Michael Jordan has issued a statement in response to the rising tide of police officer-involved shootings. He writes via The Undefeated: "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, a co-owner of the Charlotte Hornets, also announced two donations of $1 million each to both the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Institute for Community-Police Relations, a new division launched in May by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Jordan writes in his letter that "The Institute for Community-Police Relations’ policy and oversight work is focused on building trust and promoting best practices in community policing." Similarly, he hopes his NAACP donation "will support its ongoing work in support of reforms that will build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement."
This announcement is a marked shift for Jordan, who has long been criticized for what some perceive as a rejection of using his substantial platform to advance social or charitable causes. In a November 2015 interview with NPR, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar addressed Jordan's relative silence on the issues. "You can't be afraid of losing shoe sales if you're worried about your civil and human rights. [Jordan] took commerce over conscience. It's unfortunate for him, but he's gotta live with it."
In response, Ron Harper, Jordan's former teammate on the Chicago Bulls, defended him in an interview with TMZ. "Some of the stuff he do may not get on TV on camera like some other athletes like to portray themselves as, conscientious Americans, but my boy MJ... he knows what he's doing in life. Michael Jordan is caring."
On Sunday, the WNBA announced that it would rescind fines issued to players who repeatedly wore shirts with slogans supporting Black Lives Matter and the five Dallas police officers who were murdered at a July 9 rally.