NBA icon Michael Jordan speaks out on US gun violence

A woman holds a sign advocating for gun control in San Francisco, California, on June 26, 2016.
A woman holds a sign advocating for gun control in San Francisco, California, on June 26, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - National Basketball Association great Michael Jordan is speaking out on the gun violence heightening racial tensions in America, pledging millions of dollars in pursuit of a solution.

"As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers," Jordan said in a one-page letter released via theundefeated.com, a website backed by ESPN.

"I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well."

Jordan used the letter to announce grants of US$1 million (S$1.3 million) each to two organisations working to improve relations between law enforcement and the communities in which they work, the Institute for Community Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defence Fund.

The first was launched in May by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, while the Legal Defence Fund was originally established in 1940 to work for civil rights as part of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.

"Although I know these contributions alone are not enough to solve the problem, I hope the resources will help both organisations make a positive difference," wrote Jordan, whose father, James Jordan, was shot and killed in 1993 not long after his son led the Chicago Bulls to a third NBA championship.

Throughout his legendary playing career, in which he earned six NBA titles with the Bulls, Jordan was conspicuously silent on social issues.

Now the only African-American majority owner of an NBA club, the Charlotte Hornets, Jordan told The Undefeated: "I can no longer stay silent".