After days of protests and violence involving police officers following the death of George Floyd in police custody, NBA legend Michael Jordan has joined the chorus of athletes and other sports figures in politically speaking out.
The Charlotte Hornets owner denounced “ingrained racism and violence toward people of colour” in the U.S. and called for action in a statement posted on his Twitter account on Sunday.
‘POWERFUL’: NBA legend's heartbreaking George Floyd speech
In the statement, Jordan endorsed “peaceful” protests against injustice and demanding accountability, saying the movement needs to create pressure for systemic change. He also expressed solidarity with the family of Floyd and the “countless” others who have experienced racism and injustice.
Notably, the statement omits the word “police” as America’s police officers clash with protesters across the country following the death of Floyd in police custody.
Jordan’s Twitter platform had released another message endorsing activism against racial injustice on Friday, but that was not explicitly attributed to Jordan like Sunday’s statement.
Michael Jordan becomes more open politically
Jordan’s statement might be surprising for those familiar with his “Republicans buy sneakers too” quote that he recently addressed in an episode of ESPN’s “The Last Dance.
Jordan confirmed he said the quote in jest on the Chicago Bulls bus, and said he stood by the apolitical message at the time.
“I do commend Muhammad Ali for standing up for what he believed in,” Jordan said.
“But I never thought of myself as an activist. I thought of myself as a basketball player.”
However, Jordan — the most financially successful athlete in American history and sole former player to own the majority of an NBA franchise — has spoken out on some political topics in recent years.
He released a statement in 2016 denouncing the deaths of African-Americans at the hands law enforcement as well targeted attacks on police officers.
The statement was accompanied by $1 million donations to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defence Fund.
“I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late,” Jordan said in the statement.
“I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent.
“We need to find solutions that ensure people of colour 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.”
Several other past and present NBA players have joined the protests, including former Spurs and Pacers star Stephen Jackson, Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown, and Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon.
I chose to do a peaceful protest that was my choice you do not get to choose for the rest of America
— Jaylen Brown (@FCHWPO) May 31, 2020
Malcolm Brogdon: "I got a grandfather who marched next to Dr. King in the 60's. He was amazing and he would be proud to see us all here."
He added "Jaylen, man, has led this charge. I'm proud of him. We need more leaders." pic.twitter.com/3r3qsojB45
— Chris Grenham (@chrisgrenham) May 31, 2020