Better late than never.
For the first time ever, basketball legend Michael Jordan is speaking out about racial tensions in the United States. The 53-year-old former athlete – who has refrained from using his celebrity status to take a public stand on social issues – released a statement on Monday, saying he could “no longer stay silent.”
Jordan’s one-page letter was published on ESPN’s The Undefeated, a new platform dedicated to exploring the intersections of race, sports and culture. He writes: “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.”
The famous athlete’s father, James Jordan, was killed by two robbers at a roadside rest stop in 1993. He continues: “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 will donate $1 million each to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “Although I know these contributions alone are not enough to solve the problem, I hope the resources will help both organizations make a positive difference,” he said.