Glenn Nelson and a personal tale of sitting through national anthem


That was many years ago. The latest developments between Donald Trump and the NFL have rekindled the topic for Nelson -- and his family -- and the results are ... complicated.

In Crosscut this week, Nelson penned a thoughtful reflection on it all.

Twenty-one years ago, I stood with — or, rather, sat with — a black, Muslim NBA player who during the 1995-96 season stopped standing for the national anthem. He did so to protest the way this country oppresses and discriminates against people like him. Being Japanese American (and, I guess, “woke” before such a condition even had been diagnosed), I joined Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf in what I considered a silent, respectful protest. I wrote about it in my NBA column for The Seattle Times.

All the subsequent death threats and rancorous letters once filled a fairly large cardboard box. Now I just keep the “best” of them: Among them, an offer to send me back to Japan in a pine box, and a creative certificate naming me a “Horse’s Patoot.” I also have the memories — of subsequent NBA games with Seattle Police keeping a closer eye on me, as requested by my newspaper, which received phone threats against me. The only time I felt truly threatened was when surrounded by a liquored-up crowd in Houston whose belligerence teetered on becoming actionable.