Following their 1991 NBA Championship, the Chicago Bulls didn’t see legendary shooting guard Michael Jordan show up to the White House.
There was much controversy surrounding a topic that was highlighted in one of the two most recently released parts of the documentary series featuring the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls title team, “The Last Dance”. The discussion surrounding the political side of the career of Bulls all-time great shooting guard Michael Jordan, especially during a 1990 senator election in the state of North Carolina.
That political situation that MJ found himself in the spotlight for off-the-court involved the election between republican Jesse Helms and democrat Harvey Gantt. Jordan apparently didn’t back the senator choice that a lot of people wanted him to, and he mostly stayed out of having an opinion in that race from what was showed in The Last Dance.
A different side of Jordan’s political involvements and opinions did show up in a lengthy interview that former Bull and two-time NBA Champion Craig Hodges did with Donald McRae of The Guardian (which was originally published back in April 2017).
In that interview, Hodges talked about his falling out with the likes of Jordan and fellow former Bulls Hall-of-Famer Scottie Pippen. Here’s what that piece had to say on this subject.
"The way in which social media has publicised campaigns such as Black Lives Matter has meant sportsmen can no longer plead ignorance as Jordan and Scottie Pippen once did. When Hodges tried to get his team-mates to read more about black history, Pippen supposedly said: “What do I need education for? I make six figures.”Hodges harbors no animosity towards Pippen or even Jordan. “Michael didn’t speak out largely because he didn’t know what to say – not because he was a bad person.”It should also be pointed out that Jordan chose to snub President Bush’s invitation when the Bulls visited him in 1991. “I’m not going to the White House,” Hodges remembers Jordan saying. “Fuck Bush. I didn’t vote for him.”How does he regard Jordan, 25 years on? “He’s a savvy businessman. I applaud him for that, I don’t hate on that. But he’s gained knowledge through life experience and he has been getting into decent projects. I’m sure he is more conscious now.”"
Following the Bulls first title of the 1990’s, Jordan apparently declined the invitation from the George H. W. Bush White House to celebrate the championship. This is yet another instance of Jordan largely keeping out of the political eye, even if it meant declining a White House invitation.
A piece from Chris Young of Yahoo Sports AU that was released last month went into further detail for why Jordan actually skipped the Bulls White House visit following their NBA Championship in 1991. Here’s what that piece from Yahoo Sports AU had to say on the matter.
"In fact, Jordan was golfing (and gambling) with James ‘Slim’ Bouler, a drug dealer who would eventually be convicted for money laundering.The federal government seized a check from Jordan to Bouler for $57,000. which Jordan originally claimed was for a loan.The Bulls champion later testified in court that the money was for what he had lost gambling on golf with Bouler."
Jordan would counter the original position for why he skipped the White House visit in 1991 in a piece from the New York Times released way back in 1992. Here’s what that piece detailed Jordan saying back in 1992.
"Today, when the defense attorney, James Wyatt, asked Jordan what the $57,000 was for, he responded: “For what I lost on gambling and golf and later in poker when he loaned me some money. I didn’t have any money.”Wyatt asked Jordan if he was obligated to pay Bouler any money at the end of the weekend at Hilton Head, S.C.“I was obligated, but I did not,” Jordan replied. “I paid him at a later date.”During cross-examination, assistant United States Attorney Frank Whitney asked Jordan why he originally described the money as a loan.“It was not represented as a loan at all,” he said. “It was my immediate reaction to the media after a game to save embarrassment and pain, and the connection to gambling.”"
Furthermore, this shines a brighter spotlight back on the gambling that was brought center stage for Jordan back in the early 1990’s, following the Bulls first two titles. He had to continually defend himself amid the off-the-court gambling storylines throughout 1992 and 1993. That would be part of the reason why he would be driven from the NBA and try his hand at baseball later in 1993.
Jordan would make his return to the NBA in 1995. The Bulls would be ousted by Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic in the 1995 playoffs, just as Jordan and Pippen were getting back into the swing of things together. But they would return back to their former glory in the 1996 NBA Finals, when they beat the Seattle SuperSonics to win their fourth NBA Championship of the decade.
The Action Network compiled an interesting list of all the off-the-court gambling storylines and discussions that were associated with Jordan. This is one of the more compelling storylines away from basketball during Jordan’s NBA career. It should continue to at least be part of the focus in th remaining four parts of The Last Dance docuseries.