After skating in the basketball court, Michael Jordan decided to start the NASCAR car championship. The legend of the NBA became the owner of a stable. Although this environment is still considered very conservative, he recruited black driver Bubba Wallace to gain more diversity.
Six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan is considered one of the best athletes of all time and has decided to invest in a new playground. The basketball legend announced on Monday, September 21, that he became the owner of a very popular NASCAR competition team in the USA.
As a child, the future star of the Chicago Bulls used to go to admire pilots. “When I was little in North Carolina, my parents took my brothers, sisters and me to competitions, and I have always been a NASCAR fan,” he said in a statement.
An emblematic pilot
Michael Jordan thus realizes a childhood dream but also invests a little more in the fight against racism. After announcing in June last year, following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man who was killed during his arrest in Minneapolis, that he would give $ 100 million to an organization that fights inequality in his country, he today chooses to engage more specifically.
With his friend the former driver Denny Hamlin, with whom he associated, they recruited for their new team the only black driver in this championship, Bubba Walace. “Historically, Nascar has always struggled with diversity and there have been few black owners,” the former basketball player described. “The timing seems perfect as Nascar evolves and adapts more and more to social change. In addition to the recent commitment and donations I have made to combat systemic racism, I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open up more opportunities for blacks in racing. .
This car championship is in fact “both in the stands and in the paddocks”, “a predominantly white sport”, as Loïc Pialat, the correspondent for France 24 in California, noted. By choosing Bubba Wallace, Michael Jordan wants to make him a symbol. This 26-year-old driver is known for his convictions. “After George Floyd’s death, he persuaded NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag during the Grand Prix,” explains Loïc Pialat. “It is a flag that we often saw during the competitions. This banner for the slave camp during the Civil War has remained a strong symbol culturally in the southern United States, where Nascar is the most popular.”
This summer, Bubba Wallace was also talked about after the discovery in his garage of a rope in the shape of a string, a symbol of lynchings in the United States. Although the FBI, after investigation, concluded that it was not a racist act, it had received support from the other pilots. Bubba Wallace does not hesitate to show up with a Black Lives Matter t-shirt on the track.
This is a unique once in a lifetime opportunity that I think is right for me right now in my career. I am grateful and humbled that they believe in me and I am super pumped to start this adventure with them.
Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) September 22, 2020
One player became an activist
By recruiting him, Michael Jordan signs a strong commitment while for a long time he was criticized for his lack of conviction. During his long career as a player, the famous number 23 was careful not to show political orientations. In 1990, during the run-up to the US Senate in North Carolina, his home region, some criticized him for not publicly supporting African-American Democrat Harvey Gantt against Republican-elected Jesse Helms, known for his racist positions. At the time, the basketball player, who became a billionaire thanks to his many contracts, including the very lucrative one with Nike, had shared this view to explain his neutrality: “Republicans also buy shoes.”
Since then, Michael Jordan has returned to his words that have haunted him for a long time. “I congratulate Muhammad Ali for defending his conviction,” he was thus motivated in the Netflix documentary dedicated to the Chicago Bulls team and released in 2020. “But I never considered myself an activist. I considered myself a basketball player. I “was not a politician when I played my sport. I focused on my craft. Was it selfish? Probably. But it was my energy. This was where my energy was.”
In recent years, during a period marked by repeated killings of black citizens by white police officers, the legend of the orange balloon has gradually emerged from its silence. “I see and feel pain, outrage and frustration in everyone. I am on the side of those who condemn the rooted racism and violence against people of color in our country. We have had enough (…) All of us must be a part of the solution and we must work together to ensure justice for all, he said in May last year after George Floyd’s death.
A competitor at heart, Michael Jordan also likes a challenge. After owning Charlotte Hornets NBA Club, he intends to shine in NASCAR. “I think Bubba has the potential to become a champion. If I did not believe it, I would not have committed to this.” he told the newspaper Charlotte Observer.