Orlando Magic Forward Jonathan Isaac Meets with Pope Francis at Vatican as Part of NBPA Delegation
By Orlando Magic // November 30, 2020
Isaac: This meeting validates the power of our players’ voices
ABOVE VIDEO: Jonathan Isaac on Visiting the Pope: ‘A Great Opportunity,’
ORLANDO, FLORIDA – Amidst the divisive times of a pandemic, an election and social injustice, Jonathan Isaac has leaned on his faith to provide guidance through the uncertainty.
It’s been his guiding principle through his stance on social justice in the bubble, his support system when dealing with injuries, and the purpose behind his Hold Up the Lights walk for unity in Orlando.
His stances, along with those of other NBA players, have not gone unnoticed. Their collective efforts at raising awareness for issues in their communities has drawn national and even worldwide attention reaching as far as the Vatican.
As a result, a delegation from the National Basketball Players Association, including Isaac, met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday.
The meeting, held at the papal library of the Apostolic Palace, provided an opportunity for the five players in attendance to discuss their individual and collective efforts addressing social and economic injustice and inequality occurring in their communities.
“The bubble, the walk, and being able to do this, I think it all goes hand in hand,” Isaac said. “It’s just another opportunity for me and for others to get our message out there.”
It speaks volumes about the power behind the players’ commitment for social justice and equality.
“This meeting validates the power of our players’ voices,” said Michele Roberts, Executive Director of the NBPA.
“That one of the most influential leaders in the world sought to have a conversation with them demonstrates the influence of their platforms. I remain inspired by our players’ continued commitment to serve and support our community.”
Isaac was taken aback when the NBPA reached out to him about the opportunity. As an ordained minister, he expressed sincere gratitude for the chance to travel to such a holy city and meet the Pope, while getting another chance to express himself and deliver his message.
“Having a different perspective and different stance from a lot of other guys in the league and even the guys that showed up, to be given the opportunity to speak was huge for me,” Isaac said.
“But honestly, my stance hasn’t changed since the bubble. I wanted to reflect and let him know that I see everything that goes on in our country and our world that we hate, and we think is so terrible.”
Isaac believes the solution for those issues lies in his faith. He once again explained that his decision to stand for the anthem was a result of his belief that everyone is a sinner in God’s eyes and that people need to collectively come together and unite to make a change.
“You don’t stand in the spotlight when everyone else is making the decision to kneel if it’s not something that’s dear to you,” Isaac said.
“I just wanted to show my perspective that it’s out of love that I stood, that’s it’s out of love that I want to go and I want to speak and I want to share, just like everybody else I see that’s hurting in the world. I believe that the answer is Jesus.”
Pope Francis is now the proud owner of a commemorative basketball and an Orlando Magic jersey, after meeting with representatives from the NBPA earlier today at the Vatican. pic.twitter.com/KItmmVQ3VJ
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) November 23, 2020
Faith has long been an important element of Isaac’s life. A year ago, Isaac donated the $25,000 he earned from being named a co-winner of the Rich & Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award to Project Life.
He has taken part in many of their events, including 2019’s Global Food Festival in Trinidad, which celebrated culture, heritage, diversity, and unification while assisting those in need with food, clothes, children’s toys and other supplies.
The Magic’s defensive stalwart has also chosen to lean on his faith during difficult times.
The 6-foot-11 forward was in the running for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year Award through the first half of the 2019-20 season before he injured his left knee against the Washington Wizards on New Year’s Day.
The injury sidelined him for the Magic’s last 31 games before the NBA halted the season due to the pandemic.
During that span, Isaac worked relentlessly to get back to full strength so he could participate in the league’s restart at Walt Disney World. After achieving that goal and getting off to a sensational start, adversity struck Isaac once again, as he suffered a torn ACL in Orlando’s game against the Sacramento Kings.
While that could demoralize most 23-year-olds, Isaac has once again worked tirelessly and attacked his rehab with the same vigor that mounted his first comeback effort. He attributes much of that dedication to his faith.
“I’ve experienced what it is to walk with God, to have my heart transformed by God, to know that God loves me, that God loves everybody out here, and God really desires to help us walk through life with changes for the better and for us to be in relationship with him,” Isaac said. “So, I’ve experienced that, and it bleeds into every part of my life. It’s who I am.”
True to his authentic self, Isaac utilized the meeting with the Pope to express his views on the answers for the problems the plague society.
“It’s awesome; it’s just a great opportunity,” he said. “Just to be able to sit there and stand in front of him and share my heart that Jesus is the answer for the world is huge.”
— Cindy Wooden (@Cindy_Wooden) November 23, 2020
At the end of the meeting, Isaac handed the Pope a gift, one of his own Orlando Magic jerseys. It’s a moment he’ll never forget.
“For the Pope to have my jersey is just crazy,” a beaming Isaac explained. “I don’t know if there are a lot of basketball players – I don’t know if there are any, so I’m going to take that one for myself – I don’t know if there are any basketball players that can say the Pope has their jersey. So, I think I’m the first.”
That’s not the only first for Isaac. At the end of the Zoom call with the media on Tuesday, he revealed that he’s working on a book about his experiences.
“I’m actually writing a book right now on my stance, on everything that’s gone into me standing, and everything that went into that,” Isaac said.
“It’s going to be called ‘Why Stand?’ I’m in the process of doing it right now. I’m really excited about showing more about the perspective that I took, the stance that I took, and how I got to that place in the first place.”
While the exact contents of the book remain unknown, it’s almost certain that it will be rooted in his faith, just like his message to the Pope and to the rest of the world.