- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2002

Seen and heard last night at MCI Center:

LIKE WHAT THEY SEE: Senate majority leader Trent Lott might not have anything to say about Robert Johnson becoming the first African-American majority owner of a major sports team, but yesterday in the Washington Wizards locker room, the players clearly and loudly approved.

"I think it's long overdue," Jerry Stackhouse said. "It says a lot about where we've come from as far as having so many black players in the league and to now graduate to having a black owner."

Johnson's group was awarded an NBA franchise, which will begin play in Charlotte for the 2004-05 season. Johnson's organization was selected instead of a group that included NBA legend Larry Bird.

Charles Oakley said that he believed Johnson was awarded the franchise because he came to the table with a better, more prepared group than his counterpart.

"I think that's what the NBA was looking at," Oakley said. "I think they saw a guy who turned a big profit with [Black Entertainment Television]. I think they had to because I know they want to get Bird involved in the NBA again. But I think this is very good for Bob. It's a great opportunity. All we need is a chance, that's all. He's going to get a chance and I know he will do well.

Johnson sat courtside, shaking hands with many well-wishers. At one point, Johnson was joined behind the Wizards bench by Ed Tapscott, the former American University coach and one-time New York Knicks assistant general manager. Tapscott's name has been mentioned among potential candidates for the general manager's job in Charlotte.

BIRTHDAY BOY: Charles Oakley, who has emerged with Jerry Stackhouse and Michael Jordan as the best-dressed players on the roster, received four-dozen roses in the team's locker room. He turned 39 yesterday.

John Mitchell

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