Black Experience

Abdul-Jabbar: Michael Jordan ‘Took Commerce Over Conscience’

Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is taking fellow Hall of Famer Michael Jordan to task for his apathy regarding political and social issues during his playing days.

Abdul-Jabbar, during an interview Friday in D.C. with NPR’s Michel Martin to promote the HBO documentary “Kareem: Minority of One,” was asked about Jordan’s famous refusal to take political stances for fear of alienating consumers — a fear Abdul-Jabbar said is irrelevant when it’s “time to speak up.”

When something happens, it doesn’t matter if it’s convenient or not,” said Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and longtime social activist. “You can’t be afraid of losing shoe sales if you’re worried about your civil and human rights. … [Jordan] took commerce over conscience. It’s unfortunate for him, but he’s gotta live with it.”

For years, Jordan has been widely criticized for failing to use his celebrity status more often to help African-American communities, particularly his unwillingness in 1990 to endorse Harvey Gantt, a black North Carolina Democrat who was in a close Senate race with white incumbent and accused segregationist Jesse Helms. Jordan allegedly said at the time, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

More recently, Jordan — who earlier this year made Forbes’ annual list of the world’s richest people as the first billionaire athlete — was chided by former NBA star Stephon Marbury for the high-priced Air Jordan sneaker line.

Marbury claimed last month in a series of tweets that a “greedy” Jordan is “robbing the hood” and indifferent to the violence and crime in impoverished neighborhoods that have been linked to the shoes.

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