Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan surprised many, issuing a statement on North Carolina’s HB2, the law that many regard as a a “hate statute,” which allows discrimination against members of the LGBT community.
“As my organization has stated previously,” the statement given to the Charlotte Observer began, “the Charlotte Hornets and Hornets Sports & Entertainment are opposed to discrimination in any form, and we have always sought to provide an inclusive environment.
“As has been the case since the building opened, we will continue to ensure that all fans, players and employees feel welcome while at work or attending NBA games and events in Time Warner Cable Arena.” The Charlotte Observer carried Jordan’s statement April 27.
While the statement was immediately dismissed as “weak” by outlets such as Outsports, comments made by readers on the Observer’s article contained a mix of weak support and the angry voices of those who feel that Jordan has placed his monetary interests over that of “morality.” (As defined by the commenter.)
Followers of Jordan, those who remember his living legend status back in his playing days, and remember exactly where they were when Jordan dropped 63 points in a playoff game against the Boston Celtics, may have been the most surprised that Jordan issued any statement at all.
In his playing days, and even beyond, Jordan refused to say anything that could be regarded as “political.” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once publicly attacked him for putting Nike sales ahead of principle. “You can’t be afraid of losing shoe sales if you’re worried about your civil and human rights,” Abdul-Jabbar said, himself part of a long line of black athletes such as Muhammed Ali, Bill Russell, and Jim Brown, who supported equality and civil rights at a time when doing so made them subject to threats.
Michael Jordan stayed so far out of politics that he refused to take a position in the North Carolina Senate race between avowed segregationist Jesse Helms and Harvey Gantt, a former mayor of Charlotte and an African American Democrat. Gantt approached Jordan for an endorsement, which many would have thought was automatic, given that Helms was a notorious race-baiter. Jordan refused to endorse Gantt, telling a friend that “Republicans buy sneakers too.”
While Jordan’s statement regarding HB2 is simple, and does not seem to suggest a sudden revolutionary outburst, it is noteworthy. It is not clear whether Jordan’s statement was made in order to protect the Hornets’ commercial interests, distancing the team from the politics that are prompting the NBA to pull an upcoming All-Star game, or whether Jordan is making a statement in support of the LGBT community and identifying as an ally. Regardless, it is a rare public revelation of the man’s political thoughts.