The well-documented violence of the last month has caused Michael Jordan to something he doesn’t usually do: Speak up and out on a social issue roiling the country.
Jordan, whose father was shot to death in 1993, decried the killing of blacks by police as well as the targeting and shooting of police officers, writing in a statement to ESPN’s The Undefeated that he knows the pain of families “all too well.”
The Hall of Fame owner of the Charlotte Hornets and billionaire businessman writes:
“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 goes on to say that he is donating $1 million each to two charities:the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “Although I know these contributions alone are not enough to solve the problem,” he writes, “I hope the resources will help both organizations make a positive difference.”
Over the years, Jordan has chosen to stay silent or to issue statements through his publicist, as he did concerning the NBA All-Star Game the Hornets were to host in 2017. Last week, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the game would be moved because of the state’s “bathroom law.” He did not endorse a candidate in his home state of North Carolina, even in 1990 when the black former mayor of Charlotte tried unsuccessfully to unseat Sen. Jessie Helms, who opposed making the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday a holiday.
Jordan was famously quoted as saying that he didn’t support Harvey Gantt because “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” but a spokeswoman for him denied that he ever said that and the Undefeated cites a 1996 Charlotte Observer story that notes that Jordan donated $4,000 to Gantt for his second Senate race. Jordan kept quiet even as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar criticized him, telling NPR last year that Jordan “took commerce over conscience.”
In the spring of 2014, Jordan felt compelled to speak up when racist statements of Donald Sterling, then the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, became public. Sterling was forced to sell the team. “As an owner, I’m obviously disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views. . . . As a former player, I’m completely outraged,” he said then. “There is no room in the NBA – or anywhere else – for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed. I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country and at the highest levels of our sport. In a league where the majority of players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level.”
Now 53 and the father of two sons and three daughters, Jordan seems aware that his superstardom and wealth have caused him to be treated differently.
“[O]ver 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.”
Jordan’s father, James, was murdered by two men during a roadside robbery in 1993 and he ended with a plea for increased understanding.
“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.”