The Last Dance docuseries has been providing texture to the Chicago Bulls stellar run with Michael Jordan. Last night, episodes 5 & 6 addressed one of the most controversial quotes of his career, “Republicans buy sneakers, too”.
It is very difficult to be critical of Jordan’s athletic play. If anything, Jordan’s only true criticism is that he never took any political stance throughout his public life.
However, he didn’t shy away from the statement, in fact, he affirmed it more. The statement came during the 1990 U.S. Senate race in North Carolina between incumbent Republican Jesse Helms and Democrat challenger Harvey Gantt.
Jordan, a North Carolina native, was asked by his mother to publicly endorse Gantt and Jordan refused. He did, however, admit to donating to Gantt’s campaign without recognition.
“I don’t think that statement needs to be corrected because I said it in jest on a bus with Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen,” Jordan said. “It was thrown off the cuff. My mother asked to do a PSA for Harvey Gantt, and I said, ‘Look, Mom, I’m not speaking out of pocket about someone that I don’t know. But I will send a contribution to support him.’ Which is what I did.”
Jordan is fully aware that athlete-activist like Muhammad Ali and now Colin Kaepernick will never be associated with his legacy.
“I do commend Muhammad Ali for standing up for what he believed in. But I never thought of myself as an activist. I thought of myself as a basketball player.
“I wasn’t a politician when I was playing my sport. I was focused on my craft. Was that selfish? Probably. But that was my energy. That’s where my energy was.”
The President Weighs In
The statement was even touched upon by former President Barack Obama who is a former Illinois politician. Obama provided an honest take on Jordan’s comment, revealing that as a young activist, he wished Jordan had said more on the subject.
However, Obama recognize that it isn’t always that simple.
“I’ll be honest, when it was reported that Michael said, ‘Republicans buy sneakers, too’ — for somebody who was at that time preparing for a career in civil rights law and knowing what Jesse Helms stood for, you would’ve wanted to see Michael push harder on that,” Obama said. “On the other hand, he was still trying to figure out, ‘How am I managing this image that has been created around me, and how do I live up to it?'”
Jordan then doubled down on his position.
“It’s never going to be enough for everybody, and I know that,” he said. “I realize that. Because everybody has a preconceived idea for what I should do and what I shouldn’t do.
“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.”
The Last Dance continues with the next two episodes of the 10-part series next Sunday.