LSU held a special jersey retirement ceremony for former guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf on Saturday at halftime of their 64-50 win against Texas A&M at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, a well-deserved honor.
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick was right there with him.
Kaepernick made the trek to Baton Rouge on Saturday to watch Abdul-Rauf, his longtime friend, have his jersey retired.
Abdul-Rauf, formerly Chris Jackson, played at LSU for two seasons from 1988-90, where he averaged 29 points per game and was a two-time consensus All-American. The Denver Nuggets selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 1990 NBA draft. He stayed there for seven seasons before playing two with the Sacramento Kings and one with the Vancouver Grizzlies. He retired in 2001.
Adbul-Rauf made headlines during the 1995-96 season in Denver when he refused to stand for the national anthem because of his personal and religious beliefs — the same thing Kaepernick did when he last played in the NFL in 2016 with the San Francisco 49ers. Abdul-Rauf was suspended for one game and fined nearly $32,000. He eventually reached a deal with the league and started praying during the anthem instead.
He was traded soon after to the Kings, and quickly found himself out of the league just years later before he turned 30. Undoubtedly, his situation was extremely similar to the one that Kaepernick is facing today.
“If you ask most players from that era, they’d say they regretted not supporting him more than they did,” Buck Williams, who in 1996 was president of the National Basketball Players Association, told the New York Times in 2017. “He was kind of left out on an island.”
Abdul-Rauf stopped in to speak with the Tigers and coach Will Wade on Friday, too.
“He was Steph Curry before Steph Curry,” Wade said, via the Reveille. “I think that’s the best way you can describe it. I mean to average 30 points as a freshman, it’s just incredible. It takes some freshmen the first month to score 48 points, and good freshmen too. He was just a tremendous player.”
The Floor Is Yours, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. pic.twitter.com/51mykHBowe— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) February 29, 2020
Abdul-Rauf was asked on Friday for his thoughts on protests and activism in the sports world today ahead of the ceremony, which certainly looks different than it did when he was in the NBA.
“I like some of it, and some of it I don’t,” Abdul-Rauf said, via the Reveille. “But I think it’s very important. I think, in so many ways, it’s irresponsible for people to expect that just because a person may be an athlete that they lose their citizenship in other ways. If you’ve got a heart, and want to say something, say something.”
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