We all know him as the greatest basketball player of all time. But for the past few years, a persistent rumor continues to haunt his public image.
According to many internet sites, Michael Jordan had invested millions of dollars in private prison stocks. Though not a stranger to intrigues and conspiracy theories himself, this particular news came as a shock to many people of color.
After all, minorities make up most of the country’s prison population. And private prisons are seen as a contributing factor for the mass incarceration problem in the US. Predictably, this earned him a backlash from the African-American community.
But before we start hurling hate words at him, let’s step back and see how true this rumor is. Here’s what we found about the truth behind Michael Jordan’s private prison investment news.
Michael Jordan vs. Michael Jordan
Yes, Michael Jordan did indeed invest in private prison stocks. BUT not the Michael Jordan who’s flying and slamming balls in hoops. It’s the Michael Jordan who works for the Bureau of Environmental Services in Portland, Oregon.
In short, it’s a case of mistaken identity. They are two people from very different backgrounds who just happen to share the same name.
So, who exactly is this other Michael Jordan?
According to the Portland City website, Jordan has a long history of public service in the state of Oregon. He was dubbed as the state’s top administrator and also played a role in the John Kitzhaber scandal. By comparison, he leads a much more private life than his iconic namesake.
How the Rumors Started
The rumor has been circulated a lot these past few years that it’s hard to tell where it really originated. Though in most of the articles, UrbanIntellectuals was named as the source.
In 2014, they published an article about Nike using prison labor to make its shoes. They equate this to a form of modern slavery since prisoners are only paid a pittance. Since Michael Jordan gets a lot of money for Nike’s Air Jordan sneakers, the report alleges that he indirectly invests in prisons.
As with any rumors in the age of digital media, it quickly became a meme. It’s also fueled by the fact that many African-Americans are blaming him for not doing anything for the community.
Even though media personality Tariq Rasheed clarified this in a twitter post in 2016, the memes continue to spread.
Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration
The American Civil Liberties Union disclosed that the US accounts for more than 25% of the world’s prison population. This despite the fact that it only shares 5% of the total global population. It only means one thing: the country has a pressing problem with mass incarceration.
In 2016, an estimated 2.2 million Americans are locked up behind bars. This number continues to increase over the last years. A 2014 Human Rights Watch report suggested that the country’s tougher approach on crimes filled our prisons with mostly nonviolent offenders. Many of them were convicted of a drug offense.
The ever-increasing inmate population led the government to privatize prisons in the 1980s. Under this, the government would pay a private contractor for every person that gets locked up. Enterprising individuals jumped in on the opportunity and built prison spaces. To fill them up, private prison companies lobbied for tougher crime punishment. It resulted in the country’s current version of a justice system.
Under the private prison system, several cases of abuse were reported. Among them are prison labor, expensive jail calls, food shortages, and understaffing. With these, we can understand why the world is hating on Michael Jordan for something that can only be construed as nothing more than fake news.
Helping Inmates and Their Families
Due to the ever-rising rate of mass incarceration and the pitiable conditions in some US prisons, JailAid was founded. We help inmates and their families cope with incarceration.
Our extensive resources of prison services have helped many prisoners make cheap jail calls and families send customized jail mail postcards. We also have an inmate locator you can use to find someone in prison. Our database of prison support groups have also helped families and newly-released prisoners find a local support system to cope with imprisonment.