NBA GOAT Michael Jordan reiterated his stance that he never wanted to speak about politics when he was a player and that his “Republicans buy sneakers” line was “said in jest.”
Appearing on ESPN’s The Last Dance on Sunday, Jordan said that he generally wanted to stay away from taking political stances when he was the NBA’s most notable player. He also said that he did not want to be a role model. He just wanted to play basketball, ESPN noted.
Jordan’s attitude was famously summed up in a line he delivered during the 1990 U.S. Senate race in North Carolina when calls were made for the NBA star to campaign for Harvey Gantt in his 1990 race against Senator Jesse Helms.
During the campaign, Jordan was heard saying, “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” in response to questions of why he would not rise up to oppose Helms. He was attacked by left-wing activists as “cowardly” and was said to somehow support the “deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement” because he would not campaign for Gantt.
But Jordan is again insisting that the “sneakers” comment was an off-the-cuff comment made in jest.
“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,” Jordan said on the ESPN show. “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 added that he thinks highly of Muhammad Ali’s activism, but it wasn’t for him. “But I never thought of myself as an activist. I thought of myself as a basketball player,” he said.
“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,” Jordan added.
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