Back in October of 2016, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf privately met with Colin Kaepernick for a whole hour. They shared their experiences and had a long conversation about social issues.
Abdul-Rauf said. "It was beautiful … a beautiful meeting."
In March 1996, the NBA suspended the Denver Nuggets guard, who averaged at least 18 points during three of his nine seasons, after he did not stand for the national anthem.
When reporters asked Abdul-Rauf if the situation with Kaepernick, who has not played in the NFL since the final week of the 2016 regular season, reminds him of what happened with his NBA career.
Abdul-Rauf would receive a one-game and $31,707 suspension. He would later reach compromise with the NBA and stood for the anthem but bowed his head in prayer. However, that didn't stop the Nuggets from trading him to the Sacramento Kings at the end of the season.
Afterward, his playing minutes decreased, he lost the starting role. After his contract expired, he struggled to even land a tryout in the NBA and the sad thing is that he was only 29-years-old. He would eventually play in Turkey. Abdul-Rauf would eventually return to the NBA playing limited minutes with the Vancouver Grizzlies, before finding new opportunities across the globe.
He would eventually retire from the game of basketball in 2011.
I knew I wasn't going to stand," he said, "or acknowledge the history of the flag and what was going on in the country."
The story blew up when a local radio reporter noticed in 1996 and interviewed Abdul-Rauf about it, creating a national stir.
"The media scene tried to make it and frame it like it was: ‘He's a Muslim and he's just about what happened to Muslims,'" Abdul-Rauf said. "The flag represents all these beautiful things. Well, I don't see that when I look at the facts on the ground. It's not representing what you say it's representing. So as far as I'm concerned, I can't honor this symbol that doesn't represent those values."
Abdul-Rauf said that Kaepernick's decision to protest when the national anthem plays seemed personable, sincere, and comfortable with his decision to risk his career over social activism.
Kaepernick told Abdul-Rauf: "This is the freest I've ever felt."
"I really think it's something that shouldn't even be in the sports," Abdul-Rauf said of the anthem. "And his position didn't even have anything to do with the flag itself. It had to do with basic equality. He used that to draw attention to the situation."
When reporters asked him what is the aim of his prays during the national anthem he simply replied: "I pray for those who are oppressed, who are suffering.
"I pray for justice."