Social Justice has been one of the most important elements of the NBA's return, as players were committed to using their platform to enact positive change. The NBA has accommodated them, allowing players to wear social justice messages on their jerseys while also painting Black Lives Matter on the court. Throughout the first two days of games, every team that played knelt for the national anthem while wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt as a form of silent protest.
There was only one holdout. Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac neither knelt nor wore a Black Lives Matter shirt, instead standing for the anthem while wearing his jersey. He cited gospel as his explanation during his post-game media availability (via Taylor Rooks):
"I believe that Black Lives Matter. 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. 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. 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.
Each and every one of us do things that we shouldn't do and say things that we shouldn't say. We hate and dislike things that we shouldn't hate and dislike, and sometimes it gets to a point where we point fingers, whose evil is worse, and sometimes it comes down to whose evil is most visible. So I felt like I wanted to take a stand on, we all make mistakes, but I think that the gospel of Jesus Christ is that there's grace for us, and that Jesus came and died for our sins and that if we all come to an understanding of that and that God wants to have a relationship with us, that we can get kept all of the things in our world that our messed up, jacked up.
I think when you look around, racism isn't the only thing that plagues our society, that plagues our nation, that plagues our world, and I think coming together on that message that we want to get past not only racism but everything that plagues as us as a society, I feel like the answer to that is gospel."
The Magic released a statement supporting their players in their protest, but have not commented on Isaac's choice.
A statement from the DeVos Family and the Orlando Magic following the demonstration during the national anthem prior to tonight’s NBA restart game. pic.twitter.com/pauXmG62cD— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) July 31, 2020
NBA rules technically prohibit kneeling during the anthem. However, NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed Thursday that the league will not enforce that rule in the bubble. "I respect our teams' unified act of peaceful protest for social justice and under these unique circumstances will not enforce our long-standing rule requiring standing during the playing of our national anthem," Silver said, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes.
Isaac went on to explain that he informed his teammates of his decision in a meeting before the game started. He is also an ordained minister. Kneeling during the anthem is a peaceful protest against police brutality that was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.