Speaking up for the Michael Jordans out there

Updated
Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan tees off in Lake Tahoe last year.
Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan tees off in Lake Tahoe last year.
AP Photo/Cathleen Allison

In anticipation of the Olympics, we discussed the politics of sports on Sunday’s show. In the conversation, ESPN columnist Jemele Hill remarked on just how difficult it is for the modern athlete to take a political stance. Immediately, my mind went to Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan – as did Melissa’s.

She brought up what could be the Hall of Famer’s most infamous quote, a reported quip uttered when asked why he wasn’t endorsing the African American Democrat, Harvey Gantt, over incumbent (and unrepentant bigot) Jesse Helms in a Senate race in Jordan’s native North Carolina: “Republicans buy shoes, too.”

Another Republican Senator yesterday showed that the GOP doesn’t only buy Jordans. They sell him, too – as a political talking point.

Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, apparently fed up with President Obama talking about middle-class this and middle-class that, on Monday criticized what he saw as mere political rhetoric in one of the more naked, honest displays of Republican economic priorities I’ve seen, well, at least this week:

Declaring that the use of the phrase “middle class” is “misguided and wrong and even dangerous,” Kyl argued in a Senate floor speech that Obama is “spreading economic resentment [that] weakens American values” and ignoring “the uniquely meritocratic basis of our society.”

“We have a president who talks incessantly about class, particularly the middle class,” Kyl said.

So, in essence, don’t talk about the middle class, because I don’t like it – and oh, yeah, class war. All Kyl showed there is that he’s what Mobb Deep might refer to as a “shook one.” Lashing out on the Senate floor like that lends further credence to the belief that the President’s campaign has been at least somewhat successful in his attack on Mitt Romney’s history at Bain Capital, the lack of revealed tax returns, and an economic plan which seems tailor-made to target that middle class Kyl is tired of hearing about. (The current GOP plan doesn’t do any better.)

But Kyl didn’t stop there. Not only did he decry the middle class as a political touchstone, but insisted that said middle class doesn’t exhibit sufficient reverence for those people Republicans normally like to call “job creators.” Kyl had another name for rich people this time:

“When Michael Jordan came, after he established how great he would be, he was given an enormous, almost unheard of salary. Did the other players say, ‘That’s not fair?’ No, actually all the other players got big salary increases, too,” Kyl said. “The whole franchise did well, the people selling popcorn, the people parking the cars … made more money than they ever would have had Michael Jordan never came to the team.”

While the President is a Bulls fan, I’m sure this isn’t the way he’d like to give Michael Jordan some dap. (Kyl also seems to forget that Jordan only got that massive contract in 1997, well after he’d established how great he was on the court.) Having seen family members of mine work at a pro arena, the idea that Kyl thinks his trickle-down theory of NBA economics can apply to the American economy is frightening. Writing in The Raw Story, Amanda Marcotte gave Kyl’s gaffe a sarcastic slow clap, and encouraged Romney himself to adopt Kyl’s odd metaphor. I suspect the Obama campaign would love to see Romney take her advice.

Our discussion about the modern political athlete is below.

Speaking up for the Michael Jordans out there

Updated