Michael Jordan in Nascar, as obvious?
Former basketball superstar Michael Jordan (left) plans to start a NASCAR team with Bubba Wallace (right) as pilot.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP & Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY - Editing / RFI
Text by: Loïc Pialat Follow
Child of North Carolina, the birthplace of the NASCAR, Michael Jordan will launch his team next year.
The ex-basketball superstar will be the first black owner in nearly 50 years in a motorsport he loves but wants to change the image of.
It takes less than ten minutes on foot to reach the Hall of Fame from the hall of the Charlotte Hornets, the North American Basketball League (NBA) team owned by Michael Jordan.
A proximity that helps to understand (a little) why the best basketball player of all time decided to invest in a motorsport so associated with the southern United States.
Because the hero of Chicago comes from the south, too.
He grew up in North Carolina, the cradle of the discipline.
When he announced on September 21, 2020, to the almost general amazement, that he was launching his own team, he had to recall that he was "a
fan of Nascar all his life
When he was a kid, his father often took the family to watch these cars spinning on oval circuits with a roar of hell.
Who knew this photo seen on Twitter in recent days?
A young “GM”, still in North Carolina, smiles alongside pilot Richard Petty, the other local legend.
And who remembers the Michael Jordan Motorsports team entered in the AMA Superbike championship between 2004 and 2013?
The one nicknamed "His Airness" does not land in sport alone.
His friend Denny Hamlin - incidentally one of the best current NASCAR pilots - accompanies him.
They have known each other for 15 years.
Hamlin has his habits at the edge of the floor of the Hornets and he counts the brand Jordan Brand among his sponsors.
The two men did not choose just anyone to drive their team's only car.
This summer, one pilot was talked about more than all the others.
, 26, convinced NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at the Grand Prix.
The only black pilot on the set was logically
not very comfortable with the banner of the slave camp
during the Civil War, still very visible in the stands of Nascar, composed of 75% white spectators (according to a study from the Associated Press).
This is a unique opportunity, which only comes once in a lifetime,
” said Wallace, congratulated on Twitter by Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton.
Here is thus the only black pilot of the field in the service of the first black owner since Wendell Scott in the years 1970. “
Historically, the Nascar had difficulty with the diversity
”, recognizes Michael Jordan.
The timing seemed perfect to me.
Nascar evolves and embraces more and more social changes.
I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and provide new opportunities for blacks in auto racing
Less than a year ago, however, interviewed on NBC before a race, the ex-number 23 of the Chicago Bulls confided not to have any ambition in the sport.
I already have a lot to do.
I prefer to stay on my sofa and follow it all from afar,
”he said casually.
But since then, from Minneapolis to Louisville via Portland, the streets have forced American society to face its racism.
The specter of failure
The specter of failure
After the death of George Floyd, Jordan spoke of his “
” and his “
”, assuring: “
It is a turning point.
We must take a stand.
He who has been criticized for the phrase "
Republicans buy sneakers too
" and more generally,
for keeping away from the struggles of African Americans
, has woken up.
In early June, he took out the wallet by pledging to donate $ 100 million of his personal fortune (estimated by
at $ 1.6 billion) to associations working for social justice.
At the end of August, he played a key role in discussions between players and owners during the boycott in the NBA.
Michael Jordan speaks more than he ever did,
” said Stephen A. Smith, ESPN featured reporter, “
We live in a time when staying silent is neither smart nor wise.
You are on the wrong side of the story.
Especially when you have so much influence and power
Too happy with the media impact to come, the NASCAR welcomes it in any case with open arms.
We proudly welcome Michael Jordan to the family,
” the statement said.
It's huge and I am excited for all the players involved,
" said Jimmie Johnson, one of the stars of the championship.
Me, I do not care
", relativizes Al Hamlin, occasional follower of the NASCAR, rather specialist in the NBA.
Obviously, he doesn't know how to run a franchise.
Watch the Hornets.
It's a fair publicity stunt
, ”he adds, referring to the continuing mediocrity of Charlotte with Jordan at the head (3 finals played in 11 seasons).
We will have to wait a little longer to find out the name of the team and get an idea of the means at its disposal.
But the presence of Jordan and Wallace should attract sponsors, including those that the image of Nascar had so far repelled.
As for the number of the car, hard not to think of 23. "
It is Bubba who will decide
", however promised "MJ" to the
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