NBA power forward Jonathan Isaac, who plays for the Orlando Magic, delivered an eloquent response Monday to reporters who keep pestering him about the COVID-19 vaccine.
What is the background?
Rolling Stone egregiously maligned Isaac over the weekend by featuring him, among some of the NBA's top superstars, in an article that framed vaccine-hesitant players as "anti-vaxxers."
The conclusion, of course, may perhaps be the most uncharitable description of superstar athletes, in the prime of their health, who are making their own decisions about the COVID vaccine. Labeling them as "anti-vax" also suggests they are opposed to all vaccines, which is highly unlikely. But for Isaac, the suggestion that he is "anti-vax" is a blatant lie.
Isaac called out Rolling Stone in a brief response Sunday.
What did Isaac say?
Isaac — a 23-year-old devout Christian and ordained minister — explained Monday that he does not believe the COVID vaccine is necessary for him because he is young, extremely healthy as a professional athlete, and has COVID antibodies, meaning natural immunity stemming from a previous COVID infection.
"I am not anti-vax. I'm not anti-medicine. I'm not anti-science," Isaac said.
It is my belief that the vaccine status of every person should be their own choice and completely up to them without bullying, without being pressured, or without being forced into doing so. I'm not ashamed to say that I'm uncomfortable with taking the vaccine at this time.
I think that we're all different. We all come from different places. We've all had different experiences and hold dear to different beliefs. And what it is that you do with your body when it comes to putting medicine in there should be your choice — free of the ridicule and the opinion of others.
When asked by another reporter why he is "hesitant" to getting vaccinated, Isaac laid out four reasons:
- "[W]ith me having COVID in the past and having antibodies, with my current age group and physical-fitness level, it's not necessarily a fear of mine."
- "Taking the vaccine, like I said, it would decrease my chances of having a severe reaction, but it does open me up to the — albeit rare chance — but the possibility of having an adverse reaction to the vaccine itself."
- "I don't believe that being unvaccinated means infected or being vaccinated means uninfected. You can still catch COVID with or with not having the vaccine."
- "I would say honestly the craziness of it all, in terms of not being able to say that it should be everybody's fair choice without being demeaned or talked crazy to, doesn't make one comfortable to do what said person is telling them to do."
Later in the news conference, Isaac affirmed that he would follow "whatever protocol" the NBA establishes regarding COVID-19 vaccines and COVID-related restrictions.
Jonathan Isaac's answers questions on his vaccination status - Orlando Magic Media Day - 9/27/21 www.youtube.com
Isaac is known for taking unpopular, yet principled stands — literally.
In late summer 2020, amid racial unrest across the country, Isaac became the first NBA player to stand for the national anthem when the NBA, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, resumed its 2019-20 season.
The 2021-22 NBA regular season kicks off on Oct. 19. Training camp began this week.