Michael Jordan, known for his career-long record of being apolitical — nearly to the point of avoidance — released a statement Monday on police violence against African-Americans and violence against police.
Jordan's statement was released on ESPN's 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 said. "I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well."
Jordan's statement presents a neutral political stance, but is still a significant deviation from his past statements, or lack thereof, on on civil rights issues.
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 color 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 recognize that for many people of color 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 says he's "making contributions of $1 million each to two organizations, the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund."
In recent weeks, following the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, basketball players on and off the court have come forward to discuss the issue.
The 2016 ESPY Awards opened with four of the NBA's biggest names — LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade — speaking about police violence and the moral imperative for athletes to speak out on the issue.
WNBA players began wearing "Black Lives Matter" shirts during pregames, in violation of league uniform policies, and were initially fined by the league for the protest. Players took the opportunity to continue speaking on police violence, and the WNBA decided to rescind the fines for the protest.