Michael Jordan finally speaks up about police shootings. Here's why it's important.
"I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent."
It's been 13 years since sports legend Michael Jordan retired, and we've heard very little from him ... until now.
He's not the type of celebrity who likes to be out and about, seen rubbing elbows with the rich and famous.
The NBA great, widely known for remaining silent on racial matters, finally felt the need to speak up.
The basketball icon didn't grant an interview. But he did issue a heartfelt statement published exclusively on The Undefeated, an ESPN site, that everybody is talking about.
The greatest basketball player of our time spoke up about the recent shooting deaths of African-Americans that have sparked protests and marches, as well as the targeting of police officers. He wrote:
"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."
Jordan's statement speaks volumes given he's been criticized for not speaking out on issues that deeply affect the African-American community in the past.
"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."
He also recognizes the fact that he is Michael Jordan, so his experiences with law enforcement may be different from those of other African-Americans who are not one of the most recognizable sport figures in history.
"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."
Jordan is putting his money where his mouth is, too. The NBA great is donating $2 million to organizations working to improve relations between the public and the police. His generous donation is going to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He hopes his contribution helps move things in a more positive direction.
Yes, he's Michael Jordan. He's worth $1.14 billion. But he's still a father, a son, a husband, and a black man.
“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.”
Jordan's heartfelt message to work toward positive change was a long time coming.
Jordan's message has received a very warm welcome from people like the New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony. "I thought it was brilliant and about time that he stepped up and said what he said," Anthony said at a recent event.
On July 14, Anthony, along with Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James opened the ESPYs with a powerful statement about violence.
The issue of gun violence is very personal for Jordan. His father, James Jordan, was killed after being shot in the chest during a car robbery in 1993.
Two men were convicted of his murder and are serving life sentences.
Although Jordan understands that his statement on police shootings won't immediately solve the systematic and societal problems we face, his powerful pledge for change proves that he's seeking a solution and remains hopeful, as should we.