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Magic's Johnathan Isaac first NBA player not to kneel for anthem

Jonathan Isaac #1 of the Orlando Magic stands

Jonathan Isaac #1 of the Orlando Magic stands as others kneel before the start of a game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Orlando Magic on July 31, 2020 at The HP Field House at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.  Credit: Getty Images/Pool

Just before the start of the Nets-Magic game Friday afternoon at Disney World in Orlando, all the players, coaches and team personnel linked arms and knelt during the national anthem while wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts — except for one. Magic forward Johnathan Isaac, who is Black, became the first player through three games of the NBA re-start to remain standing during the anthem and to decline to wear the Black Lives Matter T-shirt in support of racial equality and social justice.

Following the Magic’s 128-118 victory, Isaac, who is an ordained minister and has been active in a variety of charitable causes, was asked if he believes Black Lives Matter.

“I do believe Black Lives Matter, but I felt like it was a decision I had to make,” he said. “I didn’t feel like putting a shirt on and kneeling went hand in hand with supporting Black lives.

“My life has been supported through the gospel, Jesus Christ. Everyone is made in the image of God, and we all are here for God’s glory . . . Sometimes, it gets to a point where we might think about whose evil is worse, and sometimes, it comes out about whose evil is most visible.”

Nets players Garrett Temple, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert said they didn’t notice Isaac standing, but they had no problem with his actions. To them the symbolic gesture the rest of the players made was inspiring.

“For me, it meant a great deal,” Temple said. “It almost brought me to tears . . . It’s very powerful. I felt like we could use this platform to continue to push the narrative and continue to keep this topic hot because we know that things like this often [fade away] as life goes on, so, we want to keep it on people’s minds.

“In regards to Johnathan, I didn’t see it. Obviously, to each his own. Everybody has their own beliefs and does what they want to do.”

Allen and LeVert both took part in protests in Brooklyn and were heartened by the demonstration of player solidarity.

“This is a hell of a moment,” Allen said. “We have everybody — refs, coaches, our teammates, we all come from different backgrounds, but we all can see in each other that we’re the same . . . For all of us to come together, I think that’s a step in the right direction.”

LeVert agreed with those sentiments, saying, “I feel like I want my voice to be heard and just to have everyone see the movement and see that Black lives should be valued just as much as any other. I feel like it hasn’t recently, and it hasn’t for a long time now. Now is the time to put more attention to this movement. I think more conversations need to be had and more change needs to be had.”

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