The desire of cities to throw money at sports teams never makes sense. But in Charlotte, North Carolina, the urge has grown perverse. For months, officials there resisted the pleading of Hornets' owner George Shinn. Shinn claims the city must help him build a new $200 million arena, replete with all-important skyboxes, or his team will remain an also-ran in the National Basketball Association.
The city noted that it was already on the hook for the 10-year-old arena the Hornets currently play in. And besides, officials said, there might be better things to do with the estimated $150 million the city would kick in for a new hoops palace.
But in March came word that Tarheel State native and regional demigod Michael Jordan was looking to buy a chunk of the team from Shinn. The tough line instantly melted away. "With his money and his stature, it's a lot more likely that we can come up with an arena plan that the city and the public will support," the chairman of the city's New Arena Committee told The Charlotte Observer. The committee will make its recommendations on funding a new facility by June 30. So it would seem that Jordan's $500 million net worth, not to mention the $10 billion wealth effect Forbes magazine ascribed to his pitchman efforts, actually make him more deserving of a handout.
Yet if anyone on the planet can raise private money for a development project, His Airness surely can. It is a slam dunk that Jordan could find a way to parlay his fame–and $40 million annual income–into enough private green to build his joint. The choice is stark: imaginative, daring capitalist or welfare recipient. Which one does Mike want to be like?