In light of the recent shootings of Black men by police and the killings of police officers, many prominent Black celebrities have used their influence to call for change. On Monday, Charlotte Hornets owner and former NBA superstar Michael Jordan joined the ranks and called for an end to the racial tension and violence.
“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,” he wrote in a statement released by The Undefeated. Jordan’s father, James Raymond Jordan, was murdered in 1993 in a robbery.
Jordan said he is “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,” he said. “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 called for a change in rhetoric in the hopes of creating “constructive change”:
“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.”
Jordan also announced in his statement that he would be donating $1 million each to the Institute for Community-Police Relations, launched by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
“Although I know these contributions alone are not enough to solve the problem, I hope the resources will help both organizations make a difference,” he said.
Terrence Cunningham, IACP president and chief of the Wellesley, Massachusetts, police department, said of Jordan’s donation, “The IACP aims to provide a toolbox for departments and communities to come together to discuss implicit bias and police legitimacy, and this is an opportunity to help that along.”
President and Director of the Legal Defense Fund Sherrilyn Ifill said the organization was “shocked and surprised, but obviously thrilled” by Jordan’s donation.
“We’ve been working on these issues for some many years, and it’s great to hear that Michael Jordan and his people are aware of our work and are willing to make a contribution,” Ifill said.
“Michael Jordan” was trending on Twitter following his statement.
Jordan has broken racial barriers throughout his own career, such as being the first Black man to be a majority-owner of an NBA team. However, he has been known to mostly stay silent on political and social issues. He has previously been criticized by people such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for choosing not to get involved. In 2015 Abdul-Jabbar accused Jordan of choosing “commerce over conscience.”
But Jordan’s new statement garnered positive responses, including from Rev. Jesse Jackson, who praised Jordan via Twitter.
— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) July 25, 2016
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks’ star forward, also spoke highly of Jordan’s statement, calling it “brilliant” but also “about time” that Jordan spoke out.
“At the end of the day, amongst us, he is our face,” Anthony said. “He is an African American and a very powerful African American, so for him to step up in the midst of these times right now, it was very big on his behalf. It’s not always about the money, but for him to step up and put his money where his mouth is at, the timing was perfect.”
Other prominent Black figures, including NBA players (including Anthony), have spoken out on the violence and racial tensions, using their influence to create dialogue.
Anthony, along with Chicago Bulls’ guard Dwyane Wade, Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard Chris Paul and Cleveland Cavaliers’ forward LeBron James, used the intro of the ESPY award ceremony to start a conversation about the racial issues and violence plaguing the country.
“As athletes, we must challenge ourselves to do even more than we already do,” Wade said at the time. “The conversation cannot stop as our schedules get busy again.”
Paul said the players were following in the footsteps of other Black athletes who strove for social justice, including Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali.
In recent years Jordan has slowly broken his silence and began speaking out about other issues regarding racism, as well as LGBT rights. This past April he issued a statement on behalf of the Hornets about North Carolina’s discriminatory bathroom law.
“As my organization has stated previously, the Charlotte Hornets and Hornets Sports & Entertainment are opposed to discrimination in any form, and we have always sought to provide an inclusive environment,” it said.
In 2014 Jordan also released a statement after racial comments made by Donald Sterling, former owner of the Clippers, came to light. Jordan stated that, as an owner and former player, he was “completely outraged” and “obviously disgusted” by Sterling’s remarks.
“There is no room in the NBA — or anywhere else — for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed,” Jordan said. “In a league where the majority of players are African American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level.”