Former NBA star and owner of the Charlotte Hornets Michael Jordan spoke out Sunday in support of athletes choosing to kneel in protest during the national anthem.
“One of the fundamental rights this country is founded on was freedom of speech, and we have a long tradition of nonviolent, peaceful protest. Those who exercise the right to peacefully express themselves should not be demonized or ostracized,” Jordan said in a statement to the Charlotte Observer.
Jordan’s comments come after President Donald Trump ignited controversy by lambasting sports figures for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racial inequality and injustice.
At a Friday rally in Huntsville, Alabama, Trump called on NFL owners to dismiss players who choose to kneel in protest during the the national anthem and needled Stephen Curry, one of the country’s most popular athletes.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward and fellow NBA star LeBron James quickly came to Curry’s defense after Trump tweeted a rescission of the Golden State Warriors’ invitation to visit the White House.
Over the years, Jordan has famously refused to take stances on anything political until condemning killings of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement in July of 2016.
“At a time of increasing divisiveness and hate in this country, we should be looking for ways to work together and support each other and not create more division,” Jordan continued in his statement. “I support Commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA, its players and all those who wish to exercise their right to free speech.”