Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Says Michael Jordan Chose ‘Commerce Over Conscience’

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Says Michael Jordan Chose ‘Commerce Over Conscience’
Michael Jordan Jason H. Smith / Flickr cc

Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar doesn’t mince his words. For most of his life, the outspoken icon hasn’t shied away from sharing his strong views on religion, racism, politics and society in general. Since retiring from the game in 1989, he has written several books and has become a regular columnist for Time magazine.


Abdul-Jabbar recently spoke to NCR during a live event in Washington, D.C. When asked if he paid the price for being outspoken, the Laker legend said yes. “But sometimes you can’t pick or choose. 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.”

In 1990, fellow basketball legend Michael Jordan was criticized for not endorsing Harvey Gantt’s Senate campaign. When asked why he would instead endorse Republican Jesse Helms, a candidate infamous for his regressive racial attitude, Jordan simply said, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

Abdul-Jabbar didn’t take too kindly to Jordan’s views. When asked about it, he said, “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 (going to have to) live with it.”

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Jabbar said he was confronted several times for speaking out during his playing career. “When Dr. King was assassinated, within a couple of days I was involved at UCLA.”

“We had a demonstration. … People were telling me, ‘Hey, you’re going to get a chance to play in the NBA and make a lot of money, you shouldn’t be out here protesting like this.”

Who can forget Abdul-Jabbar’s recent skirmish with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump? That was classic Abdul-Jabbar and even more classic Trump.