love for this thing and there's got to be somebody out there that wants to give me a chance to play. And that's why I have been overseas and have been ever since.
Make sure you read the entire interview.