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Michael Jordan Speaks Up For Black Lives And Police Officers

Michael Jordan is condemning violence against both African-Americans and police. His forceful and emotional statement, released by ESPN's The Undefeated, is a marked change for the NBA legend.

Jordan has been famously apolitical during his career — first as a Hall of Fame basketball player for the Chicago Bulls and more recently as an owner of the Charlotte Hornets — avoiding public statements on politics and civil rights, when other athletes have spoken out.

"I can no longer stay silent," Jordan writes. "We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers — who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all — are respected and supported."

The statement comes after the recent police shootings of two African-American men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and two deadly attacks against police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

"I know this country is better than that," Jordan writes.

Jordan says he's making $1 million donations to two organizations, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Institute for Community-Police Relations, which was recently established by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The aim, Jordan writes, is to help "build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement."

The donations come during a period of renewed advocacy and statements about social issues by professional athletes and sports leagues.

Current NBA stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul opened the 2016 ESPYs, earlier this month, by asking professional athletes to speak up on issues of social justice and to help unite communities in the U.S.

WNBA players have spoken out, too, wearing solid black shirts during warm-ups, or shirts with the printed words "#BlackLivesMatter" and "#Dallas5," in reference to the five police officers who were killed in Dallas earlier this month.

Most recently, the NBA announced that it was stripping Charlotte, N.C., of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game because of North Carolina's House Bill 2 — the so-called bathroom bill — which has been called discriminatory against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

In making that announcement, the league stated: "While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2."

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Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.