The Palestinian NFL Player: Oday Aboushi
By Christian Jimenez/Contributing Arab American Writer
When people think of American football, especially the NFL, most people think of it as an American centric sport. However, the NFL has made great strides in its diversity by including people from many different backgrounds and ethnicities. One of these groups to make this stride to American football are Arab-Americans with one of the most famous examples being Oday Aboushi of the Detroit Lions.
Aboushi’s Early Life and Career
Oday Aboushi was born on June 5, 1991, and is the ninth child out of ten other siblings. He was born to Palestinian parents who used to live in the town of Beit Hanina, a city near Jerusalem. His parents would later immigrate to the United States – more specifically to his birthplace of Brooklyn, New York. Oday is fluent in both English and Arabic thanks to his parents’ Palestinian background.
During his youth, he would show interest in many sports, but it was American football that would win his heart. His dedication to the sport would lead him to play with his high school football team in Brooklyn, Xaverian High School. While he played for his high school team, he would sometimes run into some obstacles. As a practicing Muslim, playing games or attending practices would be difficult during Ramadan when he was fasting from food and drink from sun up to sun down every day for 30 days. It was obviously challenging for him to train, especially, during training season, which could fall around the same time as Ramadan. He pushed through it, though, despite the challenges, and played both offense and defense with great skill. This skill set can be seen in his junior year of high school, when Oday would record 81 tackles and 7 sacks, according to ganggreennation.com. He would also earn a spot on the second all-team for his state of New York, as well as first-team all-Brooklyn and all-city offensive lineman.
After his high school career, many colleges around the country wanted to recruit him for his natural talent, as he was considered the 3rd best player from the state of New York and the 27th best offensive lineman in his recruiting class, according to ganggreennation.com. Oday would eventually commit attend University of Virginia, where he would be benched during his freshman year of college. He eventually started in 2010, with five games as a right tackle and seven games as a left tackle. He was also involved in 897 snaps during the season with some of these snaps having him playing on the defensive end of the ball. He later dedicated his career with the university playing left tackle, which earned him a spot on the Second-Team All-ACC. During his senior year he played even better, earning a spot on the First-Team All-ACC. In fact, he played so well that he was even considered a candidate for the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Watch List for that season. This top level play as an offensive lineman would eventually land him in the professional league of American football, known as the NFL.
Oday Abouhsi’s Time in the NFL
Oday Aboushi was drafted by the New York Jets in the fifth round with the 141st pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. This event made him one of the first Palestinian-American NFL players in history. However, he wouldn’t play any games with the Jets in his first season, and it was only in 2014 that he would be placed in the starting lineup. Oday started in 10 games that season, with his first game being against the New England Patriots as a left guard. Despite his success in these games, the Jets waived him on September 15,2015. He later was picked up by the Houston Texans on September 16, and played on their team for a little over a year before joining the Seattle Seahawks on December 13, 2017. During his time with the Texans, his community outreach and active charity work would be noticed by his teammates. One teammate in particular, Xavier Su’a-Filo, saw Oday helping out the homeless by giving them food and other items, and spoke about it in an interview with mondoweiss.net. He spent the next two years with the Seahawks, as well as the Cardinals and the Raiders, before settling with his current team, the Detroit Lions. He signed with the Detroit Lions for one year worth $2 million, and then re-sign with the Lions on March 27, 2020. In his 2020 season, he started in eight games in the 16 game long season.
Throughout his NFL career Oday participated (and continues to do so) in charities and humanitarian activities. Some of these good deeds include giving necessities to the homeless, such as food and clothes, mentioned by Xavier Su’a-Filo earlier; and, Oday making a call-out on Twitter requesting that mosques and families reach out to him so that he could support with them with Iftar meals on May 18,2019. He gives credit to his upbringing when asked about his involvement with charity and goodwill. Specifically, he says that his Palestinian parents and his faith as a Muslim has influenced him to be more compassionate.
Furthermore, this famous athlete has always been vocal about being pro-Palestinian. Unfortunately, his passion about Palestine has led to misinformation in the media, as one reporter from MLB.com called Oday anti-Semetic. The reporter was later released by MLB.com, and this false accusation about Oday led to vocal support from both the Muslim and Palestinian communities, according to mondoweiss.net. Overall, despite the fame and fortune as an NFL player, Oday is still a generous and kind person thanks to his Palestinian and Muslim upbringing. We have no doubt that he will continue to be an inspiration to all those young football players dreaming about making it to the NFL for generations to come.
Check out Arab America’s blog here!