David Stern served as NBA commissioner for 30 years before stepping down in 2014. In the years since Stern’s departure, the NBA has embraced its players’ social and political activism under Adam Silver’s leadership.
But unlike the NFL, the NBA has rules in place to deal with standing during the national anthem — standing is mandated in the NBA. Stern believes that the NFL could have benefited from following the NBA’s example when Colin Kaepernick began his protest of racial injustice by kneeling during the nation anthem.
Stern would have liked to see Kaepernick suspended from the start, and if that happened, he thinks the former 49ers quarterback would still be playing in the NFL.
The longtime NBA commissioner explained his reasoning in an appearance on an upcoming edition of the Bloomberg Business of Sports podcast.
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.
Stern pointed to the anthem policy that was challenged by former Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf in 1996. He remained seated (or in the locker room during the national anthem to take a stance against racial injustice — just as Kaepernick did with kneeling.
Via The Undefeated:
Like Kaepernick, Abdul-Rauf said he viewed the American flag as a symbol of oppression and racism. Abdul-Rauf also said standing for the anthem would conflict with his Muslim faith. “You can’t be for God and for oppression. It’s clear in the Quran, Islam is the only way,” he said at the time. “I don’t criticize those who stand, so don’t criticize me for sitting.”
The league suspended Abdul-Rauf for one game and he was fined $32,000. Stern’s belief that Abdul-Rauf’s career otherwise continued without issue wasn’t necessarily accurate, though.
Abdul-Rauf reached an agreement to stand and pray during the anthem, but he quickly went from the Nuggets’ leading scorer (at 19.2 points per game to a castoff traded to the Kings. By 1997-98, Abdul-Rauf’s minutes were cut in half, and he was out of the league the next season as a 29-year-old. His NBA career ended after a brief stint with Vancouver in 2000-01, so no, it wasn’t like Abdul-Rauf took his suspension and everyone lived happily ever after.
Yet, when it comes to the NFL, Stern thinks the passion for the league would outweigh any outrage on Kaepernick’s potential return to football. He last played in the NFL in 2016.
The full podcast will air on Feb. 18.