NBA Legend Jordan To Donate $100 Million For Racial Justice

In this file photo taken on January 24, 2020 former NBA star and owner of Charlotte Hornets team Michael Jordan looks on as he addresses a press conference ahead of the NBA basketball match between Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Hornets at The AccorHotels Arena in Paris. FRANCK FIFE / AFP
In this file photo taken on January 24, 2020 former NBA star and owner of Charlotte Hornets team Michael Jordan looks on as he addresses a press conference ahead of the NBA basketball match between Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Hornets at The AccorHotels Arena in Paris. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Michael Jordan said Friday he is making a record $100 million donation to groups fighting for racial equality and social justice amid a wave of protests across the United States.

The NBA legend said in a statement his Jordan Brand would distribute the money over 10 years to different organisations in a bid to stamp out “ingrained racism.”

The pledge is believed to be the largest financial contribution to non-profit groups ever made by a figure from the sports world.

“It’s 2020 and our family now includes anyone who aspires to our way of life,” a joint statement from Jordan and his Jordan Brand said.

“Yet as much as things have changed the worst remains the same.

“Black lives matter. This isn’t a controversial statement. Until the ingrained racism that allows our country’s institutions to fail is completely eradicated, we will remain committed to protecting and improving the lives of Black people,” the statement added.

“Today we are announcing that Michael Jordan and Jordan Brand will be donating $100 million over the next 10 years to organisations dedicated to ensuring racial equality, social justice and greater access to education.”

Jordan’s donation comes after a week of unprecedented nationwide protests across the United States following the death of an unarmed black man during an arrest in Minneapolis.

Large scale demonstrations have been held in all 50 states, with protesters demanding an end to police brutality and systemic racism after George Floyd’s death on May 25.

‘Saddened, angry’

Jordan, regarded by many as the greatest player in NBA history with an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion, had already issued a passionate statement decrying Floyd’s killing.

“I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry,” Jordan, 57, said last Sunday. “We have had enough.”

Jordan’s donation and impassioned recent statements followed criticism during his playing career over his reluctance to take a more prominent role in activist causes.

In the recent “The Last Dance” documentary, he addressed his infamous quip that he had steered clear of politics because “Republicans buy sneakers too.”

Jordan said the remark had been a flippant comment made as a joke.

Jordan added that he never saw himself as an activist athlete in the vein of former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali.

“I do commend Muhammad Ali for standing up for what he believed in,” Jordan said. “But I never thought of myself as an activist. I thought of myself as a basketball player.”

Jordan acknowledged that his apolitical stance might be viewed as selfish in some quarters.

“I wasn’t a politician when I was playing my sport. I was focused on my craft,” Jordan said. “Was that selfish? Probably. But that was my energy. That’s where my energy was.”

Jordan said he had instead sought to set an example by his achievements as an athlete.

“The way I go about my life is I set examples. If it inspires you? Great, I will continue to do that. If it doesn’t? Then maybe I’m not the person you should be following.”

America Remembers Martin Luther King Jr, 50 Years On

The Ebenezer Baptist Church choir stands during a moment of silence in the ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination prior to the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals at SunTrust Park on April 4, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. PHOTO: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

Americans on Wednesday marked 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, a day seared into the national consciousness that transformed the civil rights leader into a symbol of the fight for racial equality.

In a country still torn over issues of race and class, demonstrators rallied in Memphis, Tennessee where the pastor and Nobel Peace Prize winner was slain aged 39 on a motel balcony by a white supremacist sniper on April 4, 1968, as well as in Washington where he delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

“When we look at the state of race relations, we’ve made dramatic progress in 50 years — but we’re nowhere near where we need to be,” King’s activist son, Martin Luther King III, told ABC from Memphis, where he was taking part in a symbolic march.

“I think he’d be disappointed with some of the discourse that we see,” said King III, although he added that his father would “be very excited” by today’s activist movements including Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo campaign for women’s rights, and student-led movements against gun violence.

“He would know that we as a nation can, must and will do better.”

Now lionized for his heroic campaigns against racism and segregation, King was a controversial, radical activist who with a mantra of non-violence ardently campaigned against poverty and economic injustice, including what he called the continued “exploitation of the poor,” and US wars abroad.

His January 15 birthday is a national holiday, and a 30-foot (nine-meter) statue in his likeness towers in Washington as a tribute to his life and work.

 ‘Still raw’

On the anniversary’s eve prominent civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson — speaking from Memphis’s Lorraine Motel balcony, where King was gunned down — said “the sore is still raw” from the fatal shooting.

“It’s always a source of pain and anxiety,” said Jackson, who was a member of King’s entourage and was at the motel when he was murdered.

“It happened so suddenly, in the middle of a conversation, on the way to dinner. He’ll always be 39.”

But his legacy, Jackson said, survives in the hearts and actions of demonstrators today wielding flags of racial, social and economic justice.

“You can fight to stop the loop of violence,” Jackson urged those activists. “We are much too blessed to be so violent as a nation.”

King catapulted into the national spotlight by taking the lead on a year-long boycott against racial segregation on local buses.

He is perhaps best known for the “I Have a Dream” speech he delivered to some 250,000 demonstrators on August 28, 1963 as part of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”

One year later he became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner at 35 for his non-violent resistance.

Prior to King’s assassination, which triggered an outpouring of grief and riots in more than 100 cities, he had traveled to Memphis to support sanitation workers striking for better conditions and higher pay.

Elmore Nickleberry, now 86, is today one of the last participants in that strike still on the job.

“The mood was mighty bad when he got killed. People started hollering, started crying,” Nickleberry told AFP.

He recalled that poignant moment of tension and pain, but Nickleberry said it is King’s call for non-violent action that lives on.

“He was a man of marching, he was a man that was non-violent,” the sanitation worker said. “That’s what I remember today.”

‘Promised land’

US President Donald Trump paid homage to the civil rights icon by proclaiming April 4, 2018 a day to honor King.

“It is not government that will achieve Dr. King’s ideals, but rather the people of this great country who will see to it that our Nation represents all that is good and true, and embodies unity, peace, and justice,” Trump said in a statement.

Trump has been sharply criticized for divisive comments targeting Latino and Muslim immigrants, and for refusing to condemn outright a violent white supremacist rally last year that ended in bloodshed.

Several US lawmakers travelled to Memphis for the day-long tribute featuring singing, prayer and speeches.

Laura Richardson, who works for a non-profit group, said she praised the “courage” within King “to go in love, go without violence, and never take a step back, and fight for everyone’s right.”

A crowd gathered at the Lorraine Motel, which has been transformed into the National Civil Rights Museum, while more than 1,000 also marched near a local union headquarters, where King had joined protesting workers on the eve of his assassination.

“I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you,” King prophetically said that night. “But I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the promised land!”

AFP