On Monday, Jordan brought to bear his reputation as a leader, as well his sizable financial resources, pledging a millions of dollars in a bid to decrease tensions between the black community and law enforcement. In an emotional essay published in The Undefeated, he frames the move in starkly personal terms, describing himself as "a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man."
Jordan's father, James Jordan, was killed in 1993 during a carjacking attempt. Two men, Daniel Andre Green and Larry Martin Demery, were subsequently convicted of the crime.
In his essay, Jordan goes on to explain that he feels "deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement, as well as "angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers"—presumably a reference to the high profile killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the massacre of police officers in Dallas, Texas.
Jordan's continues his evenhanded tone, crediting the positive interactions with law enforcement he's had over his years in the public eye with giving him "the greatest respect for their sacrifice and service." But he acknowledges that "for many people of color their experiences with law enforcement have been different than mine." It's a centrist positioning for Jordan, one which both acknowledges injustice, while simultaneously refusing to castigate all police officers as racist.
"I have decided to speak out in the hope that we can come together as Americans," Jordan explains. "and through peaceful dialogue and education, achieve constructive change." To that end, Jordan will donate $1 million to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Institute for Community-Police Relations, and another million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
The Institute for Community-Police Relationships was established in May of this year, and as its name implies, focuses on providing "assistance to U.S. law enforcement agencies looking to enhance community trust by focusing on culture, policies, and practices," according to a release announcing the initiative's creation. The ICPR came about, in part, as a way to address the issues and recommendations raised by White House's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, created by President Obama in late 2014.
The NCAAP Legal Defense Fund—a separate entity from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People since 1957—describes itself as "the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization." In 2014, the group launched a "Race and Policing Reform Campaign" following the death of Eric Garner at the hands of New York City police officers.
In a statement responding to Jordan's million-dollar gift, LDF president Sherrilyn Ifill said:
I am so pleased and honored that Michael Jordan will be making this donation to LDF in support of our policing reform efforts. It is an act of true leadership that Mr. Jordan has chosen to use his stature to highlight the importance of this issue to all Americans and by taking a personal stance in support of organizations directly engaged in addressing this crisis in our nation. We are grateful for this support, which will allow us to deepen our engagement on the issue of policing reform at this critical time in our country.
Jordan's gift comes on the heels of several women's basketball teams facing blowback from the WNBA over statements made by players in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as sympathy for the officers killed in Dallas. After initially imposing fines against the teams in question, the WNBA eventually backed off their decision, with league president tweeting her support for the players.
Jordan's donation also comes just over a week after four other prominent NBA players called for athletes to speak up about racial injustice in the United States during the opening of this year's ESPY awards.
Despite Jordan's significant donation to both organizations, he remained realistic about what the gesture could accomplish, writing, "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."
In concluding his essay, Jordan ended on an optimistic 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
Jordan recently made headlines for lending his voice to another civil rights cause: Opposition to North Carolina's HB2 bathroom bill. In April, Jordan, a co-owner of the Charlotte Hornets, declared that the Hornets "are opposed to discrimination in any form."