Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, spoke out Monday concerning the recent shootings involving police, pledging to donate $2 million in support of efforts to "build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement."
In a letter released to The Undefeated, Jordan expressed his frustration with the current racial climate as well as the growing mistrust of police officers:
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 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 back his statements up, Jordan pledged $1 million to both the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Institute (IACP) for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF). "Although I know these contributions alone are not enough to solve the problem," the Hall-of-Famer wrote, "I hope the resources will help both organizations make a positive difference."
Both organizations thanked Jordan for his contributions, the IACP doing so on Twitter:
“I am so pleased and honored that Michael Jordan will be making this donation to LDF in support of our policing reform efforts,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of LDF, said in a statement. “It is an act of true leadership that Mr. Jordan has chosen to use his stature to highlight the importance of this issue to all Americans and by taking a personal stance in support of organizations directly engaged in addressing this crisis in our nation. We are grateful for this support, which will allow us to deepen our engagement on the issue of policing reform at this critical time in our country.”
Jordan has garnered a reputation in the past for not making political statements. In fact, fellow Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabaar criticized Jordan in 2015 for choosing "commerce over conscience" when he declined to pledge support for Harvey Gantt, who was running for Senate as a Democrat in 1990. After denying Gantt's offer, Jordan allegedly remarked, "Republicans buy sneakers, too."
Several other athletes have shared their thoughts on race relations and the role of law enforcement, topics which have been at the forefront of public discourse in recent weeks. The WNBA issued and then rescinded fines on several teams and players for wearing black t-shirts to show solidarity for shooting victims, while NBA superstars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade and LeBron James opened the ESPY ceremony by calling for change:
"We are privileged to live in the world’s greatest country – a country that has provided my family and me the greatest of opportunities," Jordan's letter concludes. "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."
It's good to see Jordan utilize his resources and celebrity to assist those working to peacefully end police-related shootings nationwide, and hopefully athletes like him continue to speak out against such violence.