Magic’s Isaac is first player to stand for anthem in bubble

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Orlando Magic’s Jonathan Isaac (1) stands as others kneel before the start of an NBA basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Orlando Magic Friday, July 31, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Jonathan Isaac stood, and stood out.

Isaac became the first player during the restarted NBA season to not kneel for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” opting Friday to stand as the pre-recorded song blared through the arena at Walt Disney World before his Orlando Magic faced the Brooklyn Nets.

Isaac wore his white Orlando jersey instead of a Black Lives Matter shirt — which players have donned for warmups and the anthem throughout the first two days of the restarted season. He stood with his hands behind his back, praying quietly.

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

Isaac’s decision was not a surprise to his teammates; he revealed it in a team meeting earlier in the week.

“That’s a personal decision,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “We’re all supporting each other in this. And if guys are not comfortable kneeling and they want to stand, nobody has a problem with that. I support him. His teammates support him. The organization supports him. That’s part of living in our country.”

Isaac, an ordained minister, has a history of being active with various charities and churches.

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

Players and teams at the restart at Disney have elected to kneel for the playing of the anthems, doing so along the sideline nearest their benches — which also happens to be the one where “Black Lives Matter” has been painted onto the playing surface.

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

“I don’t think that 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 saying players must stand for the anthem. But Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday night, when players from New Orleans, Utah, the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers all knelt for the anthem, that he was relaxing that policy in these times when a desire for equality and social justice is 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 televised comments Thursday. “I’m glad these guys are all unified. But if people don’t kneel, they’re not a bad person. I want to make that perfectly clear. … He should not be vilified.”

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

Isaac received the Magic’s community service award last year. He has donated money to feed children affected by the coronavirus pandemic, led a Hurricane Dorian relief effort and has raised money to help organizations promote literacy for children in Central Florida.

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

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