MJ and Jesse Helms

When someone like Jesse Helms passes on, I aspire to restraint. De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est. Since I have nothing but ill to say about the man, I’ll keep quiet about him.

What Helms’ death does provide, though, is the opportunity to talk about Michael Jordan’s vexing and from-afar associations with the deceased Republican senator. In 1992 and 1996, Harvey Gantt, the black mayor of Charlotte, ran against Helms for his North Carolina senate seat. Jordan, of course, is a North Carolina native, and during the 1990s he was at the peak of his cultural import. These days, there’s no one to compare him to. Perhaps the cumulative face time of LeBron James and Peyton Manning comes close, but there’s really never been a mass-media phenomenon like Jordan, at least in the sports world.

So a Jordan endorsement could’ve done Gantt a world of electoral good, particularly in North Carolina. But none came. Jordan famously declined to take a side, pleading that, “Republicans buy shoes, too.”

In the main, there’s nothing wrong with an athlete’s choosing to remain above the political fray. As Jordan intimated, it’s often more profitable to concoct as much of a politically neutral image as you can. But Jordan’s complacency in the 1990s did more than spare a segment of his customer base from affront; it helped keep an unreconstructed racist in national office. That’s to his enduring shame.



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5 responses to “MJ and Jesse Helms

  1. Mike Reed

    Probably a tax issue as well, I remember Cedric Maxwell when he was with the Celtics admitting he “made to much scratch to vote for the democratic candidate.” This is closing the door behind you.

    Go MJ

  2. So a black man decline to endorse a Democrat, and we automatically assume that it must be out of greed for more money, and not a matter of ideology. Perhaps MJ had other reasons for not wanting to endorse Gantt. If I were a democrat, I’d make the application that by stereotyping MJ in this way, Dayn himself is exhibiting racism. However, I am not, so I will let his ridiculous blog entry speak for itself.

  3. daynperry


    You’re not reading what I wrote. I’m taking Jordan to task for failing to endorse a black candidate who was running against a virulent racist. I don’t care that Gantt was a Democrat. I’m not a Democrat, and I have no issue with blacks who vote Republican. I do, however, have a problem when a visible black athlete like Jordan doesn’t do his part to unseat a racist anachronism like Helms.

  4. Pingback: Demise of the Activist-Athlete « SPOLITICAL

  5. FQ

    I also think you give too much credit to celebrity endorsements which is what MJ’s endorsement would have been characterized as. Let’s look at Tiger Woods and his complete refusal to participate in politics publicly. If I were a politician, I’d be chomping at the bit for my opponent to receive strong celebrity endorsements. It would provide me ample opportunity to attack.
    In the end, it is the candidate’s responsibility to win the election – based on character and ideas. If you cannot communicate ideas and convince voters to elect you, you don’t deserve to win. Who’s to say that MJ didn’t actively support the candidate financially? This is much more important than a few speaking engagements and public signs of support.

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