Michael Jordan, the basketball great who faced criticism in the past for his unwillingness to wade into politics, has broken his silence.
In a letter released on ESPN’s The Undefeated on Monday, Jordan calls for better treatment of black Americans by police officers around the country, while also asking Americans to respect the police officers “who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all.”
“I can no longer stay silent,” Jordan writes. “We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers ... are respected and supported.”
Jordan doesn’t mention any specific events by name, but the context is clear. In July, two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were shot and killed by police ― both their deaths filmed and released to the public, sparking public anger and protests. Also this month, police officers were ambushed and killed on multiple occasions ― once in Dallas, Texas, where five officers were killed, and once in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where three were.
“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,” Jordan writes. “I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well.”
Jordan has long been criticized for his unwillingness to use his voice for the greater good. In 2015, fellow NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stated plainly that Jordan has chosen “commerce over conscience.” But on Monday, Jordan made clear he was ready to use both his words and his wallet to help. In the letter, Jordan said he had also decided to donate $1 million to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Institute for Community-Police Relations, and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
“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.”
Head to The Undefeated to read the letter in its entirety.