Michael Jordan breaks silence on gun violence letter

Michael Jordan breaks silence on gun violence letter. Photo / Getty Images.
Michael Jordan breaks silence on gun violence letter. Photo / Getty Images.

Michael Jordan has traditionally been reluctant to wade into political issues.

After being asked to support black democrat and former Mayor of Charlotte Harvey Gantt's bid to unseat much despised race-baiter Jesse Helms in 1990, Jordan declined, famously telling a friend: "Republicans buy sneakers too."

It's seen the basketball legend turned businessman criticised by other athletes more willing to take up a cause, most notably Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. "You can't be afraid of losing shoe sales if you're worried about your civil and human rights. You can't be worried about that," Abdul-Jabbar said last year. "He took commerce over conscious. That's unfortunate for him, but he's got to live with it."

But "His Airness" has finally found an issue he can no longer stay silent on. The former Chicago Bulls champion has entered the debate on gun violence - and it's an issue close to his heart.

In 1993 - a month after Jordan won his third championship with the Bulls - his father was shot to death while he slept in his car on the side of a highway in North Carolina. It sparked one of the most shocking moves in sports history as the NBA star announced his retirement to pursue baseball - the sport his father had always envisioned him playing.

So Jordan is well-placed to speak out on perhaps the most divisive issue in America, which continues to make headlines after recent tragedies in San Bernardino, Orlando and Dallas.

"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," wrote Jordan, in a letter released to The Undefeated, an ESPN website dedicated to the intersection of race and sports.

"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 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.

"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 recognise that for many people of colour 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 pledged $1 million each to two organisations - the International Association of Chiefs of Police's newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

The donations will help promote best practices for community policing and support reforms that will build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement, respectively.

"We are privileged to live in the world's greatest country - a country that has provided my family and me the greatest of opportunities," Jordan added. "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."

Jordan's statement was positively received by New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who called on all athletes to "step up and take charge" in an emotive Instagram post earlier this month, before issuing a further call to action with fellow stars Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and LeBron James at the ESPYs. "It was brilliant and about time," said Anthony, of Jordan's letter. "He is our face."


-News.com.au

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