Many know Michael Jordan as potentially the greatest basketball player of all time, but he has never been known as an outspoken advocate on social issues that affect the Black community.
Now, in a statement released to The Undefeated, the former Chicago Bulls star and current owner of the Charlotte Hornets speaks out against the recent events of 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,” Jordan writes. “I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well.”
The website says that the six-time NBA champion also donated $1 million each to two institutions that are on the forefront of rebuilding relationships between law enforcement and the communities that officers serve. Those organizations are Institute for Community-Police Relations, which is a subsidiary of International Association of Chiefs of Police, and 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 positive difference,” Jordan explains of the financial gifts.
The executives of both organizations expressed appreciation for Jordan’s contributions.
“We’re surprised and shocked, but obviously thrilled,” Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director of the Legal Defense Fund says. “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.”
“What an opportunity for Michael Jordan to do this and help raise the discussion between police and the members of the communities they serve,” Terrence Cunningham, president of International Association of Chiefs of Police, says. “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.”
Earlier this month, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed on back-t0-back days of each other and videos of them being shot by police circulated around the Internet. Last week, Charles Kinsey was shot in the leg by a police officer while laying on the ground with his hands in the air.
Many police officers have died recently as well. Five members of law enforcement were killed in Dallas by a sniper who said he was acting in response to the deaths of Sterling and Castile and three more cops were later killed in Baton Rouge, the same city where Sterling died.
MJ has been criticized in the past for remaining silent on issues of social injustice while reaping the benefits of corporate America, especially through his Jordan Brand, which is a branch of Nike. Fellow basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said in an interview with NPR in November that his peer chose “commerce over conscience.”
Many rappers have expressed their frustration with Jordan, including Noreaga, who claimed the icon told him at a party that he didn’t like rap music. Chamillionaire said he almost got in a fight with MJ at a charity event after the basketball player wouldn’t take a picture with him. Glasses Malone put the legend on blast, saying “he invests into more prisons than schools” and said he wouldn’t be buying any more Js.