Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Just Do Something

So, I've never liked Jordan.
He blew smoke in my face when I met him around 1992. And 6 year old Josh wasn't that happy with it. And, as you might be able to guess, I still haven't let it go.
But it's not like he's given me reasons to like him after our encounter.

While wanting to be "like Mike" certainly means something on the court, what does it mean when he goes out of bounds into real life? Gambling, golf, baseball, promoting shoes? Will Jordan ever speak out about something meaningful?

I could have missed something, but it doesn't seem likely.

Here's a great article from ESPN about his inactivity with anything that doesn't deal with shoes.

Excerpt below:

His Airness has always held a precarious place in my heart. My admiration for his passionate play is constantly at battle with my frustration for his apparent lack of passion for anything that doesn't benefit him.

When I think of the large cultural space he occupies -- even in retirement -- and the fact "Republicans buy sneakers too" remains his most memorable contribution to the political landscape, I am truly baffled that he can rest peacefully at night. I don't care if he's a Republican, Democrat or Libertarian. But while his iconic Nike labelmate, Lance Armstrong, has become synonymous with yellow wristbands and the cancer fight, MJ, who is far more influential, continues to steadfastly sidestep using his image for social change, even as it relates to issues of the global black community.

Silence about AIDS in Africa.

Silence during the Hurricane Katrina aftermath.

Silence in the fight against, well, just about anything.

Except slumping shoe sales.

Now some of you are thinking, "Haven't I read this criticism of Jordan before?" to which I say, "Yes, you probably have." Others are wondering, "Why does he have to do anything?" Let me answer that one too: He doesn't.

Nevertheless I bring this challenge up today because, one, the NBA is welcoming a new collection of young men with the potential to do great things, and two, I feel the black community needs a powerful voice such as Michael Jordan's now more than ever.


Anonymous said...

No offense, but what is so remarkable about MJ? He can put a ball in a hoop and invest his money into profitable business ventures that his advisors pitch to him. While it's very sad that a Black man of such financial means is mum about important issues, I don't really expect much from black millionaires who made their money through ball playing and rapping...

Ashley F. said...

In the book, $40 million dollar slaves, the author, the NY Times sports columninst, William Rhoden, gets at MJ for these very reasons. We are right in expecting him to do something for the community, because he has profited so heavily from it (even I have a pair of Jordans).
There is a legacy of black social uplift which he has very sadly eschewed himself from.

Anonymous said...

I heavily disagree with Prethina's comment. MJ is without a doubt a cultural icon. And if one traces back through American history, it is undeniable the contributions black athletes and entertainers have made to the fight for black liberation. Look no further than Paul Robeson, who was one of the greatest football players of all time who receives no pubilicity in modern day sports talk (for obvious reasons) for his valiant and successful efforts around the world. Or even a Muhammad Ali, or Joe Louis.

The list is endless. Sure, MJ is not a PhD from Harvard or lawyer from Yale; but in today's world, those ball players and rappers have more influence than any nerd in a science lab ever could. It's so because of the revenue they generate. MJ makes money for a lot of people. He has created his own space and summarily has chosen not use it for anything non-self serving. But to suggest that black athletes and rappers are not to be expected to contribute to a greater social good not only shows a lack of knowledge of black history but also demonstrates varying levels of expectations across class and working lines.

Camille said...

Also, it was in direct contrast to way overpriced Air Jordan's that Stephon Marbury his line of $15 basketball shoes. They look really good, so I'm waiting to see if what's cool can finally also be what's affordable (got my fingers crossed).

Also, no kids are gonna get jumped for their $15 Starburys the way I remember kids in Chicago constantly getting mugged for their Jordans, Starter jackets, etc.

I think Pretinha's comment was more pessimism than letting athletes off the hook, and if so I agree. Black athletes & rappers have a lot of potential to be great role models, but very few take that small risk of doing so. It's so much easier for them to get a mansion in a place as far removed from their original community as possible (i.e. MJ in Deerfield, IL, or 50 Cent in Greenwich, CT). But where else do role models for black kids come from?

Camille said...

Not to mention, also, that Nike is one of the most exploitative corporations that Michael Jordan could have chosen to sign with. I guess No Sweat doesn't have the same clout in recruiting ballplayers.

Anonymous said...

but my point was that this desensitized, apolitical athlete is a recent development. to be certain, there were black horse jockeys in the 1800's who did not necessarily champion a cause for change. but if you look back through american history, esp in the 20th century, the contributions atheletes and entertainers have made is immense, and we as 80's and 90's babies can not be so short-sighted as to not recognize this.

as great as MJ was/is, Ali was just as dominant in his sport. Same goes for Robeson. But neither let their athletic prowess blind them to struggles for people of color. that is something bore to this generation of pro athletes, all of whom have developed the jordan-like mindset of distancing themselves from any controversy for the sake of endorsements and contracts. Corportate America must take some of this blame, as sixty years ago pro athletes did not make more money from endorsements than they did from their actual sports.

Again, this is a recent phenomenon, and we can not accept modern day athletes' apolitical stance as the norm or as an expectation. To do so would discount years of struggle and sacrifice past athletes have made and, more tragically, continue a precedent corporate america set in motion more than twenty years ago. Get out there, dribble that ball, jump over yonder, bleed, sweat, cry, smile, don't cover up the emblem, and most importantly stay out of anything which would shed light on the hypocrisy of this nation.

Anonymous said...

Camille is right. My comment was more so pessimistic than anything else. Not too sure/knowledgeable about past Black athletes being politic, however, like I said before, I think there are bigger battles to fight about and I'd rather more notable/accomplished Blacks, i.e. Stan O'Neal of Merrill, Oprah, etc, making political statements, than an athlete or a rapper. They need to go sit down somewhere with their ball playing, scandal loving selves.

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