SBD/February 20, 2012/Franchises

Jordan Looking To Make Bobcats Bigger Part Of Charlotte Community

Bobcats today are launching a charity initiative to help rebuild community relations
After eight seasons as a franchise, the Bobcats still “are not considered a part of the fabric of the community” in Charlotte, according to a front-page piece by Mark Price of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan said that it is partly because of the decision by former Owner Robert Johnson in ’08 “to lay off the entire community relations staff.” They were the ones “responsible for coordinating team donations, community service projects and other acts of kindness.” Jordan: "The former owner let things slip." He added that “opportunities were lost in the process.” Charlotte's first NBA franchise, the Hornets, ranked No. 1 in league attendance for several years, and Jordan said, “I want to duplicate that. I want us to be No. 1 in attendance and No. 1 in the community. If we ask people to invest in us, we must invest in them." Johnson in an e-mail said that he is “confident in Jordan's leadership.” The team today is formally launching a charity initiative called Cats Care, where the Bobcats' staff -- including players, coaches and Jordan himself -- will “go from one charity to the next, feeding the homeless and poor families.” A highlight will be the “presentation of a refrigerated truck to Second Harvest Food Bank.” The truck, valued at “$125,000, will be a mobile pantry for the poor in largely rural areas.” Second Harvest Exec Dir Kay Carter said that the Bobcats are “giving the agency an additional $125,000 to buy food.” Bobcats officials said that the presentation “marks the start of what they plan to be annual charity events that focus money, service and publicity on pressing community needs.” The money “comes from both the team and Jordan.” The team “didn't give a specific amount for what it will give out annually to charity, but each year's giveaway will be at least $250,000.” Jordan said that Cats Care “has been nearly two years in the making.” The initiative “intends to highlight” education, wellness and fighting hunger each year, in addition to “lower profile efforts like donating books to libraries or sending players to mentor school kids.” The team has enlisted “sponsor SportSouth as a partner in the truck presentation” today (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/19).

STANDING OUT: WBTV-CBS’ Melissa Hankins reported the Bobcats "are doing much better than their peers” in terms of revenue. Fourteen teams "actually saw a decline in ticket sales, but not the Bobcats," as they are "seeing a spike.” Merchandise sales in the team store are up 31% in part because it now sells Jordan’s ”infamous shoes and Nike brand gear” (WBTV-CBS, 2/17).
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