Michael Jordan chose to silence the critics that have hounded him for years about not using his enormous influence to speak up and advocate for social change in America. For years he has been criticized, both by his peers in basketball and by those outside of it, that he hasn’t spoken up because of concern over financial interests.
After highly publicized incidents of police encounters led to the deaths of African-American civilians, more and more athletes and basketball players have expressed concern. Many teams and major NBA and WNBA stars chose to wear clothing that expressed support for both the Black Lives Matter movement and for the specific victims.
Because of Michael Jordan’s continuing success and influence, even 13 years after his retirement as a player, critics continue to focus on his response to current events affecting African Americans.
— JustJared.com (@JustJared) July 25, 2016
Friends of Jordan say he always cared about what was going on in the world, but chose to deal with it in his own way, and didn’t feel the need to trumpet his message. That appears to have changed, as he sent a statement to Undefeated, a popular sports website, about specific action he was taking to help alleviate racial tension due to police interactions with African-Americans. In part of the statement, Jordan expresses his concern and compulsion to act at this time, writing:
“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.”
Jordan’s own father was murdered in a car jacking robbery at the height of his basketball career. Jordan announced his retirement that same year, moving on to a short-lived baseball career before un-retiring and returning to the NBA. The violent loss of his father had a profound effect on him, and is one of the motivations for the statement. Jordan doesn’t seek to blame one side or the other; he wants understanding.
Jordan recalls the many positive interactions he has had with police in the rest of the statement, but he also recognizes his status in society and how his interactions with police could be very different from the type that others experience.
Some of Michael Jordan’s critics in the past include another basketball hall of famer, former Los Angeles Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who stated that Jordan:
“Took commerce over conscious. That’s unfortunate for him, but he’s got to live with it.”
That is the view of many who have criticized MJ over the years. A book by sports writer Sam Smith often gets referenced when criticizing Mike.
In it, Smith says Jordan didn’t take a stand on politics because “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” Many have thought this means MJ is more concerned over the success of his highly lucrative shoe business than in maintaining good ethics.
Jordan says he never made that statement. Smith says that Jordan may have made the statement, but that it was meant to be taken as a joke and not an official political stance.
Michael Jordan is donating $1 million apiece to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to support their work in healing community-police relationships.
Outside of America, Jordan also still has to win his fight in China against a company that is copying his trademark Air Jordan shoes. As Bloomberg reports, the Qiaodan company and Air Jordan have been battling legally for the last few years, as Jordan looks to get the company to stop selling shoes by using his likeness and imitating his style.