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Jordan builds bridges, Bob Johnson goes River Kwai

Mar 22, 2010, 10:39 AM EDT

NBA_jordan.jpgMichael Jordan wrote an open letter to the people of Charlotte Sunday, basically saying “give me a chance.” He talked of commitment to the area, of Carolina roots and passion.

It’s what you say to a city when you are trying to build a bridge. Particularly to the business community — fans in the upper bowl make for a great basketball experience, but NBA teams live and die by suite and executive seat sales, and by sponsorships. That is where the big money is to pay player salaries.

But as fast as Jordan can build a bridge, former owner Bob Johnson comes behind him and blows it up, all the while whistling the theme from Bridge On The River Kwai. Take his comments Saturday, as reported in the Charlotte Observer.

The (Urban Leadership Institute) presented Johnson with an award moments before he spoke, though the crowd’s reaction was mixed after he made his comments.

“Charlotte is a very, how would I call it, close-knit, arrogant, sometimes incestuous town.

“…It’s close-knit, and if you come to this town, and you look like you’re one of those people that might break some glass … it’s going to be tough for them to relate to. The thing that concerns me is that I’m just surprised that the city doesn’t do more for African-American small businesses. And I don’t really understand that.”

Does Johnson really know the Charlotte business community, or Charlotte for that matter? It probably seems like a closed-knit business community to him because it works on a more personal basis — you need to spend time in the city and get to know people before they do business with you. It’s not about breaking glass as much as a trust and a relationship. You know, do little things like buy a house in the city. Or not run your team from Washington D.C. Or becoming seriously involved in local charitable causes. Or showing up to games.

In some markets, that personal touch doesn’t matter much. In others it’s everything. Charlotte is in the latter group and Jordan gets that. He grew up in the area. He wants to build the bridges, if Johnson would stop blowing them up.

  1. Bobcats Fan - Mar 22, 2010 at 12:58 PM

    Bob Johnson has egg on his face. He got the NBA team that he wanted and then hopped on a plane and went home. Charlotte is a proud city with some great people. Mr. Johnson couldn’t win them over with his checkbook. It takes more than that. It takes a commitment to the team and the community.
    What really upsets me is the racial remarks from Bob. He is making Charlotte out as a city who didn’t support the team because he is a black owner. This has NOTHING to do with race. It’s about character and after this remark it seems that Bob has little character. I really despise people who play the race card when things are going their way.
    Hopefully Jordan is sincere with his comments that he plans on building a team with the community. If he stands by his promises then I see Charlotte being a great NBA city again.

  2. DJ - Mar 22, 2010 at 1:17 PM

    Well said Bobcat Fan. Arrogance and wealth does not win over people and/or communities.

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