Glenn Nelson and a personal tale of sitting through national anthem

Once upon a time, Glenn Nelson covered the Seattle Sonics for the Seattle Times. He was excellent at his job, but people didn't really start to take notice until he joined an NBA player in a silent protest during the 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.