It was surprising to many that Michael Jordan, who has been criticized for years for not speaking out on social issues affecting the African-American community, broke his silence on the social unrest in America yesterday and pledged to donate $2 million to build trust between African-Americans and law enforcement officers. Award-winning columnist Bill Rhoden joined The Jim Rome Show on Tuesday and shared his thoughts on why the Charlotte Hornets owner and global icon decided to speak up now.
“I’m glad that he said what he said, better late than never,” Rhoden said. “In this environment, I think people like LeBron James, most recently Carmelo Anthony, and even Beyonce, I think these young people are really putting a lot of entertainers on front street; they really kind of flushed them out. To say, listen, you’re making a ton of money, money should be liberating, money shouldn’t be enslaving, it shouldn’t make you weak. It shouldn’t make you afraid.”
Rhoden feels like when Anthony, James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Paul took center stage at the ESPY’s with a call for social change, it might have put some pressure on Jordan, but hinted the 6-time world champion’s statement was very calculated.
“I mean everybody is speaking out now, and here you are this zillionaire owner and you mean you’re still kind of going to be scared,” Rhoden said. “Even his statement was kind of playing both sides, that I’m tired of the senseless killings of others, I’m tired of the senseless killings of police, you know, and not to be too cynical, because I could say it’s nice that he said something, but in this environment, it’s almost becoming chic to now speak out, particularly when you know you’re not going to lose any endorsements.
“I think that LeBron showed the way. Listen, they’re not taking your endorsements. In fact, it makes you even bigger. So I think I’m sure Michael probably tested the waters and what are they going to do, they going to take my franchise away? And he could have done the same thing 20 years ago, what were they going to do, except maybe Republicans wouldn’t have bought his sneakers. So I think that Michael has so much muscle, and I do hear from people that ‘behind closed doors’ he’s done certain things, but it was fine.”
Rhoden applauded the work of the generation of younger African-American stars in speaking out for the community.
“I just think that we are in an atmosphere which is good, where a lot of young black athletes, black entertainers are realizing that they are a part and parcel of a community that is under siege in many ways and that they can’t just keep singing the music and shooting the basketball and dribbling without saying something, and saying listen, you can’t look at me as a black athlete and say well, he’s not really black, he’s something, he’s different. He’s saying, no, I’m not different. I shoot the ball, but I’m not different. So I think that’s what’s going on with Michael.
“I guess he finally realized that they are not going to take his team away if he said something.”