A proposal to name North Carolina’s state cat was purring toward passage. But the measure designating the bobcat as the state feline became entwined in controversy after basketball legend and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan began a dogged campaign to stop it, with the help of the NBA, Carolina Journal has learned.
House Bill 74, Adopt Bobcat As State Cat, passed in early April with little notice by a 107-5 margin. Then the Wilmington native, UNC-Chapel Hill legend, NBA all-time great, and basketball Hall of Famer found out about the bill.
“When I first heard they were thinking about using that name, it brought back some bad memories, sad memories,” Jordan told CJ, shaking his head. “I mean, when I got here, those [clowns] were so sorry I thought old No. 23 might have to unretire and show those [incompetents] how to play.”
Jordan was 47 in 2010 — six years after he retired from playing — when he bought the team from Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson.
Jordan’s frustration with the young organization’s history was so pronounced he pushed to get its name changed to the Hornets, the NBA club that played in Charlotte from 1988-2002 and was adored by the city for much of its tenure. The Hornet franchise name returned to Charlotte in 2014, when the New Orleans Hornets changed its name to the Pelicans.
Charlotte never fully embraced the Bobcats, the expansion franchise that began playing in 2004. The club was plagued by incompetent management and personnel decisions, winning a mere 36 percent of its games and making the playoffs only twice during its decade as the Bobcats — one of those times after Jordan took over.
A source close to Jordan told CJ the Hornets owner, whose fiercely competitive nature and great talent have led many to consider him the greatest hoopster of all time, had to be “talked down off the ledge” when he heard about the state bobcat bill.
“Mike was livid,” the source said. “We called [NBA Commissioner Adam] Silver and asked what we could do. Then Silver reminded us about the whole House Bill 2 mess, and a plan fell into place.”
The league moved the 2017 NBA All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans not long after the General Assembly passed H.B. 2, a controversial 2016 law preventing local governments from enacting nondiscrimination ordinances that are stronger than state laws.
It effectively nixed a Charlotte ordinance that allowed people to use bathrooms, changing rooms, and other public facilities based on their gender identity rather than their biological sex. LGBT activists claimed H.B. 2 discriminated against transgendered people. The NBA, NCAA, Atlantic Coast Conference, and various private and public organizations moved events out of North Carolina while the law was on the books.
Legislation passed in March repealed H.B. 2, and the boycotts began to end. The NBA had discussed holding the 2019 All-Star Game in the Queen City. But when Silver and the owners learned of H.B. 74, they put those discussions on hold, the source said.
“The league wants nothing to do with Bobcats, ever,” he said. “If the legislature picks that cat, the All-Star Game is as good as gone. Forever.”
Jordan suggested the state choose a domestic feline breed for the state cat. “I don’t care what they pick — Persian, Siamese, Abyssinian, Devin Rex, Russian Blue, Scottish Fold — it doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “Even the panther would work. Just no bobcats. No. None.”
Parting Shot is a parody based loosely on events in the news. This parody appeared in the May 2017 print edition of Carolina Journal.