Orlando’s Jonathan Isaac became the first NBA player to stand for the national anthem Friday, telling reporters in postgame interviews he was compelled to do so because of his Christian faith.
Up until Isaac’s stance, every NBA player had kneeled with teammates in a show of unity for racial justice. The league restarted its season last Thursday.
Isaac, who is black, told reporters he “does believe in Black Lives Matters” but also believes the answer to society’s problems is Christ.
Isaac, who was the Magic’s first-round draft pick in 2017, also didn’t wear a Black Lives Matter t-shirt.
“A lot went into my decision and part of it is ... that kneeling or wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt don't go hand in hand with supporting black lives,” Isaac said during post-game comments.
Isaac then transitioned to faith.
“My life has been supported through the Gospel of Jesus Christ [and] that everyone is made in the image of God and that we all fall short of God's glory. Each and every one of us, each and every day, do things that we shouldn't do and we say things that we shouldn't say. … We dislike people that we shouldn't hate and dislike. Sometimes it gets to a point where we point fingers, about whose evil is worse. And sometimes it comes down to simply whose evil is most visible,” Isaac said.
“So, I felt like I wanted to just take a stand. ... I feel like we all make mistakes. I think the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that there's grace for us. Jesus came and died for our sins and that if we all will come to an understanding of that and understand that God wants to have a relationship with us that we could ... get past all the things in our world that are messed up, jacked up. I think when you look around, racism isn't the only thing that plagues our society. ... I feel like the answer to that is the gospel.”
The gospel, he said, “would help bring us closer together and get past skin color.”
Other things, he said, don’t “really deal with the hearts of men and women.”
“I just wanted to take that stance in saying that I believe that Jesus is the answer,” Isaac said.
Isaac’s stance was somewhat overshadowed by a knee injury suffered two days later during Sunday’s game against Sacramento. He has a torn ACL, ESPN reports.
He referenced his faith on social media after the injury.
“IT IS WELL!!! 2 Kings 4! Thank you for all of your prayers and concerns I’m encouraged,” Isaac tweeted. “Remember our God is not just a God of the hills but a God of the valleys! (2 Corinthians ch 4 vs 9!) MY COMEBACK WILL BE GREATER THAN MY SETBACK!!!! I STILL STAND IN JESUS NAME!!!!”
IT IS WELL!!! 2 Kings 4! Thank you for all of your prayers and concerns I’m encouraged. Remember our God is not just a God of the hills but a God of the valleys! (2 Corinthians ch 4 vs 9!) MY COMEBACK WILL BE GREATER THAN MY SETBACK!!!! I STILL STAND IN JESUS NAME!!!! pic.twitter.com/9Icv0WULQ6— Jonathan Isaac (@JJudahIsaac) August 3, 2020
Miami’s Meyers Leonard on Saturday became the second player to stand during the anthem. He did wear a Black Lives Matter t-shirt.
Leonard’s brother served in the military in Afghanistan.
“I believe in my heart that I did the right thing,” Leonard told ESPN. “Our world right now is black and white. There is a line in the sand, and it says if I don't kneel, then I'm not with Black Lives Matter. That is not true.”
Leonard added, “I understand that [kneeling during the anthem] is not about the flag and the military, but to me, it is. Based upon real-life experiences and real raw emotion that I've had in my life, that is what that means to me.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Pool
Video courtesy: House of Highlights
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.