NBA player Jonathan Isaac stands as teammates kneel during the national anthem ahead of Orlando's game with Brooklyn on Friday
Orlando (AFP) - Orlando Magic player Jonathan Isaac stood for the US national anthem ahead of his team’s clash with the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, declining to join teammates and coaches who knelt for the pre-game ritual.
In Thursday’s opening games at the NBA restart in Orlando, all players and coaches, many wearing “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts, dropped to one knee in a silent demonstration during the anthem.
Magic and Nets players followed suit on Friday as the “Star-Spangled Banner” was played, but Isaac did not take part.
Instead, Isaac, who also did not join his teammates in wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt, stood alone wearing his Magic jersey.
Speaking after Orlando scored a 128-118 victory, Isaac, an ordained minister, said he was “absolutely” supportive of Black Lives Matter.
“I believe that Black Lives Matter. A lot went in my decision. I just felt that kneeling or wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt don’t go hand in hand with supporting Black Lives,” he said.
“Everyone is made in the image of God and we all fall short of God’s glory. And each and everyone of us do things we shouldn’t do and say things we shouldn’t say, we dislike people that we shouldn’t hate and dislike…
“When you look around, racism isn’t the only thing that plagues our society, plagues our nation, plagues our world. So I felt like coming together on that message, not only racism, but everything that plagues our society, I feel our answer to it is the Gospel.”
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich also chose to stand while players and coaches on the Spurs and Sacramento Kings kneeled during the anthem on Friday.
Popovich, who has spoken out countless times against racism and human rights, said his reason for standing was personal and didn’t want to disclose it.
“I prefer to keep that to myself,” said Popovich, who wore a Black Lives Matter shirt. “Everybody has to make a personal decision. The league has been great about that. Everybody has the freedom to react any way that they want. For whatever reasons that I have, I reacted the way I wanted to.”
The NBA restarted its season on Thursday after a four-month hiatus following the coronavirus pandemic.
The relaunch is also getting under way after nationwide soul-searching about racism and police brutality in the United States following the death of unarmed black man George Floyd during his arrest by police on May 25 in Minneapolis.
Many NBA players joined protests against the killing that swept across all 50 states in June, and the cause of social justice has loomed large at the league’s restart.
Large “Black Lives Matter” slogans have been written on each NBA court, while players are allowed to wear jerseys adorned with messages ranging from “I Can’t Breathe” to “Justice Now” and “Education Reform.”