During Friday’s game between the Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets, Jonathan Isaac caught everyone’s attention when he decided not to kneel nor wear a Black Lives Matter shirt during the National Anthem, unlike his teammates.
The NBA’s integration of social justice rhetoric and symbols into the start of the new season follows a surge in national support for the Black Lives Matter Movement. Players have been seen wearing jerseys with sayings like, “Equality” and “Ally.” The Jordan brand donated a ton of money for BLM-related initiatives as well. The league’s biggest star, LeBron James, is one the most vocal celebrities and activists in the fight for racial justice.
So Isaac’s decision not to kneel alongside his teammates, following the legacy of Colin Kaepernick’s original peaceful protest against police brutality, is definitely surprising. In an interview following the game, reporter Taylor Rooks asked Isaac if he thinks Black lives matter.
“I believe that Blacks lives matter,” he responded, before stating that “kneeling while wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt don’t go hand and hand with supporting Black lives.”
Isaac went on to discuss how he believes the way to support people is through the gospel. “I don’t believe putting on a t-shirt for me personally is the answer,” he said. “For me, Black lives are supported through the gospel. All lives are supported through the gospel.”
In an interview after the game, Magic coach Steve Clifford expressed his support for Isaac's decision. "I support him, his teammates support him, the organization supports him, so that's part of living in our country," Clifford said.
Supporters and critics have already rushed online to debate Isaac’s stance, with some criticizing him for not supporting the BLM movement and others praising his dedication to his faith. Check out some of those reactions below.
With the NBA allowing players to promote social justice messages on the back of their jerseys, many people have decided to give Metta Sandiford-Artest (FKA Ron Artest and Metta World Peace) his flowers for using his name and platform to send a message. But during a conversation with TMZ, Metta didn't chastise Issac for not taking a knee. In fact, he said that he would do the same if he was still in the NBA. Yet, it wasn't for the same reasons as Issac. Metta's issue with kneeling is the imagery it projects, but still thinks kneeling is the "right thing to do."
"I think everybody deserves to have an opinion," he said. "Me, personally, I wouldn't have kneeled either. Ain't no way I'm kneeling to anyone. Me, personally, I'm not kneeling to someone I don't like. I'm not begging for forgiveness. ... I'm not saying kneeling is wrong. It's the right thing to do."