Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan was named one of 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor awarded by a sitting president.
Jordan will be joined by, among others, philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, actor Tom Hanks and retiring Los Angeles Dodgers play-by-play announcer Vin Scully .
As an outgoing president, this is Barack Obama’s final opportunity to select Medal of Freedom recipients. A Chicagoan, Obama was a big fan of Jordan’s when Jordan won six NBA championships with the Bulls.
Criteria for the award is "meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other public or private endeavors."
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Jordan and others have been invited to the White House to receive their medals Nov. 22.
"The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our highest civilian honor. It’s a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have an opportunity to change this country for the better," President Obama said in a prepared statement.
"From scientists, philanthropists and public servants to activists, athletes and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way."
Jordan, who grew up in Wilmington and was an All-America basketball player at UNC, announced in July that he would contribute $1 million each to a community-policing association and an NAACP legal defense fund, in an effort to address police-related shootings and related racial strife.
"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," Jordan wrote in an essay published on the Undefeated website.
"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."
Jordan reiterated those concerns and hopes last month in a short speech at the dedication of a refurbished basketball court at Charlotte’s Latta Park. His comments came after demonstrations in uptown Charlotte in response to the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell