“Republicans buy sneakers, too.” When Harvey Gantt ran against Jesse Helms in the race for United States Senator for North Carolina, it was difficult to regard the contest as anything but an obvious symbol. After all, Senator Helms was almost ridiculously infamous for racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic Old South ultra – conservatism, and Gantt was the first African-American to go to Clemson, and the first to be the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina.
It may be difficult to imagine, but at the time, Michael Jordan was a superstar and hero rather than a fading entertainer and corporate whore. His name was worth something to Gantt, who approached him for an endorsement. Jordan’s response? “Republicans buy sneakers, too.”
In a way, it was refreshing honesty. Jordan could have said “I’d rather not become involved in politics” and gone on to push his overpriced sneakers and countless other consumer goods, but he stood up for what he believed in: money. Other people see black and white, but Jordan sees only green.
Jordan’s fame and fortune are far more important to him than any silly attempt to unseat one of the most obviously disgusting figures in politics since Joe McCarthy (well, not exactly “since”; Helms’ was passing out “Wake Up, White People” fliers at about the same time McCarthy was telling Wheeling’s Republican Women’s Club that the State Department was “infested with communists”).
By the way: Gantt lost. Twice. Hindsight being 20/20, we can only speculate that Jordan’s participation would have made a difference (uh, this is the guy who made “Space Jam” a box office success…). We can only speculate that Jordan’s example might have caused today’s players to think with something other than their investment portfolio.
Another by the way: After Helms died, Jordan mumbled something about realizing that there are “more important things than money” and that if Gantt ran again, Jordan would “hit the campaign up with all the Air Jordans and Jordan brand apparel they need. On the house.”
To which Gantt replied: “Tell Michael, thanks, but he can keep his endorsement. Back in the day, great..”
It was unbelievable to most people that Jordan could not see past the financial aspect of this to the bigger picture. There was much more at stake than just a government job. The goal was to replace somebody who shared the sentiment & values of a long forgotten era. There was moral value to the political contest but Jordan failed to see this in a timely fashion. His effort could have made a statement that would have led to a greater good for generations to come instead many more people had to put up with an antiquated system for far, far too long instead.