By Mark Vasto

Jordan Has Spoken

It was less than a year ago that Kareem Abdul Jabbar mentioned that Michael Jordan chose “commerce over conscience,” failing to comment on the social issues we face in America.
Welcome to this week’s sports column. It’s time to let the man have his say, which he did on ESPN’s newly dropped website called “The Undefeated” — the famous sport channel’s attempt to address racial matters, presumably in sports.

Wedged between a listicle about Prince and the death of Ms. Cleo (which she surely predicted), we have a statement from his Airness himself.

When you think about sports drinks or really cool sneakers or a guy who can fly and dunk on Bugs Bunny, only one name bubbles to the surface: Michael Jordan … the second greatest player to ever play who did not fight Bruce Lee, through no fault of his own.
When you think about social causes, the second most exposed athlete of all-time — Jordan — remained silent on the issues that mattered.

No longer. Jordan has spoken. Here are his words:
“As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers. I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well.

“I was raised by parents who taught me to love and respect people regardless of their race or background, so I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late. I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent. We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers — who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all — are respected and supported.

“Over the past three decades, I have seen up close the dedication of the law enforcement officers who protect me and my family. I have the greatest respect for their sacrifice and service. I also recognize that for many people of color their experiences with law enforcement have been different than mine. I have decided to speak out in the hope that we can come together as Americans, and through peaceful dialogue and education, achieve constructive change.

“To support that effort, I am making contributions of $1 million each to two organizations, the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The Institute for Community-Police Relations’ policy and oversight work is focused on building trust and promoting best practices in community policing. My donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund will support its ongoing work in support of reforms that will build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement. Although I know these contributions alone are not enough to solve the problem, I hope the resources will help both organizations make a positive difference.

“We are privileged to live in the world’s greatest country — a country that has provided my family and me the greatest of opportunities. The problems we face didn’t happen overnight and they won’t be solved tomorrow, but if we all work together, we can foster greater understanding, positive change and create a more peaceful world for ourselves, our children, our families and our communities.”

Now, can we get back to the game?

Mark Vasto is a veteran sportswriter who lives in New Jersey.

(c) 2016 King Features Synd., Inc.

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