One of the biggest complaints people made about Michael Jordan during his peak days was that he was not using his position and power, like arguably the most famous person on the planet, to support various causes social. Michael had the potential for unimaginable influence thanks to his celebrity. He also had the potential to have a huge influence on business through relationships with big companies like Nike and Gatorade.
Should he have spoken on racial causes? Should he have used this platform more directly to rally around social injustices? What change could he have made if he had been more like LeBron James, who certainly never backed down from a cause?
Jordan is very aware of this criticism. In recent years, he has started to take minor steps to correct his old lack of action. And today, he has taken a MAJOR step. In fact, $ 100,000,000 worth of steps.
A little history:
Jordan’s most infamous example remained silent in 1990 when African-American politician Harvey Gantt ran in the Senate in North Carolina against known racist president Jesse Helms. Jordan, who grew up in North Carolina and went to UNC, chose not to publicly support the candidate. Even Michael’s mother asked him to make a public endorsement of Gantt. Michael decided it was not appropriate and instead sent Gantt a check for $ 2,000, the maximum donation allowed for an individual. A nice gesture, but certainly not what Gantt really needed MJ at the time.
Asked about his decision, Michael joked that he did not want to approve Gantt because “Republicans also buy sneakers“.
In the documentary “The Last Dance”, Jordan claimed that his quote was taken out of context. He said he said it as a disposable joke to make his teammates laugh. And then it got amplified again and again as if it were the gospel truth of what he felt.
Harvey Gantt lost the race and Jesse Helms continued to sit in the Senate for 23 more years until his retirement in 2003.
Whatever the context, this quote about Republicans and sneakers would haunt Michael for decades.
A year after the race, NFL superstar Jim Brown said that Michael “the main concern is the requirements of American companies [and that he] is not a model [for blacks] in the right way. “
After Jim Brown launched his criticism, Michael said the following regarding Rodney King’s beating and racial riots across the country:
“Naturally, when things like [the riot] happen and i am asked to comment on this, people tend to expect me to do more, more opinion, more vocal. Jim Brown’s cry now is to be more vocal. But they give the impression that Magic Johnson and I are the only rich black people in America. Where are the Eddie Murphys? Where are the Arsenio rooms? Where are the Bill Cosbys, that type of people?“
Kareem Abdul-Jabar will later tell NPR that Michael has chosen “trading on conscience. It’s unfortunate for him, but he has to live with it.“
Changing your ways
In recent years, Michael, which has a net worth of $ 2.2 billion, has started to fill this long perceived gap.
In July 2016, following a number of murders by African American police, Michael announced a donation of $ 2 million while releasing a statement entitled: “I can’t stay silent anymore“.
Here are some highlights from this statement:
“As a proud American, father who lost his own father in a senseless act of violence and a black man, I was deeply troubled by the deaths of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement and irritated by cowardly targeting and hateful and murder of police …
“… To support this effort, I am contributing $ 1 million each to two organizations, the all-new Institute for Community-Police Relations of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The policy and oversight work of the Institute for Community-Police Relations aims to build trust and promote best practices in community policing. My donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the country’s oldest civil law organization, will support its ongoing work in support of reforms that will build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement. While I know that these contributions alone are not enough to solve the problem, I hope the resources will help the two organizations to make a positive difference.“
$ 100 million donation
Today, Michael has taken a huge step forward in his goal of repairing previous wrongs. Today Michael and Jordan Brand announced that they will allocate $ 100 million over the next 10 years to “organizations dedicated to supporting racial equality, social justice and better access to education.“
Here is the full statement released by Michael’s manager and spokesperson Estee Portnoy: