Recently, celebrity couple Jay-Z and Beyonce–who often traipse around awards ceremonies and other events as if they are the emperor and empress of a nation to which all young rappers and other wannabes are begging for citizenship–were criticized by civil rights leader and entertainer Harry Belafonte for their lack of political involvement. Beyonce’s camp. who is generally mum when criticisms are lobbed at the star, responded in part by publishing a list of her philanthropic efforts, consequently expressing either a lack of comprehension or attempting to conflate philanthropy and political activism to inattentive yet interested parties.
During the same time period, ESPN published LZ Granderson’s article about the “political” Michael Jordan, which discusses Jordan’s reluctance to express any political affiliation during (the prime of) his career. Granderson cites Jordan’s most infamous effort to remain apolitical: His Airness’ “Republican’s buy sneakers, too,” retort when Harvey Gantt’s campaign asked him for an endorsement. Granderson speculates about why Jordan chose to participate in the Obama Classic, a fundraiser for the POTUS’ campaign that featured several current NBA stars and up-and-comers. Granderson considers Jordan’s nearly unshakable wealth, his friendship with NBA commissioner David Stern, who co-hosted the event, or simply regret for that earlier gaffe for Jordan’s recent political “activism.” Although Granderson omits that Jordan’s first political endorsement was in support of the presidential candidate, then-Senator Bill Bradley, a former basketball player, the point is well taken. After all, although the Obama Classic is a fundraiser for the campaign of a basketball crazy Chicago Bulls-loving president, Jordan’s refusal to say anything negative about a blatant racist for the sake of sneaker sales makes nearly any political endeavor seem radical–or does it?