In 1990, during the height of Michael Jordan’s career, when he was arguably the most influential sports icon since Muhammad Ali, he was asked to take a stand against Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, a strident conservative who was seeking reelection and who was actively opposed to making Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday.
Harvey Gantt, a Black Democrat and former mayor of Charlotte, was attempting to unseat Helms and asked M.J. to help lend a voice to his efforts. Jordan reportedly refused.
LZ Granderson wrote in an ESPN article that Jordan told a friend he refused to speak out because “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”
Because of his choice to protect his bottom line by remaining silent on issues that plague the Black community, Jordan will never be revered quite in the same way that Jim Brown, Bill Russell and, of course, Ali are, despite all that he has accomplished and given back.