NBA Players Reveal Why They Chose to Stand for the National Anthem

Posted: Aug 02, 2020 4:45 PM
NBA Players Reveal Why They Chose to Stand for the National Anthem

Source: AP Photo/John Raoux

As professional sports ramp up again, players are having to decide whether or not to stand for the national anthem. Because of Colin Kaepernick, kneeling during the national anthem has been seen as a sign of "protesting" in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and against police brutality. 

Not all players are falling into the trap. In fact, the Orlando Magic's Jonathan Issac and the Miami Heat's Meyers Leonard both decided to stand for the national anthem.

Isaac chose to break from his team and stand for the national anthem. He also refused to wear a Black Lives Matter t-shirt, instead opting for his normal jersey. 

Following the game, Issac explained why he chose to stand, citing his Christian faith.

"I believe that Black Lives Matter. A lot went into my decision and part of it is, first off, is my thought that kneeling or wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt don't go hand-in-hand with supporting black lives. ... I believe that for myself, my life has been supported through the Gospel and Jesus Christ," he explained.

"Every morning He's made in the image of God and through God's glory, each and every one of us, each and every day, do things we shouldn't do, say things that we shouldn't say. We hate and dislike people we shouldn't hate and dislike," Issac explained. 

The NBA player said that everyone makes mistakes and he believes it's God's grace that sets us free. Issac said if more people turn to Jesus and had a relationship with Him that our society would be able to get past things that divide us.

"Racism isn't the only thing that plagues our society, that plagues our nation, that plagues our world," he explained. 

The basketball player said most people have a stake in this argument.

"I think a lot of people have a stake in it but the flag, a lot of people have a stake in it with the president, and I think a lot of people have a stake in it with hating the flag and hating the president, whatever," he said. "I'm not for racism. I'm black. I grew up black. I have a black little brother that lives in America. I'm not for racism."

"I don't think that me not kneeling for the flag before the game and wearing a t-shirt should mean that at all," he said bluntly. 

Leonard's decision to stand for the anthem is because of his friends and family who are members of the United States military. In fact, his brother has done two tours in Afghanistan and he has friends who are Navy SEALs. 

"I absolutely believe Black Lives Matter. Some of the conversations I’ve had over the past three days, quite literally, have been the most difficult," he said, according to the Associated Press.

“I am with the Black Lives Matter movement and I love and support the military and my brother and the people who have fought to defend our rights in this country," he said before the Heat's game on Saturday.

Before heading out to the court though, Leonard had a frank conversation with his teammates and coaches, many of whom are black, about the decision he struggled with. 

“I am a compassionate human being and I truly love all people. I can’t fully comprehend how our world, literally and figuratively, has turned into black and white. There’s a line in the sand, so to speak: ‘If you’re not kneeling, you’re not with us.’ And that’s not true," he explained.

“I will continue to use my platform, my voice and my actions to show how much I care about the African American culture and for everyone,” Leonard said. “I live my life to serve and impact others in a positive way.”

Even though the decision was difficult, his teammates appeared to accept it.

“On the one hand, we’re saying, ‘We want you to see things from our perspective,’” teammate and National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee member Andre Iguodala told the NBA. “But by saying that, I also have to see things from his perspective. And I can see where he’s coming from.”

Udonis Haslem, the Heat's captain, had multiple conversations with Leonard about the decision to stand. Even though Haslem originally wanted to see Leonard kneel, the two came to an understanding.

“His being out there with us, as our brother, it’s still showing strength, it’s still showing unity, it’s still showing that we’re coming together for a common cause,” Haslem explain. “People will question, ‘Why isn’t he doing it their way?’ Well, he’s standing by us. He’s supporting us. He’s with us.”

To show he supports the BLM movement, Leonard and his wife donated $100,000 to help released inmates have their voting rights restored. Specifically, the money will be used in Haslem's hometown.

Because I’ve listened to Udonis and am constantly inspired by him, every single one of those dollars will go to Overtown and Liberty City, where he grew up,” Leonard said. “Those two parts of Miami were most heavily impacted by COVID-19 and voter suppression.”

Overtown and Liberty City are two historically black neighborhoods in Miami.