Did Michael Jordan Reject $10 Million Nike Deal for ‘Woke’ Reasons

FACT CHECK: Did Michael Jordan Reject $10 Million Nike Deal for ‘Woke’ Reasons

Oct 22, 2023; Homestead, Florida, USA; 23XI Team co-owner Michael Jordan sits atop of the pitbox during the 4EVER 400 presented by Mobil 1 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

NBA great Michael Jordan rarely makes a public appearance or shares his thoughts in public forums. He safeguards his privacy and can often only be spotted on golf courses, exotic vacations, or swanky dinner spots. But on Thursday, news broke on social media about a controversial statement by Jordan. A post on X, formerly known as Twitter, claimed that Jordan had allegedly rejected a $10 million deal from Nike and told the company, “I’m not saving your woke brand.”

The news spread across other social media platforms like wildfire. However, this post claiming Michael Jordan has rejected a $10 million deal from Nike because the company is “woke” is categorically a lie. The brand has neither offered Jordan any new deals recently nor has the retired Bulls superstar made any such statement.

The post is likely misinformation being spread by conservative groups, who are upset about Nike signing TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney to endorse its women’s clothing line. The transgender social media influencer gained fame after chronicling her gender transition.

Nike is no stranger to receiving backlash from right-wing groups. Their support of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick also earned the ire of conservatives. He received criticism for protesting against police brutality in America by kneeling during the pre-game renditions of the national anthem. People argued that Kaepernick was disrespecting the American flag and the soldiers by taking a knee during the national anthem. Despite the backlash, Nike continued their partnership with the quarterback and even featured him in a viral ad after the controversy.

Nike’s support of Kaepernick led to a fringe movement on social media called “#burnyournikes.” People posted videos of lighting their Nike apparel on fire in protest of their support for the quarterback. Nike’s partnership with Mulvaney also led to a similar movement called “#burnyourbras.” Conservative women posted videos of burning their Nike sports bras.

To Nike’s credit, despite all the backlash, Nika has refused to backdown on the groups they support.

Michael Jordan’s long relationship with Nike

Michael Jordan’s history with Nike is well-documented. He was the company’s first basketball superstar and revolutionized the sports apparel business. Nike signed the Bulls rookie to a record-shattering five-year, $2.5 million deal. His mother, Deloris, forced Nike into agreeing to give her son 25% in royalties for every shoe they sold with his likeness.

Nike hoped to sell 100,000 pairs of the Air Jordan 1, the first signature shoe bearing the Bulls superstar’s likeness. However, they shipped 1.5 million units in the first six weeks. Jordan has reportedly earned $1.6 billion from his partnership with Nike since then. The 2023 movie ‘Air’, starring Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Viola Davis, gave a behind-the-scenes look at Nike’s successful effort to land Jordan.

The company’s political stances aren’t Jordan’s concern as long as they don’t affect his pay cheques. The Bulls superstar has never been one to make a political statement. Jordan’s disregard for politics put him in the eye of the storm in 1990. In the North Carolina Senate election that year, African-American candidate Harvey Gantt stood opposite the incumbent Jesse Helms.

Jordan, a North Carolina native, refused to endorse Gantt, despite his mother’s insistence, and instead donated to his campaign. He was overheard jokingly telling his teammates, “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” as the reason for his refusal to endorse Gantt.

Jordan received a lot of flak from the African-American community for the joke. In the 2020 Netflix documentary titled “The Last Dance,” Jordan explained that he refused to do a campaign PSA for Gantt because he did not know the Senate candidate. He added that he wasn’t an activist and focused only on playing basketball.

Jordan made it clear 33 years ago that politics is not his forte, nor is he interested in anyone’s political stance.