An Explanation For Michael Jordan’s Quiet Support of Black America
Reported by Robert Stitt
ESPN columnist Scoop Jackson wrote, “with the recent increase in superstar/celebrity social and political awareness surrounding everything #BLACKLIVESMATTER and beyond — LeBron James’ Instragram [sic] and Twitter posts lending his voice to issues ranging from the deaths of Trayvon Martin to the non-indictment of officer Darren Wilson; Derrick Rose first stepping on the court wearing an “I CAN’T BREATHE” shirt during pregame warm-ups; NFL players entering the field in unison with their hands up — the doors (once again) have opened up for Michael Jordan’s name to be the subject of apathy in the face of modern civil rights.”
Scoop notes that in all of the Fortune 500-listed companies that have existed there have only been 15 black executives who have been a chairman or CEO. Only six of those executives are still active. No Fortune 500 company has a majority black ownership. And it’s not just big business, it’s sports as well. Of 30 NBA basketball teams, 27 do not have a person of color in a top executive position, and of the six black NBA execs, three are in Charlotte. Michael Jordan is the CEO and owner of the Charlotte Hornets.
Michael Jordan is not just the first black player to become a principal/majority owner, he is the first former player of any color to attain this position. His staff is diverse. African-Americans hold more executive positions in his club than in any other sports team. Larry Miller, president of Nike’s Jordan Brand said, “Michael’s willingness to hire, support and promote minority leaders throughout his business ventures has been remarkable. He has always been focused on creating successful and sustainable businesses and has empowered minority leaders, including myself, with the opportunity to grow and advance those businesses.”
And yet, despite all that Michael Jordan has done and continues to do in order to advance people of color in the business world, he faces criticism for “not being black enough.” ESPN notes that “Jordan has had more black people employed and upwardly moving through a $2.5 billion shoe brand for years. And now he’s carrying that same process over to franchise ownership.”
Critics point out that he has not used his fame and power to push for social change in areas that he could have made a difference. Scoop Jackson puts it this way, “Jordan [took] verbal and physical stands against teammates, opponents and management, but never publicly [said] anything about, say, the racial uprisings surrounding the Rodney King verdict or speaking out on any racial disparity and injustice.”
In the end, it comes down to your perception of “being black.” Is there only one way to be black? Is a black man leading change from the inside just as valid as black celebrities [who] stand up and scream and really behind certain causes?
C. Keith Harrison, associate professor in the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program at the University of Central Florida put it like this, “We can debate does Michael need to join in and speak out more or is it more important for him to navigate the corporate structure and create opportunities for other minorities through the power and influence he does have?”
Let’s remember that it is always easy to point a finger and criticize what others are doing. It is much harder when you are the one in the spotlight. ESPN summed it up like this, “when the workforce created is consciously diversified by race and gender. When there is no quota to be met or tokens to be hired and only supremely qualified people of color are given opportunities in places and positions that have historically been unavailable, unattainable and where we have been unjustly shunned. When there is no one white to answer to…no one is necessarily saying that Jordan is change, but in ‘Jordan, Inc.’ he has shown how the other side of civil rights gets served.”
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