It is uncertain just how Michael Jordan and his Jordan Brand will spend the $100 million he has pledged over the next 10 years to improve “racial equality, social justice and greater access to education,” but after the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, Jordan decided he had to do something.
“We have been beaten down [as African Americans] for so many years. It sucks your soul,” he told the Charlotte Observer. “You can’t accept it anymore. This is a tipping point. We need to make a stand. We’ve got to be better as a society regarding race.”
The announcement of Jordan’s pledge Friday came five days after the Hall of Fame basketball player and owner of the Charlotte Hornets condemned the killing of Floyd, a black man who died May 25 after a white officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes as three other officers looked on. All four face charges, and Floyd’s death has triggered over a week of protests around the globe and a growing awareness of the need for systemic change.
“We haven’t yet figured which vehicles to utilize,” Jordan said. “But it’s first about making an effort. It’s not just [donating] money. It’s the act of calling on all of us to take a look at ourselves. That’s an important start.”
One of the biggest criticisms of Jordan over the years has been his neutrality on social and political issues, but he has become more outspoken recently. He spoke up when Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was forced to sell his team after making racist comments in 2014, and he did so again in the summer of 2016 when he condemned the killing of African Americans by police. When NFL players chose to make a statement during the national anthem in the fall of 2017 and President Trump “uninvited” the NBA champion Golden State Warriors to the White House, Jordan added his voice.
“One of the fundamental rights this country is founded on was freedom of speech, and we have a long tradition of nonviolent, peaceful protest. Those who exercise the right to peacefully express themselves should not be demonized or ostracized,” he said then in a statement. “At a time of increasing divisiveness and hate in this country, we should be looking for ways to work together and support each other and not create more division.”
This also isn’t the first time Jordan has donated to support a cause. In 2017, Jordan gave $7 million to create two health clinics in Charlotte’s underserved communities. That same year, he voiced displeasure over North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom bill” that led the NBA to move the All-Star Game out of Charlotte. In 2016, he gave $1 million each to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In a statement to the Undefeated that year, he wrote of the 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.”
Now he is taking more dramatic action at what he considers a crucial time for the country.
“Face up to your demons. Extend a hand. Understand the inequalities,” he told the Observer when asked how to change racist behavior. “Sure, it’s about bargaining for better policing, but it’s more. We have encountered racism to be somewhat acceptable in certain circles.”
For Jordan, education is “110 percent” part of the solution.
“My parents always stressed that education was how you best bond with other people. Education is the best route for black people to better themselves. To compete to be the best you can be, you have got to be educated,” he said. “If you look at this country, that helping hand [to get a college education] is the best chance to stand up on your own.”
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