Michael Jordan and Killer Mike: A Tale of Two Mikes

Recently it was announced that Michael Jordan donated $5 million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Throughout most of his life in the spotlight, MJ has chosen not to speak on controversial issues. 

He has been the target of many critics from the black literati and academia alike for at least 25 years. The pressure that came with being an elite basketball player and marketing wunderkind, in addition to being an American of African decent, was made even more intense by the legacy that Mike was born into.

Born in Brooklyn, NY on February 13, 1963, Michael Jeffrey Jordan grew up in the still radiating glow of activism and community service left in the wake of Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and a multitude of others.

After winning six NBA championships, becoming most people’s choice for best basketball player ever, and the first African American majority owner of an NBA team, the calls for Jordan to do more for improving the conditions of his black countryman have curdled with the bile of criticism that is continually hurled in his direction.

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(Photo Credit: USA Today)

Despite the millions of dollars he has donated to a myriad of charities and organizations over the years, Michael Jordan has become the constant target of disdain for many in the black community. Last month, Mike spoke out  after a rash of police involved shootings of black males, and two retaliatory shootings that resulted in the deaths of eight police officers.

Once upon a time, I was among the peanut gallery hurling dried husks of misunderstanding at the tower upon which his legacy sat. Now I stand in defense of his importance to the Black Diaspora at-large as even his magnanimous $5 million donation to the preserve and promote Black history and culture are being ripped apart by observers who haven’t the slightest inkling of all that he has given and continues to give to help better the lives of the disenfranchised, the physically afflicted and terminally ill.

Some would much rather believe the numbskulled, Internet-based slander claiming Jordan invests in private prisons.

I have written over a dozen pieces extolling the merits of Black athletes speaking out on issues of social justice and societal ills.  Though money was mentioned in some of my earlier work, I’ve come to realize that it can also complicate matters.  It’s not as if Jordan hasn’t done anything for black folks. People just have painfully short memories.

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Rapper Killer Mike took to Instagram to issue a challenge to Michael Jordan and the black buying public. He suggested Air Jordan should place the profits earned from the impending release of his new Olympic shoe into a black-owned bank.

Investing in black banks has been mentioned by some as a way to combat racism and discrimination. The reasoning; white folks with money and influence aren’t going to take black folks seriously unless their pockets are effected. Sort of like an economic boycott. To be certain, there is merit to that thought process. Large banks use the money deposited by customers to offer loan and mortgage products.

However, far too often qualified blacks are denied business loans and mortgages. Thus, black communities fall into disrepair and become void of black-owned businesses because no one seems willing to loan money to black people to open business in black neighborhoods. This creates a paradigm in which it seems every nationality is able to open businesses and invest in black neighborhoods, but black people.

Indeed, the logic behind Killer Mike’s overture towards His Airness on social media is sound, but misplaced, in my opinion.

MJ has donated tens of millions of dollars over the years and is the blueprint upon which players like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul have crafted their respective financial blueprints and business mindsets. James, Anthony and Paul have stepped into the fray to speak out against a multitude of issues afflicting black folks, but none of them would be possible without Michael Jordan paving the way.

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Also, as stated in my previous Black Power Doesn’t Get Any Blacker Than Air Jordan column, Jordan’s legacy as a successful businessman and creator of jobs for thousands of Americans, as well as his willingness to place black executives in positions of power, have been overlooked.

While his intentions appear noble, perhaps Killer Mike would have served his honorable constituency better by taking his financial advice to his contemporaries within the hip-hop community – a community in which selfishness, narcissism and destructive ideas run rampant.  

They’re woefully in need of schooling. Air Jordan is not. Besides, young people are far more likely to fall in line with what a rapper says than a 53-year-old man, even if that man is Michael Jordan. Killer Mike’s own ascension as a pundit and voice for black millennials is testament to that.

Last week One United Bank in Atlanta reported $10 million in new deposits were moved to the bank due in large part to Killer Mike’s campaign. Here’s an Instagram post the bank shared celebrating its rush of popularity

This is absolutely amazing! $10 million has moved to OneUnited Bank in less than a month! Thanks everyone who answered the call to #BankBlack. And the movement has just begun! Take the BankBlack Challenge and encourage your family and friends. #BankBlack#BlackMoneyMatters #OneUnitedBank – www.OneUnited.com

But at the end of the day, whether Jordan chooses to heed Killer Mike’s advice or not, black banks across the nation will ultimately win in the end, and that’s a good thing.  

However, leave MJ out of it.  He’s doing his thing, his way. Not yours.

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