Jonathan Isaac for the first time in nearly seven months was back on the court for a game that counted. Despite a strong performance in the Magic’s 128-118 win over the Nets, it was what he decided to do prior to tip-off that received the most attention.
Before the opening tip of the Magic-Nets game on Friday afternoon, Isaac was the lone member from both teams to stand during the national anthem. Isaac became the first NBA player during the opening three games of the restart who did not take a knee during the anthem in protest of racial injustice and police brutality.
Jonathan Isaac is the first NBA player who chose to stand for the National Anthem. pic.twitter.com/sG49ayVf6n— Be Magic Or Be Gone! (@BeORLMagic) July 31, 2020
Isaac also opted not to wear a “Black Lives Matter” shirt, standing instead in his white Magic jersey. Isaac’s decisions made national headlines - everywhere from Fox News to CNN - and was a trending subject on social media.
After the game, the first question Isaac was asked during his media conference was if he believes that Black lives matter.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I believe that Black lives matter. A lot went into my decision…It’s my thought that kneeling or wearing a ‘Black Lives Matter’ t-shirt don’t go hand and hand with supporting Black lives.”
Isaac, an ordained minster, said his life has been supported through the gospel. He was then asked of the correlation between religion and kneeling for the anthem to protest racism.
“I don’t think that kneeling or putting on a t-shirt for me personally is the answer,” he said. “I feel like Black lives are supported through the gospel, all lives are supported through the gospel. And we all have things that we do wrong and sometimes it gets to a place of pointing fingers about who’s wrong is worse…We all fall short of God’s glory, and at the end of the day, whoever will humble themselves and seek God and repent their sins, then we can see it in a different light. See our mistakes, and see people’s mistakes in a different light. See people’s evil in a different light. And that it would help bring us closer together and get past anything that’s on the surface that doesn’t really deal with the hearts of men and women.”
Isaac said he spoke with his teammates prior to the game in a team meeting and they respected his decision.
“I told them that they know who I am as a man, they know who I am as a person, they know what it is that I believe, and they respected me for the decision that I made,” Isaac said.
Steve Clifford said Isaac has the Magic’s full support.
“I support him, his teammates support him, the organization supports him,” Clifford said. “So, that’s part of living in our country.”
Added Nikola Vucevic after the game: “He had his personal reasons for deciding to stand, so if he wants to share that with you guys, I will leave that up to him. Of course, we respect his decision and we know where he stands.”
The owners of the Magic, the DeVos family released a statement regarding peaceful demonstrations shortly after the national anthem.
Isaac understood that there would be backlash to his decision.
“I obviously understood that this thing would kind of take a role of its own,” Isaac said. “I know people feel some type of way about the flag and it could just go in a different tangent. My purposes in it really had nothing to do with the flag. I knew it was going to be a tough decision. I knew it was going to be something that people had a lot of questions for me and questioned my heart, questioned my love, questioned my morality for not wearing the t-shirt or taking a knee.”
Isaac was also one of the few members of the Magic not to feature a social justice message on the back of his jersey.
“Obviously there are things in our country that aren’t right, people that aren’t right,” he said. “And that goes for every single one of us, every single last one of us fall short of God’s glory. I think that I just wanted to take that stance in saying that I believe Jesus is the answer, so I didn’t think that wearing a message on the back of my jersey was the answer for me.
Isaac said his stance had nothing to do with the anthem or the flag itself, but about his own beliefs. While standing during the anthem, Isaac said he was praying.
“America is the country I live in,” he said. “I think that like any country, America has its issues, it has its problems. But I’m grateful for the freedoms here, and the freedom to play basketball and the freedom to do what it is I want to do, and the ability to protest, to not protest, to do what you want to do.”