Making Sense Of Dion Waiters, The 'Damn Lie,' His Islam Faith & His National Anthem Absence
Dion Waiters missed the National Anthem prior to the Cleveland Cavaliers' game against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. It was odd -- a sporting rarity. Where was he?
According to Cleveland.com, "Folks started to speculate if he was injured, disgruntled or if this was his way of rebelling." It was Waiters' first game playing as the Cavs' sixth-man, a role that is working well for him -- at least statistically. So, it wasn't that he'd been relegated to the bench. NEOMG (also Cleveland.com) reporter, Chris Haynes asked Waiters about his absence.
"It's because of my religion," Waiters told NEOMG. "That's why I stayed in the locker room."
Waiters is a Muslim and he told NEOMG that he's rededicating himself to Islam. Yet, the National Anthem doesn't have any religious connotation -- at least on the surface.
Here is the excerpt of the song that is sung before games (there are actually four stanzas of the song, but customarily only the first is sung):
Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Here are the basic five beliefs of Islam, via PBS:
-Belief in one god. (Allah is the Arabic word for god, not believed to be a separate god from the Judeo-Christian version.
-Belief in prophethood (Muhammad and the ones before him.
-Belief in the justice of God.
-Belief in the Imams (or Apostles) of God (Shiite belief).
-Belief in the Day of Judgment.
There appears to be no overlap or direct opposition of the Anthem and the five beliefs. So, after those reports came out from NEOMG, Waiters released his thoughts in four tweets:
Lol I wasn't going to even say anything about the situation but whoever made that up about me & the national anthem is a damn lie....
— Dionwaiters3 (@dionwaiters3) November 8, 2014
I can't believe yall believe everything yall hear smh I guess ppl listen to anything now a days!!! I love everything about America!!!!!!! — Dionwaiters3 (@dionwaiters3) November 8, 2014
I'm not here to entertain nobody but come on now I'm always out there for the national anthem if they gone write BS make sure it's correct.
— Dionwaiters3 (@dionwaiters3) November 8, 2014
I'm logging back off but the media need something to tlk about smh I just had to address the problem... Dnt believe that BS!!! ✌️ — Dionwaiters3 (@dionwaiters3) November 8, 2014
Likely in response to his journalistic integrity being challenged, Chris Haynes of NEOMG reiterated and contextualized the quotes that he used from Waiters:
Dion, why did you miss the national anthem on Wednesday: "It's because of my religion. That's why I stayed in the locker room."
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) November 8, 2014
Post game last night. Why Dion: "I don't want to talk about that, my religion." — Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) November 8, 2014
Bottom line: the Islamic faith does not oppose the ideas in the National Anthem, and Waiters said, most recently, that his absence was not due to his religion. He attended the National Anthem in the Cavs' game against the nuggets Nuggets, which was after the Cavs' loss to Utah. His presence was likely in efforts to smooth this mess out. In lieu of his recent tweets, it reasonable to think that he will be present at future renditions of the Anthem, contrary to reports from ProBasketballTalk.
I'm not a detective, but I would speculate that Waiters was simply performing prayer during the anthem. One of the five pillars of Islam is Salat, where Muslims must pray five times a day. The Anthem was sung sometime between 8:30 and 9 pm ET. That's right around when Waiters might perform his evening prayer. Or, perhaps he didn't have time to perform his sunset prayer (sunset in Utah would have been around 5:30 p.m.), which he wouldn't have had time for during warm-up.
The Muslim Salat prayer requires prostration, recitation and prayer. It makes sense that he might want to do this in private.
So what if Waiters wasn't saying that his religious ideals oppose the National Anthem, and thus he was absent because he opposed it? What if he was just busy praying, and it had nothing to do with being pro or anti-national anthem? It wouldn't be the first time a Muslim was misunderstood in sports. Perhaps, it was simply a matter of fulfilling his religious duties, because he might not have had time to perform his fifth prayer before midnight.
If that's not the case, then there was clearly a misunderstanding between Waiters and Haynes. Let's not misconstrue the situation -- Waiters is a Patriot, and he's not scorning his country. People have missed the anthem in the past and they'll miss some in the future. The fact that Waiters is a Muslim should not confuse that. Hopefully -- but not likely -- this will help bury the issue.
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