Trump questions Obama's remarks on Muslim-American athletes

Last Updated Dec 7, 2015 2:10 PM EST

Donald Trump on Sunday night questioned which Muslim sports heroes President Obama was referring to in his prime time speech to the nation on terrorism.

The GOP frontrunner posted his question on Twitter and asked if Mr. Obama's remarks was an example of racial profiling.

During the 8 p.m. address, Mr. Obama tried to reassure Americans that the U.S. is safe and that his administration has a strategy in place to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). His speech came four days after the shooting in San Bernardino, California that left 14 people dead and 21 wounded and is now being investigated as an act of terror.

The president also used the speech to defend Muslim Americans and encourage their community to stand up against extremism.

"Muslim-Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes. And, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country. We have to remember that," Mr. Obama said.

While the president didn't cite any sports heroes by name, there are many he could have mentioned -- like Muhammad Ali, who is widely considered to have been one of the world's greatest heavyweight boxers. There's also NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who played for 20 years for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers and was, by the time he retired, the league's all-time leading scorer and six-time NBA Most Valuable Player. Abdul-Jabbar converted to Islam more than 40 years ago.

Then there's also basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal, who has said he also intends to go on Hajj one day. And the center O'Neal most admired, Hakeem Olajuwon, formerly of the Houston Rockets, is also Muslim. Upon retiring, he was selected as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.

Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson may have slipped Trump's mind, in spite of the fact that Tyson endorsed him for the presidency in October. Tyson is also Muslim. He converted while he was serving prison time for rape, and he has gone to Mecca. Mother Jones pointed to a Newsday story that reported on Trump's attempt to keep Tyson from going to prison for the rape charge. Tyson was charged and convicted of raping an 18-year-old woman named Desiree Washington just before he was to fight Evander Holyfield for what would likely have been the most lucrative fight ever. Trump, Mother Jones notes, would have made millions from the gambling revenues that resulted from the fight.

Larry Johnson, the former New York Knicks forward, is a devout Muslim, and according to NJ.com, the strict diet he adheres to as part of his faith may be the reason he's slimmed down and healthier than he was during his playing days.

Football has its practitioners of Islam, too, including the Denver Broncos' cornerback Aqib Talib. Kansas City Chiefs Husain Abdullah drew a 15-yard penalty for sliding to his knees in prayer after a touchdown run in 2014. Later the NFL said he shouldn't have been penalized for going to the ground for religious reasons.

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.