Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac turned heads last week when he decided to remain standing during the national anthem while the rest of his team kneeled in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The first NBA player to do so in a season newly revived after weeks of an NBA coronavirus shutdown and national racial strife, the 22-year-old Isaac, who is black, told reporters that while he believes in the sentiment that black lives matter, “kneeling while wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt [doesn’t] go hand-in-hand with supporting black lives.”
“My life has been supported through the Gospel—Jesus Christ,” he continued, “and everyone is made in the image of God.”
The 6-11, 230-pound Isaac, who joined the Magic as the sixth overall pick in the 2017 draft, became an ordained minister in March and has been outspoken about his Christian faith.
“My teammates know who I am and what I believe as a person and they respect me for the decision,” Isaac said. “For me, personally, it’s not coming from a position of wanting to be popular or wanting to be seen. It all came down to what’s in my heart; I stake my flag with Jesus.
“I think when you look around, racism isn’t the only thing that plagues our society, that plagues our nation, that plagues our world. I think coming together on that message that we want to get past, not only racism, but everything that plagues … us as a society, I feel like the answer to that is the Gospel.”
Isaac has faced harsh criticism on social media for his moment of conscience, with some critics even suggesting that an ACL injury he sustained on Sunday against Sacramento was “karma.” But many others have come to his defense.
“Not so,” Franklin Graham said about the karma claims. “While many continue to demean him, I’m thankful for his courage and boldness. Let’s lift him up in prayer for the long road of recovery ahead of him.”
“I got a lot of tweets from people saying this was karma,” said Kayte Hunter, a sideline reporter for NBC Sports. “That is just a really nasty way—that is not what sports is about. I implore you all to have some decency. That is disgusting to me and I hope to God that Jonathan Isaac can recover quickly and this isn’t as serious as it looked.”
The morning after sustaining the possible season-ending injury, Isaac posted to Twitter: “It is well! 2 Kings 4! Thank you for all of your prayers and concerns—I’m encouraged. Remember our God is not just a God of the hills but a God of the valleys (2 Corinthians 4:9). My comeback will be greater than my setback. I still stand in Jesus’ Name!”
Above: Orlando Magic’s Jonathan Isaac (1) stands during the national anthem as others kneel before the start of an NBA basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Orlando Magic Friday, July 31, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Photo: AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool