Michael Jordan donates $2 million to build trust between blacks, police

Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan (left) has donated $2 million to help two agencies “building trust” between African-Americans and police
Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan (left) has donated $2 million to help two agencies “building trust” between African-Americans and police dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan is once again in the news for giving away money, this time in response to the racial unrest between African-Americans and the law enforcement community.

In a lengthy letter published Monday on the The Undefeated website, Jordan said he is giving $1 million each to two organizations that he says are working to build trust between blacks and law enforcement: the Institute for Community-Police Relations, launched in May by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

“I was raised by parents who taught me to love and respect people regardless of their race or background, so I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late,” Jordan is quoted as saying.

“I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent. We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment and that police officers – who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all – are respected and supported.”

He went on to note in the letter that he was “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 also referenced the loss of his own father, James Jordan, “in a senseless act of violence” in 1993, when he was shot during a late-night carjacking along U.S. 74. “I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well,” Jordan wrote in his letter. “Although I know these contributions alone are not enough to solve the problem, I hope the resources will help both organizations make a positive difference.”

A spokesman for the Charlotte Hornets said Monday that the $2 million was a “personal gift” from Michael Jordan to the two agencies and not a donation from the team’s charitable foundation.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund sent out a statement Monday lauding Jordan for helping the organization “restore and ensure trust between communities and law enforcement across the nation.”

“It is an act of true leadership that Mr. Jordan has chosen to use his stature to highlight the importance of this issue to all Americans and by taking a personal stance in support of organizations directly engaged in addressing this crisis in our nation,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the Legal Defense Fund. “This support … will allow us to deepen our engagement on the issue of policing reform at this critical time in our country.”

Jordan has largely kept quiet during the ongoing social unrest associated with several high-profile deaths of African-American suspects at the hands of police. Among those deaths was the 2013 shooting death of black suspect Jonathan Ferrell by Charlotte-Mecklenburg white police Officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick. The case ended last year in a mistrial with the jury deadlocked.

This summer, Jordan and his team have made headlines in Charlotte for investing $500,000 in literacy programs for children in low-income areas and giving $10,000 to help the U.S. Paralympics with expenses for the Paralympic Team Trials held last month in Charlotte.

The Undefeated, a website affiliated with ESPN, said the decision to go public with his statement and donation was made about two weeks ago. But Jordan delayed the announcement after learning that the NBA would relocate the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.