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Craig Hodges: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson Dismissed Protesting 1991 NBA Finals

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 30, 2020

Former NBA All Star Craig Hodges aims during the NBA All Star basketball three point contest in Orlando, Fla. Friday, Feb. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

In the aftermath of the Rodney King beating, then-Chicago Bulls guard Craig Hodges attempted to organize a protest ahead of Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Finals.

Hoping to garner support for his cause, Hodges went to Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, who both "dismissed" him.

"I knew the answer before I went to them. What's funny to me, is how quick they dismissed it," Hodges told Jasmyn Wimbish of CBS Sports. "Both conversations lasted less than two minutes. Magic was coming on the court the day before the first game, and I asked him about it and he tells me 'It's too extreme.' I already discussed it with Mike in the locker room, and he tells me, 'man, that's wild, man.' So it's not anything I haven't faced before."

Jordan and Johnson spent most of their NBA careers being apolitical, with MJ famously refusing to endorse Harvey Gantt in a heated 1990 North Carolina Senate race against Republican Jesse Helms, who was widely viewed as a racist.

Hodges has said his NBA career ended early because of his criticism of Jordan about not speaking up on social justice causes. The sweet-shooting guard went unsigned after the 1992 season at age 31 before spending the rest of his career overseas.

In March 1991, police officers beat and nearly killed King after a high speed car chase. Four officers were charged with use of excessive force, three of whom were later acquitted, resulting in the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Led by the Milwaukee Bucks, players walked out on games last week after the police shooting of Jacob Blake, covering the same issues of police brutality and discrimination against Black people that led to the King riots. 

Protests are ongoing in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after Blake's shooting. Two protesters were killed and another was wounded in a shooting last week. 

Jordan has become more outspoken on societal issues since the conclusion of his NBA career, including his Jordan Brand pledging $100 million over the next 10 years to social justice causes.