July 31 (UPI) — Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac became the first NBA player inside the league’s bubble to stand for the national anthem before a seeding game.
Isaac’s decision not to kneel during the anthem came before the Magic’s 128-118 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. It was the third game played in the NBA’s bubble in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Later Friday, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and assistant Becky Hammon — both who wore “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts — also stood during the anthem prior to their game against the Sacramento Kings. In the NBA’s two previous games Thursday — the Utah Jazz’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans and the Los Angeles Lakers’ victory over the L.A. Clippers — all players and coaches kneeled during the anthem.
Along with standing for the anthem, Isaac, who is Black, was the first player in the bubble not to wear a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt over his jersey. Following Orlando’s win, he was asked whether he believed that Black lives matter.
“Absolutely,” Isaac told reporters. “I believe that Black lives matter. A lot went into my decision and part of it is my thought that kneeling while wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt doesn’t go hand in hand with supporting Black lives.
“And so I felt like, just me personally and what it is that I believe in, standing on a stance that I do believe that Black lives matter, but I just felt like it was a decision that I had to make and I didn’t feel like putting that shirt on went hand in hand with supporting Black lives.”
Isaac, who became an ordained minister earlier this year, referenced his faith multiple times while describing why he made his decision.
“I don’t think that kneeling or putting on a T-shirt, for me personally, is the answer,” Isaac said. “I feel like, for me, Black lives are supported through the Gospel. All lives are supported through the Gospel. That we all have things that we do wrong and sometimes it gets into a place of pointing fingers about which wrong is worse.
“I feel like the Bible tells us we all fall short of God’s glory and at the end of the day whoever will humble themselves and seek God and repent of their sins that we could see it in a different light — see our mistakes and 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, 22, also noted that he spoke with his teammates and coaches in a team meeting before Friday’s game.
“We had a team meeting,” he said. “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 and it was all love.
“So they understood that, for me personally, it’s not coming from a position of wanting to be popular or seen or anything other than a humble [servant] of Jesus. And that’s where I stake my flag and that’s just how I felt and they respected me for it because they know who I am, they know my heart.”
The NBA has had a rule in place since the early 1980s saying players must stand for the national anthem. But in a statement released Thursday night, when players from the Jazz, Pelicans, Lakers and Clippers all kneeled for the anthem, league commissioner Adam Silver said he was relaxing that policy in these times.
Isaac scored 16 points in 16 minutes in his first game back since injuring his knee in January. The Magic (31-35) play the Kings (28-37) on Sunday night.