Magic forward Jonathan Isaac: ‘I am not anti-vax. I’m not anti-medicine. I’m not anti-science.’

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Kyrie Irving called his availability for Nets home games a private matter. Bradley Beal minimized the importance avoiding hospitalization. Andrew Wiggins said he’s fighting for what he believes then called what he believes “none of your business.”

Among the NBA’s unvaccinated players, Magic forward Jonathan Isaac stands out for his openness, thoughtfulness and humility.

Yet, there are still significant holes in his assertions.

Before continuing to answering several questions about coronavirus vaccination at Orlando’s media day yesterday, Isaac repudiated a recent article about the NBA’s anti-vaxxers.

Matt Sullivan of Rolling Stone:

The Orlando Magic’s 23-year-old starting forward is deeply religious — and proudly unvaccinated. When NBA players started lining up for shots in March, Isaac started studying Black history and watching Donald Trump’s press conferences. He learned about antibody resistance and came to distrust Dr. Anthony Fauci. He looked out for people who might die from the vaccine, and he put faith in God.

“At the end of the day, it’s people,” Isaac says of the scientists developing vaccines, “and you can’t always put your trust completely in people.”

Isaac:

I was pretty badly misrepresented in the Rolling Stone article. And because of that, I can understand anyone who may say they don’t transparently or overtly trust the media.

I am not anti-vax. I’m not anti-medicine. I’m not anti-science. I didn’t come to my current vaccination status by studying Black history or watching Donald Trump press conferences. I have nothing but the utmost respect for every healthcare worker and person in Orlando and all across the world that have worked tirelessly to keep us safe. My mom has worked in healthcare for a really long time. I thank God, I’m grateful that I live in a society where vaccines are possible and we can protect ourselves and have the means to protect ourselves in the first place.

But with that being 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.

I’ve had COVID in the past, and so our understanding of antibodies, of natural immunity has changed a great deal from the onset of the pandemic and is still evolving. I understand that the vaccine would help if you catch COVID, you’ll be able to have less symptoms from contracting it. But with 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. I would say that’s a couple of the reasons that I would say I’m hesitant at this time.

But at the end of the day, I don’t feel that it is anyone’s reason to come out and say “This is why” or “This is not why.” It should just be their decision. And loving your neighbor is not just loving those that agree with you or look like you or move in the same way that you do. It’s loving those who don’t.

When it comes to the NBA and them having restrictions or rules in place, the NBA is free to make those decisions, and I as a member of the NBA would follow suit with whatever protocol is set before us.

If the NBA is to give us regulations like we can’t maybe sit at the same part of the plane as the other players or eat in the same room as the other players, my only thought on that would be I don’t think it would logically follow for us to then play on the court and share the same ball and bump chests and do all those things. So, if the NBA is going to do those things, I would honor it. But at the same time I would ask that it doesn’t seem logically consistent.

Getting the vaccine is not the only way to protect the people around you. I think it’s an option. I think it’s a good option with anyone who has done it. I see it as those who have decided to take it as people who have decided to take it. But there are other measures to be taken to protect people around you, like all of you are wearing masks even though I’m sure all of you are vaccinated. Being socially distant or being wise about washing your hands – all of the things that the CDC and other people have told us to do to protect ourselves. I believe that the vaccine is an option. I don’t think it’s one hundred percent necessary to think about protecting the people around you.

For me, I’ll just take everything in stride and figure out things as we move forward. I’m not set in stone. I never said I was proudly unvaccinated. Even if I am, I’m not someone to come out and say that in any way.

When it comes to being religious, I think God calls us all to be wise.

Isaac is correct: His prior coronavirus infection, age and physical fitness all make him less likely to suffer severe outcomes if he contracts coronavirus again. Though people with natural immunity are benefit from getting vaccinated, there is an evolving understanding of the optimal timeline and dosage.

But I also trust Isaac sincerely cares about loving his neighbor. And, in that regard, he is falling short.

Vaccinated people are generally less likely than unvaccinated people to spread coronavirus. Even among those with natural immunity, vaccinated people have greater protection than unvaccinated people.

Vaccination is far, far, far more effective than masking at preventing severe outcomes from coronavirus – both for vaccinated people and those around them. Vaccination and masking should not be treated as equal solutions (though it’s tough to blame Isaac when even our leaders do that).

Isaac makes an astute point that the heavy-handedness of people who support the vaccine can further alienate people who aren’t vaccinated. It’s impressive Isaac recognized that affecting himself. But for a freethinker, it shouldn’t matter what other people say. Isaac should get the vaccine if he feels it’s right for him. That’s true if he’s pressured not to get it. That’s true if he’s pressured to get it.

Isaac is also right: The NBA’s policies are inconsistent as far as preventing spread of coronavirus. Playing basketball maskless, breathing heavily near other players for an extended time, is not significantly safer than riding on a plane or eating with a teammate.

But the NBA doesn’t make money from teammates riding on planes or eating together. The NBA makes money on basketball games.

That’s why the league is comfortable taking the risk of holding games (with vaccination or testing as safeguards).

Everyone must determine their own risk tolerance. The NBA and players’ union decided a vaccine mandate was unnecessary. So, Isaac won’t be forced to comply.

But he must decide his tolerance for risking spreading coronavirus to others around him.