"Republicans buy sneakers, too."
This quote, attributed to Michael Jordan in Sam Smith's 1995 book, The Second Coming, has stuck with Jordan throughout his life as the perfect explanation for why big name athletes like himself don't get involved in political or social issues. Despite the fact that Smith later rescinded the quote, sort of, by saying it was a "joke," or that Jordan did actually contribute to Harvey Gantt's Senate campaign against Jesse Helms that supposedly inspired the quote, it's remained a part of his legacy.
Lately, however, Jordan has been speaking up on social and political issues that affect both his business as a majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets and his life as a minority male in America.
This week, he broke his silence on recent unrest stemming from violent episodes involving police and people of color. In a statement published on The Undefeated July 25, Jordan announced two donations $1 million each to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and spoke of the disgust he's felt seeing instances of police brutality against people of color as well as violence against police.
Jordan's donations were a personal decision, it seems, but as owner of the Hornets he's also been front and center in the resulting fracas caused by the North Carolina legislature's passage of the discriminatory House Bill 2 in March.
Jordan and the Hornets publicly opposed HB2 from the day after it was passed. Weeks ago, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that the 2017 NBA All Star Game would no longer be held in Charlotte, erasing the potential for up to $100 million in revenue for the city and team. As McCrory dug his feet in even further to defend the heionous law, calling the NBA's decision "P.C. BS" on WFAE's Charlotte Talks and joking about bathrooms at a Donald Trump rally, Jordan supported the decision.
"We understand the NBA's decision and the challenges around holding the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte this season," Jordan said in a statement. "There was an exhaustive effort from all parties to keep the event in Charlotte, and we are disappointed we were unable to do so."
The "exhaustive effort" Jordan referred to was the efforts of he and other NBA leaders to convince state lawmakers to repeal HB2. They weren't looking for compromise. When proposed revisions to the law leaked in late June, the Hornets and NBA were quick to release a joint statement that, in effect, said, "Nah, you're going to have to do better than that."
Others who have spoken out against HB2 recently include two of the state's most influential sports figures: Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams, head basketball coaches at Duke University and University of North Carolina, respectively. On July 20, Krzyzewski called the law "embarassing."
With Charlotte's sports leaders refusing to mince words on HB2 — even NASCAR's chairman has spoken out — there continues a deafening silence resonating from Mint Street; Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has not said a word.
At this year's NFL meetings, held in Charlotte in May, commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL opposes HB2, although he seemed to oppose actions similar to the NBA's. "We will continue to fight that. We have a franchise here," he said. "The Carolina Panthers play here, they operate here, and we want to work with the community. We're not going to threaten a community."
It's still unclear what Goodell meant by "fight that," as the league hasn't really done anything yet, but at least he's speaking. Richardson wouldn't comment during the week of the meetings, even as San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York donated $75,000 to Equality NC and called for the repeal of HB2. Richardson has remained mum since.
To be clear, Richardson has done much for the community, on top of founding an NFL team that has since become the most widely beloved team in the Carolinas. However, his willingness to speak from the heart on some issues, as he did regarding domestic violence in 2014, makes his silence now all the more telling.
Richardson's legacy in Charlotte and the Carolinas is pretty well fixed, as shown by the 13-foot statue in front of Bank of America Stadium, unveiled earlier this month on his 80th birthday. Richardson would presumably prefer to ride off into the sunset without commenting on HB2, but to do so would send what message?
That Republicans buy sneakers ... and bigots buy tickets.