The Story That Disappeared From the New York Times Robert Johnson and The Failures of the Bobcats

Updated: February 19, 2007




Robert Johnson is not

the most popular person in

Charlotte, South Carolina

or with Barack Obama

( but that’s another story )

Back in Charlotte the NBA Bobcats the team he owns are a dismal failure if only 3 seasons old. But they already have one of the worst attendance records in the NBA and both problems are being attributed to Johnson himself.

The Big Slam around Charlotte is that Johnson is an “absentee” owner and besides bering physically detached spending most of his time in DC and traveling the world concerned about his many ventures, in addition that he does not give a Damn. That he is cold and aloof in and about Charlotte.

This is the Crux of the case made against Robert Johnson in The New York Times lead story in its business section on Sunday. Or as the Times puts it in its headline below a large photo which Johnson will not complain about.

The headline is another story

” A Media Mogul Tries Remote Control ”


By early Sunday evening the Robert Johnson story had completely DISAPPEARED from the Times Website. Oh you can still do the search function and find it. But the story The Great New York Times decided was the MOST important business story in its MOST important issue of the week Sunday with a circulation fr higher than the rest of the week and popular around the nation on Sunday even in CHARLOTTE HAS DISAPPEARED.

Of course after seeing this Box

unless they put it back but ….

( yes The Times tracks us ! )

If you get your dose of the Times on line you will never ever know that there was a BIG story about Robert Johnson in Sunday’s edition. You decide for yourself. Here is what we think. Robert Johnson has friends in VERY high places like for instance the Clintons and Vernon Jordan, and Times owner Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Times executive editor Bill Keller are members of that exclusive “club” themselves and the Times is well known for bending to Power.

( remember Weapons of Mass Destruction

and Judith Miller’s stories )

Or maybe we are reading too much

into this Story or its Disappearance ?

Maybe Johnson was overjoyed to be criticized again and again in the Sunday Times article and being presented as less than a stellar executive who seems to have very little rapport with the Black community. Or Charlotte.

Well why don’t we just quote

from the now “invisible” article

and you decide ….

” Mr. Johnson is a famously flinty loner. His go-it-alone attitude has done little to soften his image among some here as a person simply looking to milk a Southern boomtown. That image, along with a reluctance to pour more money into the Bobcats, has not endeared him to local fans � helping to undermine his fledgling hoops franchise.”

Later in the article …..

” Mr. Johnson’s attendance at the charity boxing match last month was a good-will gesture toward a city that has rebuffed him by considering him an absentee owner, a carpetbagger of sorts, and labeling the Bobcats as scrubs.”

Now here is where the article turns “black” ….

” While running BET, which he founded in 1980, Mr. Johnson found himself routinely criticized by blacks for showing racy music videos day and night instead of creating original programs with socially uplifting themes. In Mr. Johnson’s pragmatic view, though, music videos were a television executive’s dream: they drew huge audiences and were cheap to put on the air. He reminded naysayers that the �E� in BET stood for �entertainment,� not �education� or �enlightenment.�

�My tombstone will read: �This is the guy who aired rap videos,� � Mr. Johnson says. �But you know how I deal with that? I put it where it belongs, which is in the pretty-much-irrelevant category.�

Followed by ……

” Many blacks lashed out at Mr. Johnson again when he sold BET to Viacom, a mainstream corporate buyer. Mr. Johnson, who has blended a surgeon’s emotional detachment with an accountant’s fixation on the bottom line throughout his career, seems unaffected by those barbs as well. He says he is aware that some consider him miserly and emotionally disengaged, but he shrugs that off as the price of success.”

Then …..

” To continue attracting larger black audiences without huge investments in content, Mr. Johnson began to rely more heavily on music videos. After all, with ad rates substantially lower than those of rivals like MTV or VH1, the notion of creating high-minded original programming was not financially feasible, Mr. Johnson says. But by the early 1990s, gangsta rap music was gaining cultural prominence and its messages were edgier � and more rife with images of sex and violence � than the R&B music that BET had offered earlier. Many adults were offended, but young viewers loved the stuff.”

” Mr. Johnson’s most vocal critic was the young black syndicated cartoonist Aaron McGruder, whose �Boondocks� comic strip ran in 250 newspapers nationwide and focused on a couple of brothers transplanted to the suburbs from their inner-city neighborhood. He routinely lampooned BET.”

Now back to the Bobcats …

�There has been a feeling here that Bob � and he is trying to do better � is this rich dude from Washington, D.C., and comes down and buys a franchise and doesn’t even show up here much, not even for games,� says Felix Sabates, a Charlotte businessman and minority shareholder in the Bobcats. But he expects Mr. Johnson will be successful.”

” Mark Packer, a local radio host, says: �In a city like Charlotte, it is important for fans to see the owner, and we don’t see much of Bob Johnson. But even more than that, the product that he is putting on the floor is an inferior product. Over the two and half years he has had this team, he simply hasn’t spent enough money to put a winner on the floor.�

How about this ….

” The criticism does not end there. Scott Fowler, a columnist at The Charlotte Observer, wrote recently that �thousands of people in our area view the Bobcats with resentment or indifference.�

�These folks wouldn’t go to uptown Charlotte to watch a Bobcats game if someone handed them free tickets and pointed to a limousine to take them there,� he added. That’s a hard knock in a sports town where Mr. Johnson’s polar opposite, Jerry Richardson, the white founder of the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League, ferries his fans around in a golf cart. The owner as average guy touch and the Panthers� success on the field have endeared Mr. Richardson and his team to locals.”

Here is Robert Johnson’s retort …

�The fact is, black people do not have much of a history in creating wealth in this country. As a result, we are not trusted to handle other people’s money,� he says. �We are valued mostly for our physical talent, our artistic talent and maybe our ability to sell to other blacks. But when it comes to building value in companies, or managing the money of whites, overseeing investments, there has always been this discrimination.�

” He shrugs and stabs his crab cake. �But let’s face it, on the other hand, race discrimination gives me a natural public relations advantage. Because of race discrimination, I can get a pat on the back just for being first,� he says. �That’s how I get the visibility, the first mover advantage. That’s what I like � to enter the arena first.�

�Look, the social activist mold that was poured for Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson or Vernon Jordan was not poured for me; the artistic mold that was poured for Oprah Winfrey and Jay-Z was not poured for me, either � that is not the DNA that I got,� Mr. Johnson says. �The mold that was poured for me is the same one that was poured for Ken Chenault, Richard Parsons, Stanley O�Neal. I create wealth and value. That�s what I do, and I’m good at it.�

That is enough you get the Idea

This proved to be a hard hitting article whether you agree with Robert Johnson or not. BUT IF YOU WERE ROBERT JOHNSON you can also understand why he might use his considerable POWER to try and bury the article. As this article notes elsewhere Johnson is the kind of guy who prefers private lunches with Bill Clinton in DC to sitting with fans watching Bobcat games.

If you frequently had lunch in DC’s most exclusive restaurants one on one with a long list of Power Brokers and Masters of the Universe you might decide you would let The Times now what you think of The Story. And try to kill it.

But you don’t have to agree with us

consider it conjecture if you wish

but what is FACT

if you went looking for the LEAD

business story in Sunday’s Times

on line at Sunday evening

( let’s say at 7PM Eastern Standard )

even in the tiniest “headlines” barely

large enough to even read

with a Magnifying Glass at

the very bottom of the page

you would have found


Whenever you want to reach us with comments or better yet an idea for a topic for the Box …….

New York Times Headquarters NOT JOHNSON’S FAVORITE ADDRESS ??