Culture

Michael Jordan Rejects Obama's Criticism, Doubles Down on 'Republicans Buy Sneakers Too' Comment

FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2009 file photo, the famous Nike Michael Jordan image graces the front of the Niketown store in downtown Portland, Ore. Basketball legend Michael Jordan is not leaving the Nike Inc. board of directors and his namesake brand, the Air Jordan sneaker, remains with the sports shoe and apparel company. Jordan has never sat on the Nike board of directors, said Mitch Germann, a spokesman for Jordan Brand, which Nike owns. The false claim, which originated on an online satire site, began circulating widely after Nike’s launch of a new ad campaign featuring former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. (AP Photo/Don Ryan, File)

In a new documentary about his career in Chicago, basketball and sneaker superstar Michael Jordan doubled down on his famous quote from the 1990s: “Republicans buy sneakers too.” The comment came in response to criticism he’d received for not being involved in politics while his basketball career and his sneaker empire reached the mountaintop.

Without getting into political specifics, Jordan explained why he chose not to involve himself in the political world:

I do commend Muhammad Ali for standing up for what he believed in. But I never thought of myself as an activist. I thought of myself as a basketball player.

I wasn’t a politician when I was playing my sport. I was focused on my craft. Was that selfish? Probably. But that was my energy. That’s where my energy was.

Since live sporting events have disappeared due to the Wuhan coronavirus lockdowns, sports viewers and consumers are starved for content. That’s why ESPN decided to accelerate the pace to release The Last Dance, a ten-part documentary on Michael Jordan’s final championship team with the Chicago Bulls. They’ve released two parts every Sunday evening for the past three weeks, with the fifth and sixth episodes airing this past Sunday.

Jordan faced demands on his time throughout his career, and demands that he become more politically involved. The context of the comment about buying sneakers came in the reelection campaign of Republican Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, facing Democratic challenger Harvey Gantt. Jordan even faced questions from his own mom:

I don’t think that statement needs to be corrected because I said it in jest on a bus with Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen. It was thrown off the cuff. My mother asked to do a PSA for Harvey Gantt, and I said, ‘Look, Mom, I’m not speaking out of pocket about someone that I don’t know. But I will send a contribution to support him.’ Which is what I did.

Jordan went on to echo the famous commercial by Charles Barkley in saying he didn’t consider himself a role model.

Former President Barack Obama appeared in the documentary too:

I’ll be honest, when it was reported that Michael said, ‘Republicans buy sneakers, too’ — for somebody who was at that time preparing for a career in civil rights law and knowing what Jesse Helms stood for, you would’ve wanted to see Michael push harder on that. On the other hand, he was still trying to figure out, ‘How am I managing this image that has been created around me, and how do I live up to it?’

Notice that he never acknowledges Jordan’s desire to simply live his life, be a basketball player, and build the largest sneaker empire in the world. Business just doesn’t translate in Obama’s world.

Jordan then ends the segment doubling down on having no desire to live up to what people think he should do with his life:

It’s never going to be enough for everybody, and I know that. I realize that. Because everybody has a preconceived idea for what I should do and what I shouldn’t do. The way I go about my life is I set examples. If it inspires you? Great, I will continue to do that. If it doesn’t? Then maybe I’m not the person you should be following.

There once was a time, long before woke culture and social justice warriors took over, when we could just simply watch a sporting event and engage in commerce without politics dictating who was worthy of support. Seems like a very long time ago.

Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, “Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy,” available now at www.WhoOwnsTheDems.com. Jeff hosts a podcast at anchor.fm/BehindTheCurtain. You can follow him on Twitter @ChargerJeff.

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