NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan is taking heat from another living basketball legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, for choosing “commerce over conscience” when it comes to taking a stand on political and social issues.
The all-time NBA leading scorer made the remarks during a recent NPR interview, which arrives of the heels of his first novel, the Sherlock Holmes-themed “Mycroft Holmes,” and an HBO documentary about his life, called “Kareem: Minority of One.”Jordan, despite being widely hailed as the greatest basketball player of all time, has been criticized for decades for not using his celebrity status more to benefit communities of color. A particularly infamous example was Jordan’s decision in 1990 not to endorse black North Carolina Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Harvey Gantt in a close campaign against the racially polarizing incumbent Jesse Helms. In an oft-disputed quote, Jordan is alleged to have said, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”
“You can’t be afraid of losing shoe sales if you’re worried about your civil and human rights. He took commerce over conscience. It’s unfortunate for him, but he’s gotta live with it,” Abdul-Jabbar told NPR.
Recently, Jordan was also taken to task by ex-NBA star Stephon Marbury for allegedly inflating the price of his iconic Air Jordan sneaker line. In a series of tweets last month, Marbury accused Jordan of being “greedy,” “robbing the hood,” and indirectly inciting violence by making his shoes such a commodity in impoverished black communities.
Earlier this year, Jordan achieved the distinction of joining Forbes’ annual list of billionaires. He is the owner of the Charlotte Hornets and remains one of the most bankable brands in sports endorsements despite having been retired from basketball for over a decade.
Meanwhile, Abdul-Jabbar has established himself as a cultural commentator with a huge following. He has recently drawn the ire of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and called out Dr. Ben Carson, another 2016 contender, for his anti-Muslim rhetoric.
“When something happens, it doesn’t matter if it’s convenient or not – if it’s time to speak up, you have to speak up. You can’t be afraid,” he told NPR.