In 1996, Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf got suspended for sitting during the national anthem. He called the American flag “a symbol of oppression, of tyranny.” After the one-game suspension, the NBA met with Abdul-Rauf and compromised: He’d stand in silent prayer during the anthem.
Twenty years later, Colin Kaepernick followed Abdul-Rauf’s lead by protesting racism in America by kneeling during the national anthem. Since that season, he has remained unsigned by NFL teams, who’ve instead repeatedly signed lesser quarterbacks.
Now, former NBA commissioner David Stern – who ran the league when Abdul-Rauf got suspended – is also agreeing.
Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback whose NFL career was cut short after he knelt in protest during the national anthem, would still have a job if he were a basketball player, according to former NBA Commissioner David Stern.
Stern said that Kaepernick should have been suspended by the NFL when he first began kneeling, and if he had been, his career would have been able to continue.
This heavy-handedness is so Stern. Punish the player to save the player.
The NBA has a rule requiring players to stand during the national anthem. I’ll grant that Stern was suggesting the NFL should have implemented a similar rule – not that the NFL should have punished a player who didn’t break a rule.
But this is still a reach.
Abdul-Rauf agreed to stand in prayer during the anthem. What convinces anyone Kaepernick would have gone for that? And if he kept kneeling, under Stern’s plan, was the NFL supposed to stop suspending him at some point?
Current commissioner Adam Silver’s plan proved much more effective for the NBA’s business (though not necessarily for player expression). Silver – who has supported the NBA’s anthem rule – met with players behind the scenes, played up the NBA’s support of issues important to players and convinced them to stand for the anthem. They complied.
Again, though, that might not have happened with Kaepernick among their ranks. He has taken a harder stance on this than any athlete.
Which is why I don’t buy what Stern is selling.