Magic’s Jonathan Isaac explains his decision to perform the anthem


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla .– Jonathan Isaac stood up and stood out.

And later on Friday, Gregg Popovich and Becky Hammon followed suit.

Most players and coaches, but not all, are on their knees as pre-recorded versions of the national anthem are played when the NBA season resumes. Isaac became the first player not to kneel when he stood in front of him and the Orlando Magic played the Brooklyn Nets.

In a subsequent match, Popovich – a graduate of the United States Air Academy and coach of the USA Basketball National Team in addition to his longtime duties as head coach in San Antonio – stood held his arms by his side before Spurs played Sacramento.

Hammon, one of Popovich’s assistant coaches, also stood up. She put one arm around the shoulders of Spurs assistant Will Hardy, kneeling to his right, and the other over veteran San Antonio guard Patty Mills, kneeling to his left. Popovich and Hammon both wore “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts, as almost every player and coach did for the warm-ups and the anthem.

“I’d rather keep this to myself,” Popovich said, when asked what went into his decision. “Everyone has to make a personal decision. The league has been great about it; everyone has the freedom to react as they see fit. For all the reasons I have, I reacted the way I wanted.

Isaac was not wearing the shirt. Instead, he wore his white Orlando undershirt, holding his hands behind his back, the ordained minister praying silently as the song played.

“Kneeling while wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt doesn’t go hand in hand with supporting Black Lives,” Isaac said.

Isaac’s decision came as no surprise to his teammates; he revealed it at a team meeting earlier in the week. Isaac expected there to be a critical reaction, given that the kneeling is part of a statement against racial injustice and police brutality following the deaths of, among others, Breonna Taylor and of George Floyd in recent months.

“It’s a personal decision,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said of Isaac’s choice to run. “We all support each other. And if guys aren’t comfortable on their knees and want to get up, no one has a problem with that. I support him. His teammates support him. The organization supports him. It is part of life in our country. ”

Isaac has always been active with various charities and churches.

“We all support him,” Magic goalkeeper Evan Fournier said.

The players and teams at the Disney reboot chose to kneel down to play the anthems, along the sideline closest to their benches – which also happens to be where “Black Lives Matter” was painted on. the playing surface.

Popovich, who speaks often on political and racial issues, has expressed in recent weeks the opportunity the NBA reboot platform at Walt Disney World offers. TV audiences for Thursday night’s first two games were massive; Turner Sports, which aired the dual show on TNT, said the average of 3.4 million total viewers “more than doubled the network’s average audience” for regular season games.

Popovich said these games, and the eyeballs that will be on them, provide “a tremendous opportunity” to bring about change. He said the NBA is committed to highlighting the need for change for the rest of the season, including the playoffs.

“We hope we can keep everyone’s mind on this,” Popovich said. “A lot of things are happening in this country day after day. … Sometimes things get lost and we don’t want it to be one of those things.

Isaac, in his first game since January with a knee injury, played well. He had 16 points on a 6 for 7 shot in 16 minutes, helping the Magic to a 128-118 victory.

“I don’t think kneeling or putting on a T-shirt, for me personally, is the answer,” Isaac said.

The NBA has had a rule since the early 1980s that players must defend the anthem. But Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday night, when players from New Orleans, Utah, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers all knelt for the anthem, he was relaxing that policy in those days. a time when a desire for equality and social justice is present. at the forefront of many conversations in this country.

“Listen, the national anthem means different things to different people,” TNT analyst Charles Barkley said in television comments Thursday. “I’m glad these guys are all together. But if people don’t kneel down, they’re not a bad person. I want this to be perfectly clear. … He shouldn’t be vilified.

The National Basketball Players Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Isaac’s decision.

Isaac received the Magic Community Service Award last year. He donated money to feed children affected by the coronavirus pandemic, led a Hurricane Dorian relief effort and raised funds to help organizations promote literacy among children in central Florida.

“We all sin and the answers to all of the world’s problems, not just racism, is the true gospel of Jesus Christ,” Isaac said.


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