Michael Jordan has backed the protests that have swept the U.S. following the death of Minnesotan George Floyd at the hands of police.
Floyd, an unarmed police suspect, passed away last Monday shortly after police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck. Footage of the incident has sparked protests and civil unrest in Minneapolis and other U.S. cities, and Chauvin is now facing a third-degree murder charge.
Jordan, who has been criticised in the past for failing to comment on political matters, released a rare statement on Sunday condemning police brutality against African-Americans and backing the protesters’ demands for an end to racial injustice and changes to policing methods.
“I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry,” the basketball legend’s statement, posted on Twitter, reads. “I see and feel everyone’s pain, outrage and frustration. I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country. We have had enough.”
The sporting hero explained that he doesn’t “have the answers,” but added: “Our collective voices show strength and the inability to be divided by others. We must listen to each other, show compassion and empathy and never turn our backs on senseless brutality. We need to continue peaceful expressions about injustice and demand accountability.”
He went on to call for Americans to speak with a “unified voice” to “put pressure on our leaders to change our laws, or else we need to use our vote to create systemic change,” before adding that his “heart goes out” to Floyd’s family and “the countless others whose lives have been brutally and senselessly taken through acts of racism and injustice.”
The Chicago Bulls legend, now the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, has often been criticised in the past for his refusal to speak up about political issues and racial injustice. He famously said, “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” after refusing to endorse an African-American Democrat against an incumbent Republican politician with a reputation for racism in a 1990 Senate race.
Jordan has since insisted the comment was made in jest – including in his Netflix documentary The Last Dance.