Vowing that he can “no longer stay silent,” Michael Jordan used his mouth and money to make a powerful impact on Monday.
In a letter released to ESPN’s The Undefeated website, the former Chicago Bulls star addressed the country’s recent spate of violence involving racial and social undertones and made separate $1 million donations to organizations focused on civil rights and building trust for better community policing.
“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 wrote on The Undefeated website. “I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well.”
Hearing the news, Knicks star Carmelo Anthony told The Undefeated, “That’s big. That’s MJ. That’s Michael Jordan. As African-Americans, that’s who we look up to. He’s a great voice with a great platform. I’m just glad that he came out now and he used it at this time with everything going on.”
Jordan — whose father, James, was murdered in 1993 during a robbery attempt as he slept at a North Carolina roadside — earmarked $1 million each to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
“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 of late,” Jordan’s letter continued. “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 offers — who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all — are respected and supported. 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, the lone African-American majority owner of an NBA franchise, has drawn criticism in the past from some corners for not using his wealth and influence more readily for social causes. Noted activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the former Los Angeles Lakers star, has publicly criticized Jordan.
Jordan’s friends and business advisers long have defended him, claiming his activism typically is performed in more behind-the-scenes fashion. His defenders also point to Jordan’s Charlotte Hornets franchise employing several minorities in positions of power.
When an anti-LGBT bill in North Carolina drew widespread criticism that eventually led the NBA to pull the All-Star Game from Charlotte, Jordan released a statement that emphasized his franchise is “opposed to discrimination in any form, and we have always sought to provide an inclusive environment.”
The Undefeated reported that Jordan made the decision to make these donations and add his voice to the equation two weeks ago but delayed the announcement out of respect for the NBA’s All-Star decision so as not to take away focus for the LGBT community.
“We are privileged to live in the world’s greatest country — a country that has provided my family and me the greatest of opportunities,” Jordan’s letter concluded. “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.”