I will be honest with you, my initial thought was that ‘hell had truly frozen over’ when I heard that Michael ‘Air’ Jordan had issued a political statement.
I immediately discounted the reports because I clearly remember Jordan utterly refusing to issue any sort of political statement out of fear of compromising his bottom line financial concerns. Jordan efficiently communicated that financial issues, particularly as they were associated with his sneakers and brand, were his foremost priority when he refused to address African-American issues because as he publicly stated, “Republicans purchase tennis shoes as well.”
During his career ‘Air’ Jordan carefully crafted every aspect of his image from not appearing for post-game interviews without a suit through avoiding the appearance of choosing a side on any political issue, especially if it dealt with Race in any form, shape, or fashion. In time it became clear that Jordan was the standard-bearer of the blasé political persona that NBA ballplayers were to aspire to.
Although I would like to say that this appearance of what should be termed ‘political’ Jordan is a major step in the correct direction, the truth of the matter is that after reading this middle-of-the-road statement, ‘Air’ Jordan has consciously decided to remain grounded in regards to Race matters.
Jordan’s statement, in its entirety, follows:
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. I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well.
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 as of late. 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.
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.
To support that effort, I am making contributions of $1 million each to two organizations, the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The Institute for Community-Police Relations’ policy and oversight work is focused on building trust and promoting best practices in community policing. My donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s oldest civil rights law organization, will support its ongoing work in support of reforms that will build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement. 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.
We are privileged to live in the world’s greatest country – a country that has provided my family and me the greatest of opportunities. 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.
Although I would love to champion this as a sign of his ‘Airness’ maturing; unfortunately, it does appear that Jordan’s political voice is not always muted as he has proven to be willing to speak out on behalf of the discrimination that the state of North Carolina has legalized against the LGBT community. I partially suspect that even Jordan’s decision to speak out against the aforementioned legislation flows from his deep-concern that the NBA would move its annual All-Star game from the State, a decision that was recently made.
In regards to speaking out on behalf of his indigenous community, not much has changed as the ‘Jordan Rules’ appear to still be in effect.
One question that continually gnaws at the back of my mind is why should a person such as Jordan who lives in another racial reality that allows his pre-occupation with financial matters to trump his racial identity speak on behalf of the Black community? As with every other venue, the Black community has not given Jordan an ounce of a reason to do so when one considers that the Air Jordan’s debuted in the mid-80s and come hell or high water our people have lined up to purchase them as they were participating in a sacred Black ritual.
Although many will fawn over Jordan’s slight gesture, I only hope that they realize that in basketball vernacular Jordan’s statement holds little more significance than a slight jab step, it is most definitely not one of Jordan’s signature drives to the basket.
However, I guess it is a little bit of something.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.