Michael Jordan Has Made the Boldest Political Statement of His Career
Arguably the world’s most iconic living athlete, Michael Jordan dominated the sport of basketball and ventured onto successful careers as a business man, film star, fashion mogul, and sports executive. Along with his prowess on the court, the branding of the Jordan image is one of the most lucrative in history, and his partnership with Nike in the development of his eponymous line of sneakers is likely unmatched in its commercial success. Today (July 25), Jordan has used the visibility he has amassed over the course of his illustrious career to make what is perhaps the most political statement he’s ever made – and he quite literally puts his money where his mouth is.
In an open letter shared exclusively with the Undefeated – an ESPN-produced outlet focusing on the intersections of race, sports, and culture – Jordan penned a personal statement explaining his feelings about race relations in today’s America, namely with regard to the ongoing tension between law enforcement and Black Lives Matter and like-minded citizens. His opening statement makes it clear that Jordan feels pained at current events, opening with “[a]s a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a [B]lack 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.”
Calling attention to the “divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late,” Jordan makes it clear that he acknowledges and laments the grievances emanating from both communities of color and police units, but he also puts forth some bold measures to take action in addressing the concerns of both groups. “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.” With that in mind, he shares that he donated $2 million to organizations working to find solutions to problems arising in what is being called the modern day Civil Rights Era.
“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 [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] Legal Defense Fund,” writes Jordan. The former organization describes itself on its website as “a dynamic organization that serves as the professional voice of law enforcement” and is “dedicated to advancing the law enforcement profession through advocacy, outreach, education and programs” The latter is an entity founded in 1940 by Thurgood Marshall and although it is an entity now separate from the NAACP itself, it has been called “the legal arm of the civil rights movement.”
Jordan’s statement has already become the source of much criticism, with many across social media taking issue with what they view as Jordan’s prolonged silence in matters of social justice and civil rights for African Americans. It is perhaps that criticism – which he has endured throughout his career – that led to his letter being titled “I Can No Longer Stay Silent.” However, as The Undefeated reports, friends have said Jordan has long supported civic matters in which he believed, with a spokesperson saying “But he’s always been very private and personal about many of these things.” Evidence of Jordan’s commitment to diversity lies in the fact that the Jordan Brand has had an African-American CEO since its inception, and the front office for the Charlotte Hornets team that Jordan owns has “more people of color holding top front office positions than any other organization in any major sport in North America.”
In addition to his private dealings, Jordan recently has become more publicly outspoken, sternly denouncing former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling when racist remarks he had made were leaked to the press, and taking a stand against a recent law that was passed in North Carolina which eliminated anti-discrimination laws against the LGBTQ community. At the time the bill was passed, Jordan issued a statement saying the “Hornets are opposed to discrimination in any form, and we have always sought to provide an inclusive environment.”
Despite the sentiments of his critics, Jordan’s decision to come forward – and to do it with optimism and encouragement – has within it positive implications that are impossible to dismiss. His legacy and influence alone make his words meaningful to legions of fans around the world, and his public display of financial contributions will likely inspire others to do the same.
Heads can read Michael Jordan’s statement in full here.