Michael Jordan is in a better position now as an NBA owner to speak out on social issues than he was as a player.
When Michael Jordan was drafted with the third pick in 1984 NBA draft after the Houston Rockets’ pick of Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon and Portland Trailblazers ill-fated pick of center Sam Bowie; Republican incumbent Ronald Reagan was president and headed to one of the biggest landslides in presidential election history in securing his reelection over Democrat Walter Mondale.
Reagan was the head of the neoconservatism movement, finally ushering into the mainstream principles of once failed presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in the 1960s.
The neoconservatism movement was founded on limited government, traditional Christian values, free trade, and strong foreign policy.
In the previous generation, the conservative movement also brought with it opposition to civil rights and rejection of entitlement programs for people of color, spurring the mass exodus of Southern Democrats who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to join the Republican Party.
Popular television reflected the tradition values espoused by the conservative movement. Family Ties was an 80’s show about two former 60s hippies with 4 children, including a son Alex P. Keaton, who was a young Republican who openly rejected liberal principles.
The term “liberal” became a bad word. It was actually cool to be a conservative.
Crime in urban America also reached a peak boiling point via the crack cocaine epidemic.
What followed were tougher penalties for possession and the beginning of the mass incarceration era of black and brown skin people in America.
So as a largely white middle class thrived during periods of the boom of America’s stock market, the poor and disadvantaged struggled.
Poverty invited violence in neighborhoods.
African-American teenagers gunned one another down over trivial matters, including muggings of teenagers wearing Michael Jordan’s signature shoes.
Nike’s brand catapulted to the stratosphere in the 80’s through the leaping logo of His Airness, and Jordan would elevate shoe marketing to a place unparalleled in American industry.
Not wanting to take a position on matters of social concern, Jordan once uttered “Republicans buy shoes too,” and over the course of his playing career and subsequent retirement, was largely seen as a nonparticipant in American social discourse.
During Michael Jordan’s playing days, professional teams held larger sway over the outcomes of their players as well.
Michael Jordan’s era became one of the athlete who focused on entertaining and building a brand, and not one of being involved in the wider political conversation or risk endorsements or a spot on a professional roster.
The turn of the millennium, 9/11, the resulting badly miscalculated military escalation in Iraq, the Great Recession, the changing demographics of the country, and the rise of the internet and social media greatly shifted the attitudes of the generation before it.
Gone was the status quo of the revolving doors of white men becoming president and conservative values ruling America. A woman in Hillary Clinton and an African-American Barack Obama vied for the presidency, gay rights surged to the American consciousness, the next great generation in the millennial emerged, and Hispanics became the largest group of color.
The country would eventually elect its first African American president.
Soon thereafter LeBron James would usher in The Decision, showing athletes of the current generation could snatch their own power within sports.
LeBron James has been heralded for speaking louder on social issues than the man he hopes to one day supplant as the greatest player in the history of the NBA.
That day is over.
With Michael Jordan speaking out on racial reconciliation over police-related violence and giving $1 million each to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Jordan took the stakes on social issues through his legs, kissed the rim, and flushed past groans about his social involvement through the bottom of the net.
Michael Jordan can get involved now because the political climate is ripe to speak out.
Being a liberal is now okay again. In fact, being whoever you want to be is okay in our niche driven society.
Micheal Jordan can get involved now because he has more power.
Michael Jordan is not going to be fined by other owners of the NBA for doing with is money what he pleases, and he certainly is not going to be forced to sell the Charlotte Hornets for it.
Multiple issues of Jordan’s shoes from when he was still playing 25-30 years ago are still the top selling sneakers in the industry. Michael Jordans are no long just a shoe. It is a brand in and of itself.
Jordan is firmly entrenched financially and within the power structure of professional sports more than ever before and little can be done to knock him off that perch.
When the time finally came to speak, Michael Jordan was not full of air.
Jordan once again came through in the clutch at a time desperately needed by his team.
Exavier B. Pope I, Esq. is an award winning attorney, on air legal analyst, media personality, Fortune 500 speaker, content creator, writer, tastemaker, thought leader, and yogi. Mr. Pope is the host of #SuitUP Podcast and host of the Radical Inspiration Podcast distributed through his production company 528 Media Group. Mr. Pope has over 200+ appearances on air, including: international television on BBC and Al Jazeera English; national television on Fox News Channel, HLN, NBC Nightly News, Al Jazeera America, WGN Morning News, Fox Business Channel, and Huff Post Live; Top 3 Local Media Markets on Fox, CBS, and NBC; international radio on BBC Radio; national radio on ESPN Radio, Clear Channel Radio, NBC Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio; written and contributed digitally to The Hollywood Reporter, CNBC, Huffington Post, Jet, and Black Enterprise; and has appeared in other media outlets nationally and internationally. Mr. Pope is represented by top media and literary agency RLR Associates.
© 2016, Exavier B. Pope I, Esq., 528 Media Group.
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