Fred Whitfield, a close friend of Michael Jordan who serves as president and vice chairperson of the Charlotte Hornets, will join the UNC Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship on Thursday night for a talk about sports, culture and entrepreneurship.
Whitfield is the only African-American chief operations officer in the NBA, and has known Jordan for over 35 years. Before joining Hornets Sport and Entertainment, Whitfield was the director of business and legal affairs for the Jordan Brand, served at the director of player development for Nike, Inc. and established and maintained a law practice in Greensboro.
Bernard Bell, the executive director of the Shuford Program, is a lifelong entrepreneur and childhood friend of Whitfield’s. He said he wanted to bring Whitfield in partly because of his experience negotiating for last week’s NBA All-Star Weekend to remain in Charlotte after the repeal of North Carolina’s House Bill 2 — legislation that required residents to use the bathrooms in public facilities that matched the gender on their birth certificate.
“It was the perfect opportunity for him to speak not only as an entrepreneur, but someone who brings together entrepreneurship and social justice issues,” Bell said. “It’s a great opportunity to have dialogue between sports, culture and entrepreneurship and how they can have a positive impact on the common good.”
Jemal Abdulhadi, a senior international development major with a double minor in entrepreneurship and business, said he was excited to listen to Whitfield because All Star Weekend "was a huge thing for the state and the city.”
“I want to know what it looked like from his perspective,” Abdulhadi said. "I'm excited to see him speak because he's the only Black COO in the NBA."
Emma Hutson, a senior public policy major with a double minor in entrepreneurship and philosophy, politics and economics, said she was excited to hear about how things work behind the scenes of the basketball business.
“We don’t even see what goes on in the business side of things,” Hutson said. "I'm excited to see him because he's a Carolina native."
The second annual Sutton Innovation Lecture will take place from 5 - 6:30 p.m. in the Stone Center Auditorium. The event is hosted by the UNC Shuford Program, an interdisciplinary program in the College of Arts and Sciences that teaches students how to think and act entrepreneurially in “product-design, tech creations and intrapreneurship,” according to the program’s website.
“It offers me a creative outlet because in classes, you’re not only creative in the literal sense, but it’s also a creative mindset,” said Hutson, who is also a Shuford Ambassador.
The program kickstarted in September 2017 with an $18 million gift from the Shuford family to the College of Arts and Science’s entrepreneurship program. The purpose of the program, Bell said, is to equip students from any major throughout the University with the tools to build a business at any point in their lives.
“Because the Shuford Program lives in an interdisciplinary environment, we’re always looking for ways to have diversity of thought,” Bell said. “It’s fundamental to who we are and what entrepreneurship means in our world.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.