American-born Ibrahim Jaaber has ditched Lithuanian basketball champions Zalgiris Kaunas after complaining that racy cheerleader routines and alcohol advertising clashed with his Islamic beliefs.
The 28-year-old guard was “outraged by a cheerleaders’ show during time-outs” during a national league game and players’ jerseys displaying logos of alcohol brands and betting companies, a team statement said.
“I understand that maybe I will never earn money from basketball because of this decision, but I am ready to do such a sacrifice for my beliefs,” Jaaber said.
Zalgiris spokesman Almantas Kiveris told AFP Jaaber quit the team after he was benched in a recent game.
The club also said Jaaber vowed not to play on any other European team, adding his decision had taken them by surprise as all the conditions and rules of his employment were made clear in his contract.
But religious commentators in this basketball-mad predominantly Roman Catholic Baltic state say Jaaber’s decision is understandable.
“For a God-fearing person, it is improper to advertise alcohol and betting companies, so it is understandable,” Egdunas Racius, an expert on Islam at Vytautas Magnus University, told AFP Thursday.
Jaaber averaged 5.9 points in Euroleague this season, and has been praised for his defensive skills with an average of 1.93 steals in a game.
The loss of Jaaber, who had previously played for Bulgaria’s national team, is a big blow for Zalgiris which is struggling in a Euroleague TOP 16 leg, with just one win and four losses.