The NBA and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf have fixed the price of his stance on--or refusing to stand for--the national anthem. It's $31,707 every time it's played before a Denver Nugget game.
That's the per-game portion of Abdul-Rauf's $2.6-million annual salary. The NBA suspended him Tuesday and said he will have to forfeit it as long as he refuses to obey a league rule that states "players, coaches and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture . . . during the playing of the American and/or Canadian national anthems."
"The NBA's rule on this point is very clear and all our rules apply to all players," said Russ Granik, the league's deputy commissioner.
It could be a long siege.
Abdul-Rauf, who leads the Nuggets in scoring with a 19.6-point average, was not at McNichols Arena on Tuesday night for a game in which Denver defeated the Orlando Magic, 110-93.
"My beliefs are more important than anything," he said earlier in the day after a shoot-around. "If I have to give up basketball, I will."
He is the former Chris Jackson, who grew up in Gulfport, Miss., and played his college basketball at Louisiana State. He was selected third in the 1990 NBA draft and struggled for two seasons before breaking out with a 19.2-point average in 1992-93.
He suffers from Tourette's syndrome and has said he found some peace when he converted to Islam in 1991 and adopted the name Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, which means "elegant and praiseworthy, most merciful, most kind."
And, Tuesday, most militant.
The flag is "a symbol of oppression, of tyranny," he said. "This country has a long history of that. I don't think you can argue the facts. You can't be for God and for oppression. It's clear in the Koran, Islam is the only way. I don't criticize those who stand, so don't criticize me for sitting. I won't waver from my decision."
He did, however, soften his rhetoric later, in a television interview.
"I'm able to make a lot of money in the United States," he said. "I'm from here and I'm not saying, again, that it represents everything bad. I never said that. I'm just saying that it also represents the bad.
"And . . . I just don't look at the United States, I just don't look at the Muslim issue. I look at the Caucasian American and I look at the African American being oppressed in this country and I don't stand for that."
Abdul-Rauf asked to meet with NBA Commissioner David Stern today in New York.
The law may be on Abdul-Rauf's side if he decides to press the issue in court, said Mark Silverstein, who is leaving the Southern California office of the American Civil Liberties Union to become legal director of the Colorado ACLU office.
"Congress has passed statutes concerning the legal exercise of religious freedom in the workplace," Silverstein said.
Earlier in the season, Abdul-Rauf frequently did stretching exercises on the bench during the national anthem, and when some fans criticized him, he began to stay in the locker room, emerging after the anthem.
Ed Wearing, Colorado commander of the American Legion, said Abdul-Rauf should renounce his citizenship.
"Refusing to stand up and recognize the unity of this nation as embodied under the flag to me is tantamount to treason," Wearing said.