With the official restart of the NBA this past week, much was made of the response by the league and their players to the social upheaval of the past couple of months.
In the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer more than 10 weeks ago, NBA players, along with many of their professional sports brethren nationwide have made their feelings felt regarding racial injustice in this country. Mostly via social media, many of the game's greats have spoken loudly and clearly about what they expect going forward.
Since then, steps have been taken by leagues, including but not limited to MLB, NHL, MLS and the WNBA, as well as the NBA, to convey their support for their players of color, and minority communities abound.
Last Thursday marked the first of what will be eight remaining regular season games for each of the 22 NBA teams invited to the "Bubble" — Orlando's Walt Disney World Resort, where the league will spend the next couple of months finishing what they started last October.
As part of the league's campaign against systemic racism, all courts were stenciled with "Black Lives Matter," players wore BLM T-shirts and were given the option of a political statement in lieu of their last name on the back of their jersey, and most took a knee during the national anthem as a symbolic gesture made famous by the NFL's Colin Kaepernick nearly four years ago.
But while much was made of the kneeling, more has been made of those who've chosen otherwise, and that in itself is a problem.
Regardless of where you stand (no pun intended) on whether or not kneeling is appropriate during the singing of our National Anthem, what's irrefutable is one's right to do so. After all, at the root of our Constitution is a little thing called the First Amendment, which affords us the freedom of speech.
But while Kaepernick and everyone else so inclined is well within their rights to take a knee, others are equally within their rights to not.
Last Friday, Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac — who is black — chose neither to kneel nor don the Black Lives Matter T-shirt his colleagues wore in unison during the anthem. After the game, Isaac said he doesn't see kneeling and putting on a T-shirt as an answer to inequality. Isaac, who is an ordained minister, added it's important to get past skin color and said that "Black lives and all lives are supported through the gospel."
A day later, the Miami Heat's Meyers Leonard, too, chose to stand for the anthem, citing his respect for the U.S. military. Leonard, whose brother served two tours in Afghanistan as part of the Marines, said he understood the demonstration wasn't about the flag and the military, but that the anthem means different things to different people, and to him, it is about the military and those who fought to protect us.
He also made it clear he understood there could be a backlash, but that was a risk he was willing to take in the interests of his beliefs: "Our world right now is black and white. There is a line in the sand, and it says if I don't kneel, then I'm not with Black Lives Matter. That is not true."
We are living in divided times, and a little unity would go a long way in 2020. But uniformity doesn't have to come in the shape of conformity, in fact, that's kind of the point.
Kaepernick did what he did based on his beliefs. Some liked it, many didn't, but the right side of that argument was always his right to do so. In much the same way, Isaac and Leonard, along with the others that have and will continue to do similarly, are doing the same, and any thought otherwise is simply wrong — and it's our job to make that clear when people try to paint them with the same brush used to color the former 49ers quarterback as something he wasn't.
It shouldn't be a "thing" when someone stands, equally as much as it shouldn't have been when someone didn't. So why are we repeating the same sin with Isaac and Leonard, as so many opined about in regards to Kap?
Which is why we shouldn't be figuratively counting those choosing not to kneel, and definitely shouldn't be seeking to vilify them after the fact.
During Isaac's press conference immediately following last Friday's game, the opening question was not about the Magic's win over Brooklyn or the forward's 16 points, but rather, "Do you think black lives matter?"
The question came from Bleacher Reports' Taylor Rooks, who then doubled down on her agenda-driven query with criticism of Isaac's response, following-up with, "Can you explain what religion has to do with kneeling for the anthem to protest against racism and police brutality?"
Those are not questions with genuine answers in mind, but rather veiled accusations and disdain for an otherwise reasonable response.
If honesty is indeed a virtue, why do we always turn our back on it? Opinions are often the reactions of what we believe to be true before the actual truth is revealed, normally by those in the know. Which is why one can backtrack from an opinion in the face of what was previously an unknown truth. Yet, when one fails to acknowledge the truth in the interest of their agenda — therein lies the problem.
If equality is our ultimate goal, and I'd like to at least think it is, then let's practice what we preach.
Take people for their word.
Accept their differences.
And understand that not everything is black and white when it comes to the most complicated of subjects: human beings.
We're at a pivot point in this country, so let's get this right — and two wrongs won't get us there.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.