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Mitchell: Better late than never, Michael

Michael Jordan is jumping into the debate over policing in communities of color. | AP file photo

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Finally, Michael Jordan is speaking out.

After being criticized for most of his spectacular career for ignoring racial controversies and violence, Jordan is jumping into the debate over policing in communities of color.

That ought to convince naysayers the ongoing tension between police and black people is serious and not some myth made up by the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I have been 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 said in a statement posted on the website theundefeated.com.

“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. I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent.”

The former superstar and owner of the Charlotte Hornets pledged $2 million split between two organizations trying to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the African-American community. The money will go to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

It is ironic that Jordan now emerges as a unifier on this issue.

OPINION

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When young people were killing and getting killed over Nike gym shoes, (the brand Jordan represented) Jordan didn’t come up with anything to try and quell the senseless violence.

Despite constant criticism from media, the superstar kept his mouth shut and amassed a fortune from product endorsements.

And when human-rights groups accused Nike of using Indonesia sweatshops to make shoes that sold for upwards of $100 in the U.S., Jordan sidestepped the controversy.

“I don’t know the complete situation. Why should I? I’m trying to do my job,” Jordan was quoted by the Chicago Tribune.

Like King Solomon, Jordan split his activism down the middle and did not take sides.

Conversely, in 2014, several NBA stars stuck their necks out by wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts in the midst of the public demonstrations over the lack of an indictment in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York.

LeBron James, praised as one of the best players in the league today, has not shied away from controversial racial issues.

“This is our country, the land of the free, and we keep having these incidents happen, innocent victims or whatever the case may be,” James told reporters when he was asked about the protests over police brutality.

It would be wrong to conclude Jordan has done nothing to support African-American youth while he played ball in Chicago.

He founded a Boys & Girls Club and his superstar status gave thousands of young boys something to strive for.

Jordan’s declaration has put him someplace he has never been.

“Over the past three decades I have seen up close the dedication of the law enforcement officers who protect me and my family. I have the greatest respect for their sacrifice and service. I also recognize that for many people of color their experiences with law enforcement have been different than mine. I have decided to speak out in the hope that we can come together as Americans, and through peaceful dialogue and education, achieve constructive change,” he said in a statement.

Maybe because Jordan, who is still much admired by the masses, has been quiet for so long his voice will help us to listen to one another.

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