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Sports Tonight: Forcing players to stand could backfire on NBA

John Smallwood, STAFF COLUMNIST

Updated: Monday, October 2, 2017, 4:00 PM

In this March 1996 file photo, Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf stands with his teammates and prays during the national anthem before an NBA game. This was his first game back since he was suspended by the NBA on March 12, 1996, for refusing to participate in the national anthem during a pre-game ceremony.

The NBA might want to think hard before it again threatens that players could be suspended for not standing during the national anthem.

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, left, hands off to Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson in the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Alex Brandon / AP
Philadelphia Flyers' Nolan Patrick before the start of a preseaon NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)
Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson examines his play chart against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, October 1, 2017 in Carson, CA. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer Yong Kim / Staff Photographer
Photo Gallery: Sports Tonight: Forcing players to stand could backfire on NBA

The NBA preseason has begun. Tonight, the Charlotte Hornets play the Boston Celtics at 7:30 and the Denver Nuggets play the Los Angeles Lakers at 10:30, both on NBATV.

Thus far, no player has defied the NBA rule that they must stand and be respectful, but that could change with a new tweet from President Trump. This is a new generation of players that will push when backed into a corner. Today, former Denver Nugget Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who was suspended in 1996 for refusing to stand during the anthem, would not be alone.

NBA owners worried about fan backlash like the NFL got because of protests should understand who their fan base is. A demographics study by the Atlantic in 2014 said that the NBA has the youngest viewership with 45 percent being younger than 35 and that 45 percent of its fans were black and 12 percent were Hispanic. Minorities are the majority.

NBA commercial partners run advertisements specially designed with an “urban” vibe because they understand NBA fans aren’t the Hank Williams Jr. football crowd.

If the NBA actually begins penalizes players for peacefully exercising their First Amendment right on an issue concerning inequality, it might find that much of its fan base will start protesting it.

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, left, hands off to Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson in the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

As long as we’re on the subject of racial politics in sports, one of the longer-running issues will be on full display when Washington plays at the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football at 8:30 on ESPN.

The use of Native Americans as mascots for sports teams has been a running controversy for decades.

Like everything else, it is a complicated issue. Some say a name such as “Chiefs” is a demeaning cultural appropriation. Others think it is OK.

In my opinion, however, there is no honest debate for the name of the football team in Washington.

I stopped using it in June 2013 because I finally woke up to the fact that it is a racial slur deemed as “offensive,” “disparaging” and “insulting” by modern American dictionaries.

It is as bad as the “N-word,” which most media won’t print or say. So I won’t write it.

Many disagree with my position, and I respect their right.

It’s my right, however, to write just Washington over and over in stories concerning that NFL team.

Philadelphia Flyers' Nolan Patrick before the start of a preseaon NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

The Flyers will open their NHL season on Wednesday, and Nolan Patrick, the second overall pick in the 2017 draft will be on the roster. Staff writer Sam Carchidi gives insights into the 19-year-old rookie.

The last time the Phillies reached into their minor-league system for a manager. Ryne Sandberg went on to be a disaster in the major leagues. Still, staff writer Matt Breen says that won’t stop Lehigh Valley IronPigs manager Dusty Wathan from getting an interview for the Phillies job.

The Eagles are in first place in the NFC East after beating the Los Angeles Chargers. Staff writer Jeff McLane tells us what we learned about the Birds.

The maturation of Carson Wentz continued as he led the Birds to a pressure-packed victory over the Chargers. Staff writer Les Bowen tells how Wentz executed a smart game plan.

Eagles fans are known league-wide as ones who travel with their team. Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times writes about the impact the Eagles fans’ takeover of the StubHub Center had on the Chargers.

The Arizona Cardinals pulled out an overtime victory against San Francisco, but Dan Bickley of azcentral writes that the Eagles’ next opponent needs to get its act together.

Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson examines his play chart against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, October 1, 2017 in Carson, CA. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Doug Pederson has been an easy target. Not only is he a disciple of former Eagles coach Andy Reid, but also, many see him as symbolizing all of the negative attributes of “Big Red.”

Certainly, Pederson has not been perfect, but what young coach on his first job is? When you hire a coach such as Pederson, the expectation isn’t so much that he will win right away but that he will learn, grow and develop into a great coach.

With Sunday’s victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, Pederson is now 10-10 as a head coach. In 2016, the Eagles, Miami Dolphins (Adam Gase), New York Giants (Ben McAdoo) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Dirk Koetter) hired first-time coaches. The other three each have 11 career victories.

Pederson was not the popular choice as Eagles coach, but neither was Reid. Reid ended up leading the Eagles to five NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl appearance. He was 7-13 through his first 20 games.

Tonight’s schedule TV/Radio

NFL
Redskins at Chiefs, 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Preseason Basketball
Hornets at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (NBA TV)
Nuggets at Lakers, 10:30 p.m. (NBA TV)

John Smallwood, STAFF COLUMNIST

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