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Outside the Lines:
Charlotte's Web and Star Treatment


Here's the transcript from Show 111 of weekly Outside The Lines - Charlotte's Web and Star Treatment

SUN., MAY 12, 2002
Host: Bob Ley
Reporter: Mark Schwarz
Guests: Ray Wooldridge, Charlotte Hornets co-owner; Pat McCrory, Charlotte mayor; Larry Bowa, Philadelphia Phillies manager.

ANNOUNCER - May 12, 2002.

BOB LEY, ESPN-Charlotte's Hornets are still alive, but not the hope of another season here. Today could mark their final game in this city.

HORNETS FAN-Thank you, man. I've been coming since I was two years old. I don't want them to leave.

LEY-They are because a city's anger was directed at one man.

MUGGSY BOGUES, FORMER HORNET PLAYER-The people wanted to be part of this team. But they just don't want to support George Shinn.

LEY-Also this week, superstars, much is expected. Is too much given? Are they coached and managed differently?

DUSTY BAKER, SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS MANAGER-The superstars have never been treated the same. I mean never.

ALLEN IVERSON-I was honored with the MVP. The MVP, the best basketball player in the world.

LEY-Today on Outside The Lines, the star treatment. And how one of the NBA's great fan love affairs disintegrated into animosity.

It has been a delicate week for bruised feelings and a week of bizarre moments and images. One of our stories this morning will be capturing that. Well the bruised feelings of superstars were never more vividly illustrated than by Allen Iverson's compelling press conference, revealing not only the fire and the soul of a driven athlete and his fears as well.

We also heard this week from Ken Griffey upset about his treatment from the fans and the media. And ahead this morning, we'll consider how such superstars are managed. But we begin this morning in Charlotte, two hours from the tip of what might be the final Hornets game in that city. Bruised feelings are a cosmic understatement in Charlotte where fans once consistently led the league in attendance.

The Hornets will be moving to New Orleans this fall. But as Mark Schwarz reports, while the Hornets playoff success may be an embarrassment to the NBA, their departure from Charlotte is leaving bitter echoes in a city that takes things personally.

MARK SCHWARZ, ESPN-Finding playoff tickets isn't the problem in Charlotte these days. An arena that seats 24,000 was filled to less than half capacity in Charlotte's Game 3 win against the Nets. Charlotte won the battle with New Jersey Thursday night. But lost the war with New Orleans Friday afternoon.

GEORGE SHINN, HORNET'S MAJORITY OWNER-Today, the NBA Board of Governors approved our application to move to New Orleans.

SCHWARZ - Like Jimmy and Jerry, like the Lakers and Jerry, it appeared to be a match made in Heaven. Charlotte loved its Hornets, who led the NBA in attendance eight times in 11 seasons.

BOGUES- Nine out of the 10 years that I was here, they were sold out every night. I mean you got 24,000 fans screaming each and every night. I mean it was a very joyful embracing moment, you know, during those years.

PAUL SILAS, HORNETS HEAD COACH - You know, George Shinn really was the one that put this city on the map. Before the Hornets came nobody really thought that much of Charlotte.

BOGUES - It seemed like George, what he did, he had this whole town in the palm of his hand. He couldn't do any wrong.

SCHWARZ - So how could a man, once perceived as Charlotte's savior, the owner who delivered this city to the promised land of big time professional sports, fall from grace with such an ugly thud that he is now practically persona non grata in his own arena.

LYNN WHEELER, CHARLOTTE CITY COUNCIL- He came to the games last year. I don't think anyone's seen him this season. But if I were George, I probably wouldn't come either. Because people just have such a bad feeling toward him.

SCHWARZ - In 1997 Shinn was accused of sexual assault by a former female employee. The sordid trial was broadcast by Court TV. The jury found for Shinn, but during the trial, additional accusations of sexual misconduct surfaced and he admitted to an affair with a Hornets' cheerleader. His wife of 27 years divorced him. All this from a man who titled his 1977 autobiography, "Good Morning, Lord."

WHEELER- I think it was embarrassing to this community. I mean this community is a banking community and fairly conservative.

BOGUES- The people wants to be part of this team, but they just don't want to support George Shinn.

SCHWARZ - Fans also blame Shinn for doing little to retain popular players like Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson and for rebuffing Michael Jordan's efforts to buy part of the team. Shinn eventually did sell 35 percent of the Hornets to Ray Wooldridge who now rivals Shinn as this city's most reviled public enemy.

RAY WOOLDRIDGE, HORNETS CO-OWNER- I think any time any situation fails, it meant someone did something wrong, you know. But to say that there are ill feelings about the franchise and it's solely the blame of the owners, I don't mean to be too strong here, but I find that to be absurd.

WHEELER- They hate the owners.

SCHWARZ - Charlotte City Councilwoman Lynn Wheeler says that for seven years she's been devoted to getting a new arena built. She cannot fathom why the city can't separate its feelings for George Shinn from its feeling for the Hornets.

WHEELER- I don't understand this visceral hatred for the owners. And why that should make any difference about whether you attend a game or not, or whether you support the team.

DAVID WESLEY, HORNETS GUARD- I don't see Ray Wooldridge or Shinn out there shooting any baskets. So, you know, when they say they don't come to the games because of the owners, I don't see what sense that makes.

STEVE MARTIN, HORNETS BROADCASTER- It's a convenient excuse, I think. A lot of the owners did make some mistakes along the way. I don't think -- none deserve this.

SCHWARZ - Steve Martin has worked for George Shinn as the voice of the Hornets since they entered the league 14 years ago.

MARTIN - The city pursued a strategy that we were going to replace the owners and we're going to make it personal. And that's amazing for a city who's business acumen is rated right up there. I mean this is a great can do business city. And for everybody to buy into that concept and think that they could separate an owner from the team, un-American at least, and not very smart at best.

SCHWARZ - In New York, Yankees fans have not always loved the boss, but that never diminished their passion for the bombers. But by voting "no" on a new arena last June, and by refusing to support these owners, hoop fans in Charlotte may have successfully performed a dubious operation. They've cut off George Shinn's nose only to spite their civic face.

SHINN- Charlotte would not help us, would not come to our rescue and New Orleans did. So here we are.

SILAS- The cities themselves have to understand that you can't lose your franchises. It's going to be a black mark on Charlotte.

WHEELER- I don't think the people in Charlotte realize how much they're going to miss this team. And I'll tell you when it's going to hit, when they see the Charlotte Hornets become the New Orleans Hornets in October and there are no games to go to. That there's going to be a tremendous feeling of loss. And there's nothing that can be done. It's over.

SCHWARZ - The playoffs have infused Charlotte with one last hoops hoorah including a sell out of sorts. On Thursday, the cheap seats were all gone. Knowing the end is near, the Hornets intended to finish on a high note.

RUSS GRANIK, NBA DEPUTY COMMSSIONER/CEO- Well, I think it would obviously be very uncomfortable for the NBA if we are playing the finals in a city where it's all ready been determined that a team will be relocating.

SCHWARZ - Baron Davis would love to make things very uncomfortable for the NBA while giving Charlotte something to remember.

BARON DAVIS, HORNETS GUARD- It would be a great way to leave. You know, a great way to leave a mark on this city. You know because the city has been good to us. You know, and, you know, to give them something on our way out is definitely, you know, something that they can cherish.

LEY- Joining us now to consider the exit of the Hornets from the city of Charlotte, one of the owners of the team, Ray Wooldridge. He holds a 35 percent interest in the team. He is in Atlanta this morning. Pat McCrory is the fourth term of Mayor of the city of Charlotte; he is in his hometown. Good morning to you both.

Mr. Wooldridge, you're a smart businessman. You said in our story it was absurd that you and George Shinn had been demonized, but how did you allow that to happen. How did you guys become the bad guys?

WOOLDRIDGE- Well I don't know if we allowed it to happen or how we became the bad guys as you refer to it. I don't think it was totally under our control. I think that initially it was just the community focused on the past and the problems rather than the opportunities in the future. And just not successful in getting the message across and bringing up to date the economic of reality of owning an NBA team.

And, you know, making the changes that are necessary in life in all aspects, it's a business. And there was time for a new arena, time for a new partnership and we were not able to get that accomplished with the city.

LEY- But Mayor McCrory you were promising a new arena by the end of the struggle to anybody except the current owners. Explain how that makes good public policy.

PAT MCCRORY, MAYOR, CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA- Well we first had a referendum which failed by about 59 percent. And then after that, we had the private sector agree to underwrite $100 million. And the public sector of the city of Charlotte agreed to help with a new arena without a referendum. But at that point in time, other cities like New Orleans and Louisville and Norfolk, who were all gotten into a bidding war, were putting much more government subsidies on the plate.

LEY- So basically it was anybody except George Shinn could get a good deal out of Charlotte. Isn't that a fair appraisal of where it ended up?

MCCRORY- Well for us, I don't think it was just George Shinn or the ownership, it also became at the end how much economic subsidy of the operating cost can we give to a professional franchise. And there's a limit to how much we can afford, especially during times of recession. I mean right now, many cities throughout the United States are trying to find money to give raises to our firefighters and police officers. And we have to make some tough decisions. So we have to work within the parameters in which our city finances can afford.

LEY- But the city fathers, and you're among them, basically, and I'll use the term again, demonized the owners, did they not.

MCCRORY- Well there were definitely some difficulties with the owners. It's very difficult to try to get a new arena built and public support at a time when you have very wealthy owners constantly asking for more money and more subsidy to pay even wealthier people, when at a time our city budgets are very stretched and very limited. It's a very, very difficult sell.

And it's a sell that's happening in franchises throughout the United States, not just in basketball but in every franchise. Where do you draw the line on how much government subsidy do you give, not just to provide the infrastructure, something we're willing to do in Charlotte, but also provide operating loss money. That is something that New Orleans is willing to do and something we cannot afford to do in Charlotte.

LEY- Mr. Wooldridge, did the city ever understand your economics?

WOOLDRIDGE- No. You know, I respect the Mayor's opinion but I don't think that's an accurate summarization of what happened. In fact, there was a very mutually beneficial agreement negotiated with the city. It was the political leadership who chose to have a referendum that was non binding and not required which I -- the team agreed to pay which cost us approximately $400,000, and the vote was 57 to 43.

So none of that had to happen and the agreement was in its final stages so it was more than that. And I don't think the word subsidy has ever been mentioned. And they would never ask for it. So it's not a question of comparing a city that's willing to take funds out of social programs and other needs. That is not what happened in New Orleans. It is an economic partnership. And that economic partnership could not be defined for Charlotte and there was unwillingness to do it.

LEY- OK. Let's look at, it's something assigned for the balance sheet, and I think Mr. Wooldridge you mentioned this, some of the incidents that have happened in the past, we'll put a graphic up for our viewers. There, of course, was the George Shinn civil trial. The death of Bobby Phills, the murder of Fred Lane and Rae Carruth's murder conviction. Either one of you, this procession of events, how did that hurt pro sports and specifically the Hornets' ability to go to the people of Charlotte and ask for something.

MCCRORY- Well probably...


MCCRORY- Go ahead, Ray.

WOOLDRIDGE- Good, Pat. I mean I simply say, all of these are happenings that, you know, that came along later. And again, not being able to put the problems in the past and look at the opportunities for the future. But again, for this, I do want to reiterate, this in no way should be characterized as the subsidy. The world today requires that the teams become partners with their sponsors with the cities, with the counties, the states. That's what was offered to Charlotte. That's what was refused in the referendum.

LEY- But Mayor ...

WOOLDRIDGE- But the ownership was demonized. And now I think it just has an excuse...

LEY- All right, Mayor, what do these events mean Mayor McCrory to the people of Charlotte in deciding what to do with this team?

MCCRORY- Well we're a very family oriented city. And no doubt some of the personal issues and some of the legal issues of both a few of the players and the ownership had a very negative impact in trying to get fans. And again, we're a city which led the NBA in attendance for eight years. So we feel very strongly and we liked the Hornets.

And by the way the existing team and coach I think are doing a great job and they're representing our community well. But the fact of the matter is we had some examples in the past, including the ownership group that were not representing the city well. And that had a major impact on asking for public money to build a new arena. And we had already had an arena that's only 12 years old. So it's a classic textbook case of a good franchise gone bad in a great city.

LEY- All right, gentlemen, thank you very much, Ray Wooldridge and Mayor Pat McCrory, thanks for joining us this morning.

Next up, the question of a double standard for superstars. Signature players such as Barry Bonds and Allen Iverson, do such players deserve special treatment? Some say absolutely.

JOHN THOMPSON, FORMER GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY HEAD COACH- I can't believe that any last man on any bench in the NBA expects to be treated like a star unless he's an absolute idiot.

LEY- Last spring Allen Iverson was leading his 76ers towards the NBA Finals. This past week Iverson was wearing his heart on his sleeve, anguished over what was expected of him by his ball club. In Cincinnati, Ken Griffey's issue was his treatment in the media including this online caricature on portraying him with a pacifier.

It can be lonely to be "the man," the franchise player. And for their coaches and managers the question becomes whether their handling of these superstars must be as special as the talents of these players. They produce on a different level but are they treated -- should they be coached on a different level.

JACK RAMSAY, FORMER NBA HEAD COACH- Great players aren't treated differently. They are treated with the knowledge that they are the team leaders.

BAKER- Just because you're the best player that doesn't necessarily mean that you're the leader.

LEY- Dusty Baker manages baseball's biggest superstar. And he readily admits to a double standard in care and handling.

DUSTY BAKER, SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS MANAGER - The superstars have never been treated the same. I mean never. Willie Mays wasn't treated the same. Hank Aaron wasn't treated the same. It's really about how -- if the superstar or the stars abuse, you know, whatever extra rights that, you know, that they're granted or that they deserve you know because of what they've done.

LEY- Allen Iverson bared his soul this week after questions resurfaced about his practice habits and a possible trade.

ALLEN IVERSON, 76ERS- I'm going to be criticized automatically. I ain't -- I don't have a choice.

LARRY BROWN, 76ERS HEAD COACH- These kids with great talent are told how special they are from an early age. And they have a hard time, you know, understanding the difference between coaching and criticism.

LEY- Ken Griffey -- his season stalled by injury was quoted as being angry over fan criticism and a poll in the local media.

BOB BOONE, CINCINNATI REDS MANAGER- It's very irritating to me as you can probably tell that you would even try to affect the chemistry of my ball playing.

BAKER- The superstar is really only part of the equation of chemistry. You know, a lot of times he's forced into a role of leadership even though that may not suit him or his personality because he's the best player.

BROWN- When you're the franchise and you're the MVP and the high scorer in the league, if you team doesn't win and move on, who else are you going to blame?

LEY- Superstars are out on the wire carrying outsized expectations for production, the pay that goes with it but the anxiety as well. They may well come to expect special treatment.

THOMPSON- When I played with the Boston Celtics, I was the last man on the bench. I didn't expect to be treated the same way. Bill Russell or I would have thought that Red Auerbach an absolute idiot.

RAMSAY- Special treatment is not good for a team. I tried to treat every player the same and still allow some latitude with the amount of practice time that a player would receive.

BAKER- You know, you can bend the rules, just don't break them.

LEY- Today that's a delicate balance. With superstars younger than ever, money bigger than ever and pressure, more concentrated than ever on coaches who must coach production from a star while keeping team cohesion.

THOMPSON- You cannot just let a superstar, your star salesman, whoever the person may be that's talented, run your organization. Absolutely not, you cannot do that. But you know as well as I do that concessions are made for talented people in the society we live in.

LEY- In his 16 seasons playing in the major leagues, Larry Bowa was a World Series champion with the Phils and also a gold glove shortstop. As the skipper of the Phils, his team right now, doing rather well. They've won seven of their last eight, and he joins us this morning live from the Vet in Philadelphia. Good morning, Larry.

LARRY BOWA - Good morning, Bob. How are you?

LEY- Just fine. Let me pick up where John Thompson left it off. How prevalent is it? And how much do you have to deal with this?

BOWA - Well I think when you have superstar players, I think you have to deal with them accordingly. I've been very lucky in coaching and managing. I've had what I call three blue chip players, Tony Gwynn , A-Rod and Scott Rolen . And believe me, they are the guys that set the example for the younger kids. Their work ethic is second to none.

They know that people are looking at them. And when they approach the game, they approach it 100 percent what they're supposed to do.

LEY- Of course, Allen Iverson took issues public right there in your city of Philadelphia this past week. Your first day of spring training, a lot of press out of the meeting that you had with the team and addressing Scott Rolen. And when things get out into the media how does that complicate it?

BOWA - It complicates it a lot Bob, because especially in a town like Philadelphia. You know, controversy seems to sell newspapers. So, the more controversy they can get -- controversial they can be, the more newspapers they sell.

But a lot of that stuff is really blown out of proportion. I mean the thing with Scott Rolen and myself and spring training we were talking about his free agency. He's earned that right. But to continue to drag it on and drag it on and eventually Scott and I had a meeting and knock on wood, everything's real good here right. And Scott's been a model citizen. He always plays the game the way you're supposed to play it. He goes out there and gives you 100 percent.

LEY- How has it changed in dealing with great players? You played right next to Mike Schmidt for so many years. You played with lefty Steve Carlton, two Hall of Fame players. Now you're coaching a guy like Rolen. How is your handling here in the 21st century with the money bigger, the press bigger, is it different than maybe 20-30 years ago?

BOWA - Oh no question about that. You know, I just -- I like Dusty's comment, you know, you have rules. And there's going to be some great players that might want to bend the rules. And I think you have to give a little leeway when you have a superstar. But I think the bottom line is when they abuse the rules, the other players look at that. And I do agree that you should give the superstar a little leeway but I don't think they should abuse that leeway.

LEY- Were you as transfixed by this Iverson-Brown thing this past year in your hometown as everyone else was around the country?

BOWA - Yeah, because I know Larry Brown very well. And what Larry Brown is actually doing is telling Allen to go out there and just practice the way you're supposed to practice.

It's hard for me to relate there because I can't imagine a baseball player at spring training saying I don't want to go spring training because it doesn't happen here. But basketball obviously is a different sport. And I know Larry Brown is a great coach. Allen Iverson is a great player. It's a situation where they're going to have to get together and iron this thing out because I don't think either one of them are going to leave.

LEY- All right. Listen, continued good luck. I know you lost a tough one in 10 last night but good luck today at the Vet.

BOWA - Thank you very much Bob.

LEY- Larry Bowa with us on Outside The Lines. Next up reaction to last week's story of the remarkable journey of the life of Manute Bol.

Manute Bol lives in Connecticut, a refugee from his native Sudan where he's revered by his people recognized for trying to help them in the midst of the civil war. Last Sunday's story of Bol's struggle sparking a number of e-mails to our inbox. From Philadelphia, "I'm a social worker who works with Sudanese refugees, they look up to Mr. Bol as an inspiration. I found his story fascinating."

From Alton Texas, "Is Kobe a hero? No. Is Shaq a hero? No. Is Tiger a hero? No. Nike should have commercials about Bol. He's a hero. Be like Mike? I want to be like Manute."

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