Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac probably did not want to make the news this way. Since the restart to the NBA season in the midst of a global pandemic has gone mostly smoothly so far, Isaac likely believed that he’d be focused more on helping the Magic make the playoffs than anything else.
But first, Isaac sparked controversy when he stood during the national anthem while the rest of his Magic teammates kneeled in Black Lives Matter T-shirts to show their support for social justice issues. Despite backlash from some quarters and an increase in jersey sales from others, Isaac, a devout Christian, said that he just didn’t believe kneeling was the way to show his support.
Two days later, Isaac made news again when he went down with a torn ACL during a game against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. The player was wheeled off the court and will not return for the rest of the season.
Isaac, 22, averaged 11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.6 steals this season but missed 31 games with an injury in his left knee. It is the same knee he tore the ACL in.
Isaac tweeted that he was encouraged by prayers and support from his fans and expected to make a comeback.
It is Isaac’s faith that led him not to kneel with his teammates during the playing of the national anthem. He said after the game that while he believes that Black lives matter, he didn’t think wearing a T-shirt or kneeling was the way to represent it.
“A lot went into my decision, and part of it is, I thought that kneeling or wearing the Black Lives Matter t-shirt doesn’t go hand-in-hand with supporting Black lives,” he said at a press conference.
“So I felt like, just me personally, what is that I believe is taking 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 and kneeling went hand in hand with supporting Black lives.”
He continued that his faith guided how he viewed the situation.
“I believe that for myself, my life has been supported by gospel, Jesus Christ, and everyone is made in the image of God and that we all forge through God’s glory,” he said.
The Miami Heat’s Meyers Leonard, who is white, was the other NBA player who stood for the anthem. He also said that while he supported the BLM movement, he didn’t believe kneeling was the right way to do so. His brother, Bailey is in the military and served two tours in Afghanistan and he equates supporting the anthem and flag to supporting the military.
“I think I can be a beacon of light … not only for my voice or platform and action, but in everything I’m doing,” Leonard told The Undefeated. “I certainly support Black Lives Matter. … I am very aware of what is going on. But I can be both. My patriotism runs deep.”
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