By MANSUR SHAHEEN
(August 8) – On the surface, Oday Aboushi is just another football player. He stands a towering 6 foot 5 inches and he has the wide, burly, frame that you would expect from an NFL offensive lineman. Aboushi makes it his mission to be more than just another guy who plays football though.
Aboushi is a Palestinian-American who is set to enter his sixth season in the NFL, and first in Detroit after signing with the Lions last March. He is the first-ever player of Palestinian descent to play in the NFL and he is one of a small list of Muslim-American’s who have carved out a long term role for themselves in professional football.
He has done well serving as Muslim representation in the NFL as well. Aboushi is yet to even play a snap for the Lions, but he has already attempted to give back to the Muslim community in the area.
“Looking to help provide mosque/ families with Iftar in the Detroit area. Dm/ tweet me with locations/ information please and thank you!” he said.
“I’m trying. However, I can get involved and reach out. It’s important to me to give back and maintain my religion and my culture and just be around my people,” Aboushi told Mondoweiss, “I try to reach out to the community and get involved any way I can.”
This is just a part of a long history of Aboushi giving back to the community no matter where his career ends up taking him.
The offensive lineman played as a member of the Houston Texans in 2015 and 2016. His former teammate Xavier Su’a-Filo told a story once on Twitter about how Aboushi would go out of his way to make sure that some of the cities’ homeless were taken care of.
“In Houston the homie [Aboushi] used to take care of the homeless every day after work by giving them food and other things. When had leftover food from o-line dinner, he’d take that to them too. Never went to waste. I always appreciate his example! Kindness goes a long way,” Su’a-Filo tweeted.
For Aboushi this is not just a nice gesture, though, this is a duty.
“A lot of people look up to us. A lot of people see us in the light, being athletes and being in the NFL,” he said, “It’s important to carry that and do right with that responsibility, and to show other know matter who you are in life, no matter what you do, no matter how much money you make, no matter where you are, you’re still a human and showing compassion takes nothing.”
“It’s little things, if it’s extra food you have or extra clothes, whatever it may be you don’t want anymore, anything helps. Especially for people who are less fortunate. They always appreciate it, especially in hard times,” he added.
All of his humanitarian efforts and community service tie back to Aboushi’s identities as both a Palestinian and a Muslim-American.
“Growing up Palestinian, [with] both parents Palestinian, they always instil the culture. That’s really shaped me as a man and my morals and current values that I have,” he explains, “Especially being Muslim too, that’s also played a part in how I carry myself and my mindset of always being compassionate towards others and always being aware of other peoples situations and just being grateful. Understanding that none of this is possible without God and just doing the best I can with what I was given and blessed with.”
Being an “Unapologetic Palestinian”, as he puts it himself in his Twitter bio, is not always an easy path to take for Aboushi, though. He often receives harassment online due to his stance as a Muslim, Pro-Palestine figure in the largely right wing world of professional football.