Did the NBA really probe Michael Jordan's activities?
On March 31 commissioner David Stern announced that the NBA had completed a two-week investigation into allegations that Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan had gambled on golf matches and card games, and that "there appears to be no reason for the NBA to take action against Michael."
Questions about Jordan's gambling and his associations were raised when three checks totaling $108,000 were found in the briefcase of Gastonia, N.C., bail bondsman Eddie Dow after he was murdered on Feb. 19 (SCORECARD, March 30). Stephen Gheen, Dow's lawyer, alleged that at least some of that money was payment from Jordan for gambling debts. Jordan has not said what the checks were for. Three months earlier Jordan acknowledged having paid $57,000 to James Bouler, the owner of a golf pro shop in Monroe, N.C., last October. Jordan told The Chicago Tribune that he had lent Bouler the money so that Bouler could build a driving range, but Tom Ashcraft, the U.S. attorney in Charlotte, has told The Charlotte Observer that this money was payment for a gambling debt. Bouler pleaded guilty to selling cocaine in 1986 and is currently under indictment on six counts of money laundering.
Apparently the NBA is satisfied that the questions about Jordan have been answered. But who answered them? As of the time of Stern's announcement, Gheen and Capt. Archie Huffstetler, the officer in charge of the Dow case in Gastonia, both told SI that the NBA hadn't talked to them. James Wyatt, Bouler's attorney, and police interviewed in Monroe said that the NBA hadn't talked to them, either, and Ashcraft would not comment. So whom did the NBA talk to? Michael Jordan. "Michael has advised us that he understands the gravity of the situation and that if he is not more careful about his associations, it can reflect adversely on his fellow players and the entire NBA," Stern said.
After he was exonerated by the league, Jordan said, "My mistake came with the people I was involved with, not really knowing of their associations. A lot of the information I received about the people was very shocking." But on March 29 the Tribune reported that Al Roldan, a Monroe real estate man and sometime golfing partner of Jordan's, stated that Jordan was warned as early as 1989 to stay away from Bouler. On April 1 The Gaston Gazette wrote that Roldan said Jordan was warned about Bouler by Al Wood, who played for North Carolina until 1981—the year before Jordan arrived on campus. When contacted by SI's Michael Jaffe last week, Wood declined to comment.
Roldan told SI last week that Monroe police detective Bobby Haulk had asked him to warn Jordan about Bouler but that he never got the chance. Roldan said Haulk talked to him shortly after he last saw Jordan, which was in late 1989. However, Haulk told SI that it was during Jordan's rookie season (1984-85) or "his second season at the latest" that he asked Roldan to speak with Jordan.
Roldan, too, says that the NBA has never talked to him. So whom, besides Jordan, could the league have possibly talked to? "Our investigation is considered our information," says an NBA spokesman. "We consider that confidential."
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