Michael Jordan isn't staying silent any longer. On Monday morning, The Undefeated released a statement from Jordan touching on recent violence against African-Americans and police officers. The retired basketball legend's statement comes just weeks after two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were killed by police within 24 hours of each other, and in the wake of the mass shootings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge. In the essay, Jordan announced that he would be working for unity between police officers and the communities they serve. He will be making donations of one million dollars each to the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund and to the Institute for Community-Police Relations. Jordan also wrote about his own experiences as an African-American man in the United States.
The former basketball player's essay may have come as a surprise to many. Jordan rarely speaks out on behalf of social issues. (However, according to Sports Illustrated, NBA players from LeBron James to Dwyane Wade have recently urged their fellow athletes to become more involved in activism.) Jordan made it clear in his statement that he will no longer stay silent, as he has in the past. He's clearly committed himself to social justice.
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.”
In his essay, Jordan poignantly discusses his experiences as a black man in the United States, as well as his evident privilege. Jordan also mentions that his father was fatally shot in a "senseless act of violence" — Jordan's father, James, was killed in 1993. Clearly, Jordan has many reasons to speak out on the issue of violence against African-Americans in the United States. However, he also spoke out to end violence against police officers, citing the officers who have protected his family in the past.
Most importantly, Jordan's essay will hopefully inspire others to become involved in activism — to ensure that Americans continue to work to end violence against African-Americans, and work to improve police practices across the United States.