Michael Jordan has broken barriers in basketball and business throughout his career.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
During Michael Jordan’s tenure with the Chicago Bulls in the 1980s and 1990s, the legendary basketball player made one quote that has stuck with him for a lifetime.
When asked to support a Democratic politician, Jordan infamously declined saying that “Republicans buy sneakers too.”
Although Jordan has usually refrained from overt political action and shunned the spotlight when it comes to giving, that does not mean he has not donated generously to causes that he supports, even causes that benefit the African-American community specifically.
Recently, Jordan who owns the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, donated $2 million for Hurricane Florence relief to his home state.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist made a total of two $1 million donations, one to the American Red Cross and one to the Foundation For The Carolinas’ Hurricane Florence Response Fund.
“Our organization, the Hornets organization, we take a lot of pride in giving back to our community and our efforts are truly led by our own and Michael Jordan,” said Fred Whitfield, president of the Charlotte Hornets.
“We feel like we have an obligation to bring people together because we do have fans on both sides of the aisle and we enjoy bringing our fans together to try and give back to our community and try to help those in need that support us day in and day out on the court,” Whitfield continued.
Additionally, the Charlotte Hornets teamed up with the Second Harvest Food Bank to help pack and give out 5,00 food boxes, which included meals for those impacted by Hurricane Florence.
Jordan said that you have to take care of home.
Jordan starred at Laney High School in Wilmington, N.C., a town that suffered significant damage due to Florence, before taking his talents to the University of North Carolina for three seasons, playing under legendary Tar Heels coach, Dean Smith.
Although he has faced criticism for decades from leaders in the African-American community, Jordan has given generously to the advancement of African-Americans.
Not just with philanthropic gifts, people recognize Jordan in the NBA and the sneaker business for having one of the most racially diverse staffs in those businesses.
As of 2014, the Hornets had the most racially diverse staff in all of professional sports.
“Michael’s willingness to hire, support and promote minority leaders throughout his business ventures has been remarkable,” said Larry Miller, president of the Jordan Brand shoe company, a division of Nike. “He has always been focused on creating successful and sustainable businesses and has empowered minority leaders, including myself, with the opportunity to grow and advance those businesses.”
Throughout the years, Jordan has helped advance causes in numerous ways, sometimes accepting the spotlight and sometimes avoiding the spotlight.
Along with other celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Jordan helped fund filmmaker Spike Lee’s 1992 epic film “Malcolm X,” when the director went over budget.
Jordan gave money as a gift to Lee and not as an investment in the film.
The six-time NBA champion also donated millions to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
Many people with knowledge of the African-American plight in North Carolina believe that the state’s history on racial issues has shaped Jordan in many important ways.
Back in the day, African-Americans in North Carolina did not have a voice in their day-to-day political activity because of Jim Crow laws.
However, many of them saw equality more through economic rights as opposed to protesting for civil rights.
Economic freedom would lead to actual freedom and an opportunity to move the African-American community forward despite the racism and the oppression that they had to endure.
“After Jim Crow laws went into effect [in North Carolina], African-Americans there had no political rights,” said Roland Lazenby, author of the book “Michael Jordan: The Life.” “They had to focus on economic rights. That’s the only way they got ahead.
“Nobody, Black or White, made any money sharecropping. It was a disastrous economic system. But [Jordan’s] mother’s father was a bada** as a sharecropper. He kicked a**, came to own his own land, determined his own fate. His mother, although she didn’t get along with her father, was just like him, locked in on economic success.”
Nevertheless, Jordan has sometimes remained silent on political issues affecting African-American.
When President Donald Trump criticized Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James by questioning his intelligence, many in the African-American community criticized Jordan for not responding in a harsh way to President Trump’s criticism, which some said had racial undertones.
However, Jordan remaining silent while breaking barriers for African-Americans might speak louder than actual words.
“It is hard to believe that in 2014 there [was] only one African-American majority owner in all the major men’s pro leagues,” said Richard Lapchick, director at The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. “The importance of Michael Jordan as a player is matched by him being the only owner.
“It is critical for minority youth to see that there are options to battling the long odds to become a pro athlete and that there are many opportunities to work in the world of sport as team presidents, general managers, COOs, and yes as owners.
“In the era of the Donald Sterling nightmare, the NBA and our society need Michael Jordan now more than ever and need other people of color to become owners in the near future.”
That reality is even more evident in 2018 than in 2014 because of the Colin Kaepernick blackballing by the National Football League (NFL).
However, there are reports that Kaepernick might soon sign with the Oakland Raiders or New England Patriots.
If the NFL had a majority team owner like the NBA has with Jordan, would Kaepernick have a job with the NFL by now?
No one knows, but it seems more likely that Kaepernick would have a job as a quarterback in the NFL if some of their majority owners came from the African-American community.
The good ole boy network that exists in the NFL would have some boys from the hood to contend with.
That might make it a little easier for players to be themselves and speak on issues that are important to them without risking their careers in the process.
Although Jordan might never live down his apolitical comments during his playing heyday, actions speak louder words.
With his donations, the Basketball Hall of Famer has spoken very loudly for decades.