CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Former Charlotte Bobcats owner and billionaire Bob Johnson told a group of mostly black business people Saturday that the Carolinas' largest city has an arrogant business community that doesn't do enough for black-owned businesses.
Johnson's comments were reported by The Charlotte Observer.
"Charlotte is a very, how would I call it, close-knit, arrogant, sometimes incestuous town," Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, told the Urban Leadership Institute after receiving an award from the organization. "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."
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who also spoke at the Saturday event, later told the Observer that the city's attitude toward minority-owned businesses is improving.
"It's becoming increasingly clear that our city's leadership base is broadening," said Foxx, who is black. "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."
Johnson, who did not speak to reporters after making his remarks, said he was surprised there weren't more substantial alliances between larger white-owned businesses and minority-owned businesses. But he also said black business owners have be aggressive in working to improve the climate.
Bob Morgan, president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, would not discuss Johnson's comments, saying "I think Charlotte owes Bob Johnson a debt of gratitude for bringing the NBA back to Charlotte."
Two years ago, Johnson criticized Charlotte's business community for not providing enough support for the NBA expansion team he brought to the city when the Hornets moved to New Orleans.
Some, including members of the City Council, responded to that criticism by saying support for the team lagged because it didn't perform very well and because Johnson was not highly visible during his ownership tenure.
Former NBA star Michael Jordan won approval last week from other team owners for his $275 million purchase of the club from Johnson.