Sports | October 18, 2017 10:20 am

What It’s Like to Be a Muslim in the NBA

Roundtable of current, former players discuss their religion and careers.

Back in 2015, then-candidate Donald Trump tweeted in response to a speech by President Obama, who mentioned Muslim sports heroes, “What sport is he talking about, and who?”

Were Trump to have cracked a history book, he would’ve found ample evidence, starting with championship boxer Muhammad Ali, and NBA Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon, to name just three. There are countless others.

Per The Undefeated, at least 12 players competing in the young NBA season are Muslim. And to get the inside scoop of what it’s like to be a Muslim in the NBA, the ESPN publication interviewed a number of former and current players about their experiences—including Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who was served a suspension in 1996 for not standing during the national anthem at a game because of his religious beliefs.

RealClearLife has teased out some of the most interesting quotes and facts below.

-Abdul-Rauf said it was particularly difficult praying (Muslim’s pray five times a day) because of all the team travel. Also, during Ramadan, when he would be fasting, “there [were] challenges of practicing early and spending all of that energy.” He also said teammates, coaches, and executives had reservations when he started to pray regularly. “When they see you really trying to practice what you say you’re about, that’s when you start to see a little bit of the resistance, as if though you’re not in this country club atmosphere.”

– Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng says: “Right after the game, usually you will see me in the locker room praying. And I guess some people are wondering like, ‘What is he doing?’ They give you the look. But I do what I believe, and I respect all religions. And when it’s time for me to pray in the locker room or whatever, I got to do what I got to do. That’s my religion.” Dieng also said that former teammate Kevin Garnett went out of his way, at one point, to say he respected Dieng’s religion.

-Says Olajuwon: “The beauty of Islam is that it allows you the ability to meet those challenges by giving a solution to these types of situations. What I mean by that is, Islam is very practical, and it’s not meant to make things difficult for people.” He says the biggest issue Muslims face nowadays is “ignorance around the religion. Unfortunately, nowadays, people associate Muslims and Islam with terrorism. A lot of people don’t really know the true Islam and the great contributions Islam and Muslims have made to civilization. Islam has a rich history. It is not a new religion that popped up in recent years.”

-Although Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried says he’s never experienced discrimination or hate from his teammates or coaches, he says it’s been pretty awful among the general public. He’s been told he’s a “terrorist” and that his “God’s not real” after posting a blessing for holy festivals.