Why Jonathan Isaac isn't vaccinated: 'I'm not anti-Vax. I'm not anti-medicine. I'm not anti-science'

Posted at 10:34 AM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 10:38:44-04

ORLANDO -- The same week the NBA released tentative health and safety protocols to its teams to detail how players who haven't gotten the COVID-19 vaccination will be tested, Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac shared his reasons for not getting vaccinated.

"I'm not anti-Vax. I'm not anti-medicine. I'm not anti-science," Issac, 29, said in a Sept. 27 press conference. "I have nothing but the utmost respect for every health care worker in person in Orlando, and all across the world that has 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 for the first in the first place."

He went on to say it was his belief that whether or not someone gets vaccinated should be their personal choice and that decision should be met with understanding, not bullying.

Jonathan Isaac.png
Jonathan Isaac

"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," he said. "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."

Issac, who said he tested positive for COVID-19 in the past, also said he believed his antibodies, combined with his age and fitness level, put him in a good place without the aid of the vaccine.

"It would decrease my chances of having a severe reaction but it does open me up to the albeit rare chance with the possibility of having an adverse reaction to the vaccine itself," he said. "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 well this is why or this is not why it should just be their decision and you know loving your neighbors not just loving those that agree with you or look like you're moving the same way that you do, it's loving those who don't."

NBA releases protocols to teams for virus safety this season

As part of the NBA tentative health and safety protocols, unvaccinated players would not be able to eat in the same room with vaccinated teammates or staff. They must have lockers as far away from vaccinated players as possible. And they must stay masked and at least 6 feet away from all other attendees in any team meeting.

"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," he said. "So if the NBA is going to do those things, I would honor it. But at the same time, it doesn't seem logically consistent."

Earlier this week LeBron James revealed he has been vaccinated against COVID-19 but said he didn't believe it's his role to advocate for others to get the vaccine.

"We are talking about people’s bodies and well beings. I don’t feel like, for me, personally that I should get involved in what other people should do for their bodies and livelihoods," James said. "After doing my research and things of that nature, I felt like it was best suited for not only me but my family and my friends."

LeBron James
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James during an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The NBA is working with the National Basketball Players Association to finalize the protocols, but some details were agreed upon weeks ago - including provisions where unvaccinated players will be tested on all practice, travel, team activity, and game days. Fully vaccinated players will not be subject to testing, with very limited exceptions.

Fully vaccinated players - the category that at least 90% of the league falls into - will largely be back to business as usual.

Unvaccinated players will be given coronavirus rapid tests on days where teams are practicing, traveling, or having similar team events, plus they will need lab-based tests on game days.

“A vaccine mandate for NBA players would need an agreement with the Players Association,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “The NBA has made these proposals but the players’ union has rejected any vaccination requirement.”

Later, the NBPA responded by celebrating the 90% vaccination rate and noting how it exceeds the national percentage.

“The real story is not why vaccination isn’t mandated in the NBA. The real story for proponents of vaccination is how can we emulate the Players in the NBA,” union executive director Michele Roberts said.

Some top NBA players, including Washington’s Bradley Beal and Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins, have said they remain unvaccinated.

Phoenix star Devin Booker missed the start of camp because he tested positive, revealing that over the weekend but not saying if he is vaccinated.

Others, like Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving - an NBPA vice president - have also refused to divulge their vaccination status, though Irving not attending Nets media day in person on Monday suggests he remains unvaccinated.

Irving did practice with the Nets on Tuesday in San Diego, where they’re holding training camp.

Kyrie Irving
FILE - Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving handles the ball during an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas, in this Thursday, May 6, 2021, file photo. Unable to attend the Brooklyn Nets' media day, Kyrie Irving asked for privacy Monday when pressed about his vaccination status and availability for home games. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The status of Wiggins and Irving is particularly thorny since local ordinances in San Francisco and New York would require them to be vaccinated or get a league exception - Wiggins has already tried that and failed - in order to play in home games, which obviously make up half the schedule. Irving is due to make about $35 million this season, Wiggins nearly $32 million.

“Any player who elects not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games that he misses," Bass said Wednesday.

The difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated players will also govern the rules surrounding what happens when contact tracing flags a player as being possibly exposed to a person who is positive for COVID-19, the NBA told teams.

Those who are fully vaccinated will not be required in most cases to quarantine, though will need seven days of testing. Unvaccinated players flagged by contact tracing will need to quarantine for seven days.

The NBA and the players are still working on some final topics, all with hopes that this season - unlike last year - doesn’t see waves of game postponements or players missing extended periods of time because of the virus. Remaining topics include what would trigger needs for fully vaccinated players to be tested.

Some rules from last season will still apply, at least to begin this season. All players and staff, regardless of vaccination status, must wear masks in almost all situations inside team facilities, during travel and when on the bench during games. The bench rule will not apply to head coaches, who are not required to mask during games.

Also, it was previously agreed that anyone in proximity to players - stat-crew staffs, team attendants, even NBA referees - must be vaccinated.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.