CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan has a distinct role in NBA labor relations: translator and bridge-builder.
Since at least 2018, Jordan has served as chairman of the NBA’s labor relations committee. Though the Hornets aren’t part of the playoffs, Jordan was included in the conference call planned Thursday afternoon between players and owners to work out a return to play.
The NBA specifically mentioned Jordan’s presence in a news release, saying the league hopes to resume playoff games Friday or Saturday, following a video conference. The league postponed three playoff games Thursday, after the Milwaukee Bucks and later other teams declined to play Wednesday afternoon.
Commissioner Adam Silver highly values Jordan’s credibility with the players, as a five-time NBA Most Valuable Player. Silver spoke about that, in response to a Charlotte Observer question, at summer league in 2018.
“There’s no doubt that so many players look up to him. Many in our current class of superstars look across the table and think, ‘That’s where I want to be one day,’” Silver said.
Jordan “brings unique credibility to the table when we’re having discussions (with the players). And even just among the owners, he’s able to represent a player point of view,” Silver noted.
The Bucks refusing to play Wednesday was an effort at social change. It resulted in a dialogue with Wisconsin government officials, regarding the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
The players want further dialogue with NBA owners about actions that can be taken to address issues, such as voter suppression and police violence.
Jordan and his Nike subdivision, Jordan Brand, have pledged $100 million over the next 10 years to initiatives to address what Jordan calls “ingrained racism.” The first of those grants were directed at voting rights. Spectrum Center, which the Hornets manage, will be used as an early-voting polling place.
In a media availability before the 2019 All-Star Game was in Charlotte, Jordan was asked about his role as a labor-relations “translator” between NBA owners and players.
“I pull on both sides to try to communicate to both sides,” Jordan said. “Those are tough conversations to have because emotions get involved sometimes.”
Rick Bonnell is a writer for the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer.