Retired basketball player Michael Jordan has long been criticized by some on the Left for his refusal to be a political activist. He probably has had political opinions over the years, but as far as I know he has resolutely kept them to himself.
Yesterday, however, Jordan broke his long silence on racial and political matters with an open letter:
As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, 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 grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well.
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.
Jordan announced that he is making two $1 million contributions, one to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations, and the second to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Jordan concluded on a patriotic note:
We are privileged to live in the world’s greatest country – a country that has provided my family and me the greatest of opportunities. 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.
I am strongly of the view that sports stars and other celebrities have no obligation to inflict their political views on the rest of us, and generally prefer that they refrain from doing so. Thus I have long approved of Jordan’s silence on matters of race and politics. In the present hour, however, both his statement and his actions are admirably well-balanced. In particular, his strong expression of gratitude, as a “proud American,” for the unique opportunities this country has afforded him and his family, along with his appreciation for the law enforcement officers who protect him and his family, are welcome and–in the present climate–perhaps rather courageous.