Jonathan Isaac on Why He Opposes Vaccine Mandates

BUCK: We have Jonathan Isaac with us. He is a professional basketball player in the NBA for the Orlando Magic. He has refused to get the covid shot under orders from the NBA. Jonathan, thanks for being with us.

ISAAC: Appreciate you, fellows. Thank you for having me.

BUCK: So, please.Your initial comments on this we played on the show. We thought you made such a reasonable, rational case for why you should not be forced to do this as a young, you know, ultra-competitive and elite athlete. Tell everybody out there, why are you taking this stand? Why do you not want to be forced to get the shot?

ISAAC: Well, it’s not really about me per se. You know, there isn’t a mandate right now from the league or, you know, I’m just blessed to be in Florida where there’s not a mandate; so, you know, I took into account, you know, me personally like I said I’m healthy, I’m okay, I’m not afraid of covid, you know, based on the age-group and having it already in the past. And so this is for the people who are, you know, mandated, feeling like they have to choose between what their job is saying, what the government is saying and, you know, their livelihood, and I don’t think it’s right, I don’t think the government has grounds for it. And I think, as you said, it’s an overreach. And so, you know, I’m standing for those people and trying to be a voice to say that it should be everybody’s free choice and doing so.

BUCK: But Jonathan, for example, if you were to play — like, could you play the Brooklyn Nets with your current status? You said there’s no league-wide mandate, but are there certain places where they wouldn’t allow you to play because of your status? How does that work?

ISAAC: So the, like, San Francisco and New York, those mandates aren’t delegated to visiting players. So as crazy as that sounds, you know, Kyrie won’t be able to play and anybody else that’s in those cities, but, you know, visiting players who are unvaccinated will.

CLAY: That’s kind of wild. I didn’t know that, Jonathan. Thanks for letting us know. This is Clay. I appreciate you coming on the show.

I shared your video — I know many people did — explaining your logic on why you did not believe that as someone who already had covid you should not need to get the covid vaccine. I’m curious. What was the reaction overall in the league? Did you hear from executives? Did you hear from players? I’m not asking you for who those specific people are. But I bet you got a lot of positive feedback. I’m sure you get negative as well. But what was the reaction to that viral video of you talking about your decision?

ISAAC: Well, I mean, there was some, you know, pushback on Twitter, you know, negative comments, but it was overwhelmingly positive with everybody that was sharing it. You know, I’ve had a couple conversations with different guys in the league, you know, who felt the same way. Even if they got the vaccine themselves, they thought that, you know, it should be everybody’s free choice, and they stood with my decision and doing so. So, you know, a little bit of negative, but definitely the overwhelming majority was positive.

BUCK: Is there any concern that the NBA may try to push for especially, as we get into the winter months here, the Biden administration has this allegedly — we talk about this a lot here, Jonathan — and we’re speaking to Jonathan Isaac, by the way, of the Orlando Magic, professional basketball player. There’s supposed to be any company that has over a hundred employees has to have either weekly testing or the shot. That hasn’t been officially ruled out yet. Do you think that there may be some kind of mandate from the NBA or even from different teams in the NBA? How is this gonna play out?

ISAAC: So the way that I understand it is everything that goes into effect has to be agreed upon by the players association and the NBA itself. So the only way that there could be a mandate for NBA players — and I’m not sure if I’m right on this — but the players and the players association would have to agree on it, you know, for our collective bargaining agreement. And so only if the players were to say, we are comfortable with a mandate, would it be possible.

CLAY: Jonathan, I believe I heard some of these crazy rules that still apply to you because you are unvaccinated. For instance, you can play the game with your teammates but you can’t eat with them? Is that correct? And what are the rules that are applied that probably to you seem pretty illogical given the fact that you’re playing basketball on the court with your teammates?

ISAAC: Yeah, I mean, that’s correct, you know, I will be able to play, I’m able to practice, I’m able to interact with my teammates on those levels but, you know, leaving my hotel room for anything that’s not considered essential or a team activity is not allowed. You know, visitors, any visitors outside of, like, family, I would have to, you know, check that out with the team and they would have to be tested or whatever. So there are some, you know, to me restrictions that don’t completely make sense given that I am able to play and given that — you know, the studies are showing that immunity from natural immunity is on par and if not better than vaccination immunity. And so I think when taking that into account there shouldn’t be, you know, necessarily restrictions, you know, on players that are unvaccinated that had the virus already.

CLAY: No doubt. I don’t know if you’ve paid much attention to it, but Canada where the Raptors are, where theatrically you would play at some point during the season, I believe, has said that if an unvaccinated player leaves the hotel, that they are subject to criminal charges. Have you paid attention to that? How wild and crazy is that? Has there been any discussed inside the team about it?

ISAAC: I did see that. That hasn’t been any discussion inside the team but, yeah, it’s just crazy. You know, it doesn’t make, you know, logical sense and, you know, with so much going on and the American people having to deal with so much and obviously that’s in Canada but the sheer just craziness and lunacy that’s wrapped around covid and, you know, you have a lot of people necessarily to blame in the situation. I don’t think the media has done a great job of protecting the American people with information and trying to be truthful to help American people all over the world get a fair shot at making a the discussion for themselves that is ultimately now affecting, you know, families and, you know, jobs and stuff.

BUCK: Jonathan, where do you think this goes next? I mean, for the league, you said the union representing you guys has to agree to it. But do you feel like there are even more players who, if their hand was forced, so to speak, in some way, whether it’s from the federal mandate pushing down the NBA or however it comes out, that there are or more like you, essentially, in the league who are just like, I’m not gonna go with this, I’m not gonna do this, but we haven’t heard from them yet?

ISAAC: Yeah. I mean, so I wouldn’t be 100 percent sure. You know, at the end of the day, you know, what they’re saying, you know, mandates make people go and get vaccinated; so I’m sure if there was, you know, added pressure, you know, something might change. I’m not sure if everybody would stay with the conviction that they have, but it should be everybody’s free choice. I would hope so. But we would have to come together and have a conversation about what we wanted to do moving forward, but it would be to me very unfortunate if, you know, the players in any situation are forced or coerced into changing their minds on what they wanted to do.

CLAY: John, your knowledge on covid as you talk about natural immunity and studies and all of these things is very impressive. You obviously also recognize how poor the media has done to share much of that knowledge that you have been able to acquire. How did you aggressively seek out the information to educate yourself and end up with the opinions that I think are a hundred percent factually accurate but a lot of people aren’t willing to do that work? How and why did you sort of dive into the rabbit hole of all this information?

ISAAC: The “how” would be just all over the place, to be honest, you know, good people may frown upon this but, you know, Twitter and social media and just watching what everybody is saying. But I would say the “why” was for me all of this started when the Rolling Stone article had came out.

So Rolling Stone had approached me through the team about, you know, talking about my unvaccinated status. And I shared with them the exact same thing I went on to share on Monday and my words were completely twisted, my words were completely misrepresented in the article, and I was like, what is going on? That’s crazy. You know with so much craziness going on and then people are dying, you know, you would think that they would want to do a good job of sharing how it is that I felt. And then I’m like, okay, this is bigger than a vaccine, this is bigger than basketball. This is about protecting the American people from, you know, what this thing snowballs into. So I went into even more of, you know, trying to understand things and understanding that the media hasn’t done a great job, you know, of protecting us. That’s my “how” and “why.”

CLAY: Jonathan, last couple of questions here for you. And I appreciate. This has been fantastic. You can follow Jonathan. I’ll tweet out or I already did his Twitter handle if you want to share your thoughts on the interview with him. You stood for the national anthem in the bubble last year and then shortly thereafter you tore your ACLU and a lot of people took shots at you and tried to connect those two decisions. I want to ask you about that or get your thoughts. And then, secondly, I don’t know if you’ve seen Enes Kanter come out as he has against China, speaking out aggressively against the basically genocide that’s going on in China. Many NBA players have been outspoken but they haven’t necessarily been outspoken about China. Your thoughts on both of those things.

ISAAC: I mean, for me, my decision to stand in the bubble came from a place of just personal experience. You know, seeing everything that has happened in the world, that’s happening in the world, the division, the white, black, you know, everything that’s going on. And I know are for myself that Jesus Christ has been the foundational change in my life. He’s become the most important thing and the best thing that has ever happened to me and I wanted offer that as a solution to the problems that we’re seeing, that if we would all humble ourselves and recognize that listen to the we all fall short, we all have wrong in this, no one is greater than the other, no sin is greater than the other, and a lot of times it comes down to whose sin is most visible is the one that we attack. And so, you know, that’s the position that I wanted to give out. And I felt like I did that.

The ACL being torn, it happens. And I know that God has a plan for my life. Me and my decision to stand, stopped when I was there when I stood. You know, whatever happened after that is whatever anybody wants to make it but I’m okay, I’m getting back, I’m working hard.

And honestly on the China thing, I don’t have, you know, enough insight on, you know, what’s going on. I wish I did, to comment, but I don’t. And so, you know, if there are players that are speaking out and that understand what’s going on over there, then, you know, then kudos to ’em.

CLAY: That’s really great, Jonathan, by the way, being willing to say, hey, that’s not my level of expertise is something that very few people do. We tried to that on the show when we’re not experts on something. We appreciate it, my man.

BUCK: Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic. Thank you for being with us, sir. We appreciate it.

ISAAC: Thank you, fellows. Thank you so much.

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