Michael Jordan has been saddled for years with a line he and those around him have denied he ever said, in relation to his involvement in political matters: “Republicans buy shoes too.” (That comment was allegedly a North Carolina Senate race where Jordan actually did donate to the opponent of Jessie Helms, despite what is rumored.)
While that line may not be his, Jordan has rarely used his standing to weigh in on political events, which is why his donation Monday of $2 million — $1 million each to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund — was news. In doing so he said, “…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.”
He didn’t stay silent, but he didn’t pick a side, either. He played it safe and down the middle.
“I thought it was brilliant…and about time that he stepped up.”
Later we got the full quote, via a transcript where he spoke brought together USA Basketball members (men’s and women’s team), police, and youth from the Boys & Girls Club in Los Angeles to talk.
“I thought it was brilliant, and it’s about time that he stepped up and said what he said, because at the end of the day, amongst us, he is our face. I mean, he’s an AfricanAmerican, a very powerful AfricanAmerican, so for him to step up in the midst of these times right now, it was very big on his behalf. It’s not always about money. But for him to step up and put his money where his mouth is, the timing was perfect.”
Anthony stood up at the ESPYs with Chris Paul, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade to make a plea both for peace and for athletes to use their voice to speak to the nation in what are turbulent, divided times. Jordan would have a unique standing to do that, he often just chooses a more cautious path. Like he did with this donation, playing it right down the middle.