The announcement came five days after the Hall of Famer and owner of the Charlotte Hornets released a statement condemning the death of George Floyd; a white Minneapolis police officer had pressed his knee against the back of the black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
“Black lives matter,” Friday’s statement read in part. “This isn’t a controversial statement. Until the ingrained racism that allows our country’s institutions to fail is completely eradicated, we will remain committed to protecting and improving the lives of black people.”
Floyd’s death May 25 sparked demonstrations around the country, including in the District, with protests continuing on the heels of charges being elevated against Derek Chauvin, the police officer whose knee was on the back of Floyd’s neck, to second-degree murder.
“We represent a proud family that has overcome obstacles, fought against discrimination in communities worldwide and that works every day to erase the stain of racism and the damage of injustice,” Jordan Brand’s statement read.
Jordan has been criticized for his perceived indifference to activism, including not endorsing Harvey Gantt, an African American, during the 1990 Senate race against incumbent Jesse Helms in his home state of North Carolina. It was at that time when Jordan allegedly quipped, “Republicans buy shoes, too.”
“I’ll be honest: When it was reported that Michael Jordan said, ‘Republicans buy sneakers, too,’ for somebody who was at that time preparing for a career in civil rights law and public life and knowing what Jesse Helms stood for, you would have wanted to see Michael push harder on that,” former president Barack Obama said in an episode of “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s 10-part documentary on the Jordan-era Bulls.
Fellow Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who long has spoken about social issues, even chastised Jordan in 2015 for choosing “commerce over conscience.”
But in 2017, Jordan offered a statement in support of peaceful protest and free speech. That same year, he voiced displeasure over North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom bill” that compelled the NBA to move the All-Star Game out of Charlotte.
“We must join forces with the community, government and civic leaders to create a lasting impact together,” Jordan Brand President Craig Williams said in a statement. “There is still more work for us to do to drive real impact for the black community. We embrace the responsibility.”