Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NBA [Print without images]

Monday, July 19, 2004
Updated: July 20, 8:24 AM ET
Rapper purchases stake in NBA franchise

ESPN.com news services

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Rapper Nelly is a part-owner of the NBA's expansion Charlotte Bobcats.

"This is a great opportunity for both the Bobcats and Nelly," Robert L. Johnson, the team's majority owner and the founder of Black Entertainment Television, said Monday in a news release. "Nelly is a great entertainer and a smart businessman and those two traits will serve us well as we prepare to tipoff our inaugural season this fall."

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Nelly, whose real name is Cornell Haynes Jr., joins an ownership group that includes former NBA player and executive M.L. Carr; Felix Sabates, owner of NASCAR racing teams, and Hugh McColl Jr., former CEO of Bank of America.

"Of the many dreams that I have fulfilled in life, being an NBA owner is certainly one of the biggest achievements," Nelly said in a release issued by the Bobcats. "To be able to make this move with Bob Johnson and to be a part of the first-ever minority owned professional sports franchise in history is a great opportunity.

"Bob and I share the same commitment to diversity and we are both self-made, having worked up from the very bottom to reach where we are today."

Nelly, a three-time Grammy winner, said he also looked forward to learning the business of professional sports and becoming active in the Charlotte community.

Recently, he has been a target of women's groups outraged by what they consider misogynistic images in his videos.

This spring, Nelly canceled an appearance at Spelman College, a black women's college in Atlanta, for a charity event after hearing of plans for a protest of his videos.

In 2002, Nelly released the single "Air Force Ones," the namesake of the Nike shoes that became popular during the 1980s. In 2003, Nike and Nelly released a signature shoe called the "Air Derrty," a limited supply of 1,000 pairs that reportedly sold out within hours.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com sports business writer Darren Rovell was used in this report.