After days of protests and violence involving police officers following the death of George Floyd in police custody, NBA legend Michael Jordan has joined the chorus of athletes and other sports figures in speaking out politically.
The Charlotte Hornets owner denounced “ingrained racism and violence toward people of color” in the U.S. and called for action in a statement posted on his @Jumpman23 Twitter account on Sunday.
In the statement, Jordan endorsed “peaceful” protests against injustice and demanded accountability, saying the movement needs to create pressure for systemic change. He also expressed solidarity with the family of Floyd and the “countless” others who have experienced racism and injustice.
Notably, the statement omits the word “police” as America’s police officers clash with protesters across the country following the death of Floyd in police custody.
Jordan’s Twitter platform had released another message endorsing activism against racial injustice on Friday, but that was not explicitly attributed to Jordan like Sunday’s statement.
The release of such a statement is bound to hold weight, due to both the current political situation in the U.S. and the discussion around Jordan’s politics (or lack thereof) earlier this month.
Michael Jordan has become more outspoken with time
Jordan’s statement might be surprising for those familiar with the “Republicans buy sneakers too” quote that he recently addressed in an episode of ESPN’s “The Last Dance.” Jordan confirmed he said the quote in jest on a Chicago Bulls bus, and said he stood by the apolitical message at the time. During his playing days, Jordan was notoriously silent when it came to political issues.
“I do commend Muhammad Ali for standing up for what he believed in,” Jordan said. “But I never thought of myself as an activist. I thought of myself as a basketball player.”
However, Jordan — the most financially successful athlete in American history and sole former player to own the majority of an NBA franchise — has spoken out on some political topics in recent years. He released a statement in 2016 denouncing the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement as well targeted attacks on police officers.
The statement was accompanied by $1 million donations to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
“I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late,” Jordan said in the statement. “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.”
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