Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac decided to stand for the national anthem ahead of Friday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets. The former Florida State Seminole and first-round selection of the Magic in 2017 also decided not to wear a Black Lives Matter T-shirt during the pregame.
He became the first NBA player to not kneel or wear the BLM shirt since the league restarted Thursday night.
“I don’t think kneeling or putting on a T-shirt is the answer, for me personally,” said Isaac, a Naples native, after the game. “For me, Black lives are supported through the gospel, all lives are supported through the gospel.”
Isaac said that during the national anthem he spent that time praying.
“America is the country that I live in,” Isaac said. “Like any country, America has its issues, it has its problems. But I’m grateful for the freedoms here, the freedom to play basketball, and the freedom to do what I want to do — the ability to protest/to not protest.”
He didn’t want his actions to be seen as not supporting Black lives.
“Absolutely, I believe that Black lives matter,” Isaac said after the game.
“A lot went into my decision, and part of it is my thought that kneeling or wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt don’t go hand-in-hand with supporting Black lives.”
Isaac said in the postgame interview that he made his teammates aware of his intentions ahead of time.
“I told them that they know who I am as a man, they know who I am as a person and what it is that I believe,” Isaac said.
He said his teammates were understanding and respected him for his decision.
It wasn’t an easy decision for Isaac.
“I thought about it a lot,” Isaac said. “I leaned on God’s word and his promises, and I leaned on people in my life that are there to be around me spiritually and protect me.”
Isaac also opted not to wear a social justice message on the back of his Magic jersey, something nearly 300 NBA players decided to do when the league resumed.
“I just wanted to take that stance and say that I believe that Jesus is the answer,” Isaac said. “I didn’t think wearing a message on the back of my jersey was the answer for me.”
Isaac scored 16 points with six rebounds in 16 minutes of action, and the Magic beat the Nets 128-118.
The Orlando Magic released this statement about Isaac standing during the national anthem:
The DeVos Family and the Orlando Magic organization fully supports Magic players who have chosen to leverage their professional platform to send a peaceful and powerful message condemning bigotry, racial injustice and the unwarranted use of violence by police, especially against people of color. We are proud of the positive impact our players have made and join with them in the belief that sports can bring people together – bridging divides and promoting inclusion, equality, diversity and unity. We know this is not about the military, the men and women who serve honorably to keep our communities safe for all, or those who have paid the ultimate price to provide freedom, including freedom of expression. We’re confident the entire Magic family has immense respect for these entities and individuals. This is about coming together to end racism once and for all. We are committed to walking alongside our players – today and in the many days ahead – in the pursuit of lasting and impactful change.
Isaac played college basketball for FSU during the 2016-17 season. He was the program’s second one-and-done player in history, joining Malik Beasley in 2016
The Orlando Magic took Isaac sixth overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, making him the second-highest pick in FSU history behind only Dave Cowens. Cowens was the No. 4 overall selection of the Boston Celtics in 1970.
This is Isaac’s third season with the Magic.
Read more Jonathan Isaac news:
- Jonathan Isaac: NBA season delay gives FSU basketball alum Jonathan Isaac unexpected chance to return
- 2017 NBA Draft: Magic select FSU’s Jonathan Isaac
- Jonathan Isaac: Former Florida State players finding success in the NBA
Isaac played and started 32 games for the Magic in the 2019-20 season before the restart. He averaged 12.0 points and 6.9 rebounds in those 32 games.
Erik Hall is the lead digital producer for sports with the USA Today Network. You can find him on Twitter @HallErik.