Michael Jordan, one of the most decorated athletes of all time, used his stage and his bank account to speak out on the recent shootings of African Americans and police officers. The Charlotte Hornets owner and Chicago Bull legend donated $1 million each to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to bridge the tensions between the blue community and the black community.
Jordan released a statement to The Undefeated outlining his concern for the recent violence and his hope to see the nonsense cease.
Here is his full statement:
“As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers. I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well.
“I was raised by parents who taught me to love and respect people regardless of their race or background, so I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late. I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent. We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers – who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all – are respected and supported.
Over the past three decades I have seen up close the dedication of the law enforcement officers who protect me and my family. I have the greatest respect for their sacrifice and service. I also recognize that for many people of color their experiences with law enforcement have been different than mine. I have decided to speak out in the hope that we can come together as Americans, and through peaceful dialogue and education, achieve constructive change.
“To support that effort, I am making contributions of $1 million each to two organizations, the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The Institute for Community-Police Relations’ policy and oversight work is focused on building trust and promoting best practices in community policing. My donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s oldest civil rights law organization, will support its ongoing work in support of reforms that will build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement. Although I know these contributions alone are not enough to solve the problem, I hope the resources will help both organizations make a positive difference.
“We are privileged to live in the world’s greatest country – a country that has provided my family and me the greatest of opportunities. The problems we face didn’t happen overnight and they won’t be solved tomorrow, but if we all work together, we can foster greater understanding, positive change and create a more peaceful world for ourselves, our children, our families and our communities.”
Jordan’s father, James R. Jordan, Sr., was found floating in a creek in South Carolina in the summer of 1993 after disappearing for three weeks. Jordan stepped away from basketball following his dad’s death to pursue a career in baseball but never made it out of the minor leagues. He returned to the hardwood a year later and on Father’s Day 1996 emotionally collapsed to the floor after securing his fourth championship, the first since his father’s passing.
It’s not uncommon for basketball players to use their stage and prominence as a tool to intersect sports and politics. NBA superstars LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose all donned black shirts reading “I can’t breathe” in pre-game warm-ups to spread awareness of Eric Garner’s death at the hands of an NYPD officer. The Los Angeles Clippers, amid the Donald Sterling scandal that saw their 80-year-old owner go on a racist rant to his 31-year-old mistress, wore their warm-ups inside out and considered not playing in the playoff game altogether.
But when it comes from arguably the best basketball player of all time — six NBA championships, six Finals MVPs, five MVPs, 14 All-Star appearances — people listen. And it’s a rare appearance of advocacy from Jordan, who has traditionally shied away from such opportunities. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, said Jordan “took commerce over conscious” in a 2015 NPR interview, alluding to Jordan’s propensity to prioritize capitalism over advocacy.
Jordan, who branded his name to be synonymous with expensive, highly-sought shoes, was quoted in NBA writer Sam Smith’s 1995 book “The Second Coming” that he wouldn’t take a political stance in a senatorial campaign because “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” Despite pledging donations to democratic campaigns, Jordan’s recent donations to the NAACP and the Institute for Community-Police Relations appears to be a milestone for the former North Carolina Tarheel.
The star whose worth more than a billion dollars may not be remembered as a great social justice leader like the late Muhammad Ali, but maybe this was Jordan’s coming out party.
Other athletes who have spoken against the recent slew of violence (from The Undefeated):
- Carmelo Anthony
- Chris Bosh
- DeMarcus Cousins
- Cam Newton
- Terrell Owens
- Chris Paul
- Richard Sherman
- Charles Tillman
Photo by Basket Streaming/Flickr