Metta World Peace believes that kneeling for the national anthem in professional sports is an act of submission, not a powerful form of protest, which is why the former NBA star said he wouldn’t do it if he were still playing.
Metta, birth name Ron Artest, spoke with TMZ on Friday, July 31, while he was coming out of Los Angeles International Airport. He talked about NBA players kneeling for the anthem in Orlando, Florida, when the league resumed play there last week.
The conversation about kneeling as a form of protest came up after Metta was asked about Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic, who was the only player to stand during the anthem and not wear a Black Lives Matter shirt in a game against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, July 31.
“I think everyone deserves to have an opinion,” Metta said about Issac. “Me personally, I wouldn’t have kneeled either. Ain’t no way I’m kneeling to anyone. Me personally, I’m not going to kneel to someone I don’t like. … But I’m not saying kneeling is wrong, kneeling is the right thing to do.”
“Everybody has the right to do what they want to do,” he added. “But me personally, I just wouldn’t have kneeled because if I kneel that means I’m submitting to my enemy. I would never kneel to my enemy.”
The first group of players to kneel in an NBA game this season happened when the league resumed play last week after being suspended in March for COVID-19. The protest happened in a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, July 30, which the Lakers won.
All of the players on both squads in that game, as well as coaches and staff, kneeled during the anthem, while most locked arms and wore Black Lives Matter shirts.
The kneeling that’s being done is to protest racism and police brutality in the United States, a move that was started by Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when he played for the San Francisco 49ers.
There has been an increased focus on kneeling as a form of protest since then, which happened after George Floyd died in May while being arrested in Minneapolis, sparking massive protests. Metta joined one of those rallies that took place in downtown Los Angeles in June.
While speaking about Issac, Metta doesn’t seem to have a problem with him standing during the anthem, a move that Issac said had to do with his Christian faith.
“I believe that Black Lives Matter,” Issac said reporters after Friday’s game. “A lot went into my decision, and part of it is I thought that kneeling or wearing the Black Lives Matter T-shirt doesn’t go hand in hand with supporting Black lives. So I felt like, just me personally, what is it that I believe is taking on a stance that I do believe that Black lives matter, but I just felt like it was a decision that I had to make, and I didn’t feel like putting that shirt on and kneeling went hand in hand with supporting Black lives.”
“I believe that for myself, my life has been supported by gospel, Jesus Christ, and everyone is made in the image of God and that we all forge through God’s glory,” he added.
On Sunday, Aug. 2, when the Magic took on the Sacramento Kings in Orlando, Issac suffered a torn ACL in his left knee after coming to an abrupt stop during play. He then had to be taken off the court in a wheelchair.
There were some who trolled the 22-year-old afterward and said that his injury is karma for not kneeling. But Issac kept his messages positive since getting hurt and gave his Instagram followers an update.
“Thank you for all of your prayers and concerns I’m encouraged,” wrote Issac on Monday, Aug. 3. “My knee may be hurt for now but my spirit is not broken!! Remember our God is not just a God of the hills but a God of the valleys.”