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Michael Jordan's Powerful Activism

Veteran News
Veteran News
July 27, 2016
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In a letter written to The Undefeated, an ESPN website that deals with race and sports, basketball legend Michael Jordan announced he “could no longer stay silent” on race issues. Furthermore, he has 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 used the letter to announce he was donating $1 million each to the Institute for Community-Police relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. These are important contributions; the ICPR is a newly created division of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and has a meager budget of $600,000, while the Legal Defense Fund operates on a $14 million annual budget.The ICPR’s mission is to “advance a universal culture of cohesion and trust” between police and communities. This is a distinctly police-oriented organization, and in donating to it, Jordan shows he understand both sides of the narrative. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund was founded by Thurgood Marshall in 1940, as a way of protecting the rights of blacks accused of crimes in the United States in a pre-civil rights era.


Michael Jordan has historically not been as active in politics as many other American basketball players. That’s not to say he has been unaffected by tragedy: his father was killed in an act of senseless violence in 1993. LeBron James, Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony, among others, have used their platforms as stars to promote Black Lives Matter causes, tweet about the killings of black men by police, and bring police and communities together for dialogue.Jordan’s activism is of a different, quieter kind. His donations and his open letter bridge the divide between police and the black community. He has chosen not to take sides, but instead uses his voice sparingly, at times when he can effect real change.He has also used his economic power, rather than outright activism, to promote minority causes. He has been unwilling, in the past, to speak out on some issues, and this has riled some of his fellow basketball players. He was famously quoted as saying that “Republicans buy sneakers too,” and accused of choosing “commerce over conscience” by contemporary Kareem Abdul-Jabar.Some of his most powerful acts, though, come from promoting minorities both within the Jordan brand of Nike and in his own Charlotte Hornets basketball team. He is the only black team owner in the NBA, and has “had more black people employed and upwardly moving through a $2.5 billion shoe brand for years.” The executives of the Jordan brand are the highest-ranking in all of Nike; this is by Michael Jordan’s design, not mistake.In an era of tweets and controversial t-shirts, Michael Jordan’s contribution to the original legal organization tasked with ensuring due process for blacks in America, along with his willingness to reach across the aisle to police, reflects a deep honesty of character and commitment to real change.

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