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Michael Jordan: I had tunnel vision on basketball, but now I have more time for bigger issues

Michael Jordan might have never said “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” but there’s a reason that quote stuck with him. He was notoriously apolitical while playing.

But he has become more involved in retirement.

He fundraised for Barack Obama. He spoke up on racial issues. He just opened a medical clinic.

Jordan on TODAY:

When I was playing, my vision and my tunnel vision was my craft. I was a professional basketball player. And I tried to do that the best I could. Now, I have more time to understand things around me, understand causes, understand issues and problems and commit my voice, my financial support to.

What does Jordan think of current players being more socially active?

I think it’s great. If they understand the causes, if they feel their voice matters, great. And I support that.

This comes in the wake of LeBron James – who has been very outspoken on political issues – bowing out of the NBA’s China controversy by saying he’s focused on basketball and not a politician. Considering LeBron’s previous statements on the issue made note of potential financial harm from Daryl Morey’s tweet, it’s difficult to believe LeBron wasn’t focused on the money he could earn in China.

He sounded a lot like Jordan did as a player.

And that’s OK. These athletes shouldn’t be required to wade into every, or even any, political issue. (Criticizing Morey for taking a political stand is another thing.)

But it’s also commendable when they use their platforms for a greater good – like it seems Jordan is doing more often now.