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Detroit Lions guard Oday Aboushi shines light on plight of Palestinians

By LARRY LAGE

AP Sports Writer

ALLEN PARK — NFL players have kneeled during the national anthem and taken stands to protest social injustice across the United States.

Detroit Lions guard Oday Aboushi wants to use his place in sports and society another way, by shedding light on the plight of Palestinians and promoting religious harmony as a Muslim with friends of different faiths.

“Being an athlete, playing in the NFL, being Palestinian is rare,” Aboushi said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It doesn’t happen much, but at the same time it comes with a lot of responsibility. And I feel like having this platform allows me to use that responsibility in a positive way.”

The 29-year-old Aboushi made his second start of the season and the 36th of his career on Sunday, helping Detroit beat Washington 30-27.

The Lions made a statement as a team last summer, choosing not to practice as a form of protest after a Black man, Jacob Blake, was shot by police in Wisconsin. Aboushi was front and center as his teammates spoke to reporters about their decision outside the team’s practice facility.

And as a player in the powerful league, coincidently playing in an area with a large Arab American population, Aboushi wants to use his voice to speak up for people in his parents’ homeland.

“There is this call of not staying silent and using our places of position to elevate those that feel unheard and unseen for such a long time,” said U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Detroit. “People can relate to us as activists — me as a girl from southwest Detroit, him the NFL player.”

Aboushi’s parents emigrated to New York after both were born in east Jerusalem, a part of the world that regularly makes international news.

On Monday, European diplomats visited the site of an Israeli planned settlement expansion in east Jerusalem that threatens to cut off parts of the city claimed by Palestinians from the West Bank. Israel has long dismissed international criticism of settlement activity.

Palestinians want a future state that includes east Jerusalem and the West Bank — territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war — and view settlements as a major obstacle to peace.

Aboushi visited the West Bank in 2009, when he talked with orphans and said he witnessed Palestinians being held at checkpoints.

“It was a huge eye-opener for me as far as what it’s like to be back in Palestine in its current situation right now with the occupation of Israel,” he said. “The media doesn’t show that and continues to kind of turn a blind eye to the mistreatment of the Palestinian people.”