LOS ANGELES: 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.
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.”
Meanwhile, NBA players have requested further negotiations with league chiefs before signing off on plans to resume the season in Florida next month, a statement said on Friday.
The National Basketball Players Association said its board of player representatives had approved a fresh round of talks with the NBA on its 22-team return to play scenario.
“Various details remain to be negotiated and the acceptance of the scenario would still require that all parties reach agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play,” the NBPA said in a statement following a conference call involving player representatives.
ESPN reported that players had agreed in principle to the 22-team restart plan but needed to iron out the fine details.
The NBA’s board of governors on Thursday gave the green light to a plan to restart the coronavirus-interrupted season at Disney World in Orlando, Florida on July 31.
Under the NBA’s proposals, all teams will be based at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando to minimize the threat of COVID-19. Games will be played without spectators.
Playoffs would take place in August, with the NBA Finals set to be completed by October 12.
The league has also penciled in a provisional December 1 start date for the 2020-2021 season.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver cautioned on Thursday that the restart plan was still in its early stages. “We are in the equivalent of the first inning. We’ve got a long ways to go here,” Silver said. “We have always been looking for a safe way to resume, knowing we are going to be living with this virus for a while.”
The NBA suspended its season on March 11 as the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, leaving professional sport in North America at a standstill.
Under the restart proposal, 16 teams occupying the playoff berths in the Western and Eastern Conferences will be joined by six more teams to determine the final playoff line-up. —AFP