Ex-Bobcats owner blasts Charlotte
Johnson calls the city's business community 'arrogant,' 'incestuous' in dealings with minorities.
Days after selling the Charlotte Bobcats, Bob Johnson called Charlotte's business community "arrogant" and "incestuous" and said the city doesn't do enough for existing and potential minority-owned business.
Johnson, a self-made billionaire who started the Black Entertainment Television cable network and brought the Bobcats to Charlotte, made the remarks Saturday at the Urban Leadership Institute, a gathering of mostly black business people.
The group 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."
But Mayor Anthony Foxx said later that the city's business climate toward minorities is improving.
"It's becoming increasingly clear that our city's leadership base is broadening,"Foxx said. "What used to be a small group of people leading a large population is now becoming a larger group of people leading even a larger population. Just by nature of the fact that there are more voices at the table. I think you'll see a lot of opportunities emerge."
Johnson has criticized Charlotte's business community before. Two years ago, in an interview with the Observer, he said Charlotte's business community wasn't doing enough to support the expansion team.
"I am absolutely concerned," Johnson told the Observer in April 2008. "I am doing everything I can to make this team work, including writing a lot of checks."
But some people in the community, including members of the City Council, have said he was not visible enough during his tenure as Bobcats owner. Support for the team lagged, the council members said, because of its poor record.
Johnson didn't speak with reporters after his remarks.
"I am surprised at the number of people ... that come to me looking for financial backing that they haven't been able to find in the business community," he said. "I'm surprised that there aren't more substantial alliances between larger white businesses and minority-owned businesses."
He said the owners of No Grease, a group of barber shops owned by the head of the Urban Business Network, had a well-run business and a good plan for growth, but weren't able to find funding.
He added that the onus to improve the climate was also on the black community. "I think what is needed is a little bit more aggressiveness on the part of the African-American community."
Foxx, who spoke to the crowd shortly before Johnson, cited a commission that is examining small business opportunities in Charlotte as evidence of progress.
"I haven't been in every meeting or every social situation or every board table that Bob Johnson's been to, so I can't speak to his experience, only he can," said Foxx. "I can't refute what someone else believes other than to state what I believe, and what I believe is this: this city is more than capable of being an embracing place for minority business owners."
Bob Morgan, president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, said he did not want to talk about Johnson's comments, saying only that "I think Charlotte owes Bob Johnson a debt of gratitude for bringing the NBA back to Charlotte."
Gotta love the divisive remarks. People I know haven't jumped on the Bobcats bandwagon for a number of reasons, none of which was because the owner was a minority.
1. Mostly it has been because the team's piss poor record. They haven't completed a winning season yet (they might this year finally)
2. Lots of folks I know didn't think the team name and logo was fitting for a Charlotte NBA team.
Bobcats? The logo looks like a boy scout badge. (not that there is anything wrong with that, but it didn't really fit as a NBA franchise).
3. I've also heard the stadium is terribly designed. The seating is cramped feeling...
Mr. Johnson... you didn't 'get' Charlotte. Don't blame your failure as an owner on bullsh!t charges of race relations.
Hopefully Michael Jordan will get this franchise turned around.
Edited by blackcatgrowl, 25 March 2010 - 11:03 AM.