Donald Trump was watching CNN on Friday night. We know this because he sent a bitter tweet about LeBron James, who was being interviewed by Don Lemon about the NBA superstar’s public school project for at-risk kids in Akron, Ohio. Trump came up during the conversation, and the president responded to his television set with a late-night tweet: “Lebron [sic] James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron [sic] look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”
The “Mike” in question here is not Nikolaos Michaloliakos, founder of Greece’s ethnonationalist Golden Dawn party (though one could be forgiven for making that mistake). Trump was actually referring to Michael Jordan. The six-time NBA champion (and current Charlotte Hornets owner) is famously reticent when it comes to politics, but he issued a statement to NBC News via his spokesperson after being thrust into this particular arena.
This somewhat tepid statement will inspire remembrances of the infamous “Republicans buy sneakers, too” line, but, as Laura Wagner noted in a Slate article two years ago, that quote may be apocryphal, and Jordan himself denies ever saying it. Jordan has been more outwardly and socially conscious in recent years. In 2016, he wrote a piece for The Undefeated about police violence, and he also donated $1 million to both the Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
In 2014, Jordan issued a statement to harshly condemn Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling: “There is no room in the NBA—or anywhere else—for the kind of racism and hatred that Mr. Sterling allegedly expressed. I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country and at the highest levels of our sport.” Despite having this good template to work from, Jordan opted to ignore it on Saturday when dictating his response to Trump’s tweet.
Current NBA players, meanwhile, didn’t hesitate to address Trump directly.
Fresh legs make dunking easier, after all.