Throughout his career, on and off the court, Michael Jordan focused solely on basketball, as sports fans saw in the documentary series “The Last Dance.” He was never like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Bill Walton where he felt compelled to use his platform and get involved in social causes. Like so many others, when George Floyd died, that all changed.
Michael Jordan and the Jordan Brand committed to spend $100 million on social justice issues just weeks after Floyd’s death. Several months later and Jordan is putting his money where his mouth is with the first millions distributed to several organizations fighting in the battle for racial equality.
‘The Last Dance’ revealed a different side of Michael Jordan
Most fans who watched Michael Jordan in his prime, believe he is the GOAT. “The Last Dance” served as a reminder on the greatness of His Airness. For the younger crowd only familiar with his work through highlights, the documentary provided an opportunity to see Jordan’s on-court mastery and heroics.
Regardless of your opinion of Jordan’s rank among other NBA greats, the 10-part series provided an unpolished look at Jordan, including how he steered clear of politics and social issues. In one episode, when asked why he would not publicly endorse Harvey Gantt in his bid to become the first African-American from North Carolina to serve in the Senate, Jordan curtly replied, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”
Former President Barack Obama summed up Jordan’s position in the documentary.
“Any African-American in this society that sees significant success has an added burden. A lot of times, America is very quick to embrace a Michael Jordan or an Oprah Winfrey or a Barack Obama, so long as it’s understood you don’t get too controversial around broader issues of social justice.”
Jordan speaks out following George Floyd’s death
Just days after the final episode aired, a Minneapolis police officer killed an unarmed George Floyd. The brutal nature of Floyd’s death captured on camera sparked outrage as protesters mobilized in cities around the nation. Michael Jordan addressed the situation on June 1.
“I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry,” Jordan said in a statement, which was shared on Twitter. “I see and feel everyone’s pain, outrage and frustration.”
“I don’t have the answers, but our collective voices show strength and the inability to be divided by others. We must listen to each other, show compassion and empathy, and never turn our backs on senseless brutality. We need to continue peaceful expressions against injustice and demand accountability. Our unified voice needs to put pressure on our leaders to change our laws, or else we need to use our vote to create systemic change.”
Just a couple of days later, Jordan and the Jordan Brand announced a commitment to donate $100 million over the next decade to organizations dedicated to assisting black people with social justice and other causes.
Michael Jordan putting money where his mouth is
In a press release from Nike, Michael Jordan and the Jordan Brand announced their main areas of focus as well as their first partners to receive donations. The donations will be distributed to organizations that focus on three priority areas: social justice, economic justice, and education and awareness.
The initial donations are designated for groups who are working in various ways to combat black voter suppression. Partners were selected based on their ability to take action that can create change immediately. The work of these partners will focus on cities and states where black people are underrepresented in registration and turnout numbers, relative to their share of the overall population.
“I’m all in with Jordan Brand, the Jordan family, and our partners, who share a commitment to address the historical inequality that continues to plague black communities in the U.S.,” Jordan said. “There is a long history of oppression against black Americans that holds us back from full participation in American society. We understand that one of the main ways we can change systemic racism is at the polls. We know it will take time for us to create the change we want to see, but we are working quickly to take action for the black community’s voice to be heard.”
Two organizations that received donations of $1 million each include the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and the Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People and Families Movement (FICPFM). A third donation of $500,000 was designated for Black Voters Matter to support reformative practices that drive real change in the black community.
While Michael Jordan never felt compelled to use his platform and advocate for social causes during the height of his career, he has been moved by the protests and nation’s shift toward racial equality since the death of George Floyd. Today, he’s doing something about it and taking an active role in being a big part of that change. It’s better late than never.