Orlando Magic star Jonathan Isaac became the first player who refused to kneel during the national anthem as the NBA restarted its season.
The league resumed on Friday from a four-month break because of coronavirus and teams showed their support for the Black Lives Matter movement that has swept across the globe.
Every single player wore Black Lives Matter shirts and took a knee during the anthem on day one, but Isaac didn’t follow suit before the Magic’s game against the Brooklyn Nets on day two.
The power forward took a stand — literally — and was the only player not wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt while the anthem was played. Instead, he wore his team trackpants and jersey.
Speaking after the Magic’s 128-118 win, Isaac referenced his religious beliefs while explaining his decision.
“I believe that Black Lives Matter. Kneeling while wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt doesn’t go hand-in-hand with supporting black lives,” he said.
“I support black lives but not that way. My life has been supported by Jesus Christ. The gospel gives us force.
“I knew it was going to be a tough decision, one that people would have questioned. I’ve leaned on God’s word and his plan for me.
“People have opinions, but I took my decision. We’re protesting and doing things to get something done. But we need to see all the things and all the answers are in the word of Jesus.”
Isaac said his teammates respected his decision while Orlando coach Steve Clifford added: “I support him, his teammates support him, the organisation supports him, so that’s part of living in our country.”
NBA players have been vocal in their support for racial equality and wanting an end to police brutality in the wake of the shocking death of American man George Floyd while in police custody.
LA Lakers superstar LeBron James has been among the most outspoken stars and he continued to push the message after coming up clutch with the last basket of the game to give his side a two-point win over the Clippers yesterday.
“There’s been progress but in the past when we’ve made progress we’ve let our foot off the gas a little bit,” James said.
“We can’t do that. We want to continue to keep our foot on the gas, continue to push forward, continue to spread love throughout America.
“We’re dealing with a lot of racism, a lot of social injustice, a lot of police brutality. Not only in my neighbourhoods and not only with black people, but with people of colour and it’s something we want to continue to have people’s ears open too.
“We have ears now but we cannot stop.”
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After the majority of Orlando players took a knee, the Magic and their owners released a statement in support of the protest.
“The DeVos Family and the Orlando Magic organisation 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 colour,” the statement read.
“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 honourably 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.”
Originally published as Why one NBA star refused to kneel