Jacobin has an essay on the new ESPN Michael Jordan documentary. I haven’t seen it so take no position on its evaluation as a whole. But to be Scrupulously Fair I must note that this point is compelling — nay, unanswerable:
One criticism of MJ that has persisted over the decades is his refusal to endorse North Carolina Democrat Harvey Gantt’s 1990 Senate run against Republican Jesse Helms, the racist incumbent. (Jordan grew up in Wilmington and attended the University of North Carolina.) Jordan’s infamous defense was that “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” Today Jordan says that comment was made off-the-cuff as a joke to teammates. Yet he continues to defend his lack of involvement: “I wasn’t a politician. I was focused on my craft. Was that selfish? Probably. But that was my energy. That’s where my energy was.” Nike, McDonald’s, Gatorade, Hanes, and a host of brands could happily prove Jordan wrong on this claim. He was focused on his craft. But he was also focused on helping companies move more merchandise. That’s also where his energy was.
Of course, The Last Dance doesn’t delve into that.
Indeed. There can be no question that remaining neutral in an election between a moderate liberal and white supremacist reactionary is an absolute disgrace. Now imagine that, hypothetically, this election was not over a single seat in the United States Senate but control of the executive branch of the most powerful nation-state in the world? It would be frankly unforgivable to be so selfish and indifferent about the major impact on the country’s most vulnerable populations that you remain publicly neutral on the liberalism vs. fascism question. And imagine if Jordan had given multiple interviews in which he cherry-picked some vague statements Helms made while ignoring his unambiguous total record to ridiculously claim that his political appeal was based on his Bold Economic Populism rather than race-baiting — that would have been even worse!