Photo taken during the NBA Academy Africa court launch and ribbon cutting in Sali, Senegal.
Sports has always been a ticket to wealth for Black athletes but it’s time that they generate wealth for the Black diaspora. The NBA generated $8 billion in revenue last year and NFL teams split up another $8 billion. Ohio State University’s athletic department took in $210 million in revenue last year, alone. Money is flowing in sports and all of it is made on the backs of Black athletes, who hold virtually no ownership stake in any of it. The pie in America is huge but there’s another whole bakery on the continent of Africa and the NBA knows it. It’s time for Black people to own it all, across the diaspora.
The fundamental dynamic between Blacks and whites hasn’t shifted since slavery: Blacks labor and produce for the benefit of whites. Even NBA stars, albeit highly compensated, still labor under that basic construct. Not only is ownership overwhelmingly white, the NBA now has its sights set on Africa. A new, African league was set to launch in March but COVID-19 has delayed that. The African continent has over 1 billion people and they are our brother and sisters. Rather than solely looking to own crumbs here, Black people should be focused on owning in our own homeland, in partnership with our brothers and sister. The growth potential of African sports is far beyond anything we could imagine and yet Black people are allowing the NBA to harvest it.
Mikey Williams is the nation’s top-ranked freshman basketball player. Recently, Williams shook up the recruiting world when he expressed interest in attending an HBCU. Many have dared to imagine what it would look like if top Black recruits in basketball and football attended HBCUs. We need not imagine, however, something famed writer Bill Rhoden made clear in his classic, 40 Million Dollar Slaves. In 1968, Morgan State and Grambling State University packed out Yankee Stadium: it’s possible. Yet PWIs are using Black talent to make millions today, as our Black colleges suffer. Stanford, Duke, Michigan, Texas, Florida State, none of these institutions would harvest the millions that they do, without Black talent and now is the time for Black talent to make money for Black institutions.
Sports has made a number of Black individuals rich but the larger community has not benefited. White owners have passed down franchises to their grandchildren, while Black ballplayers hope to have a few dollars to pay for tuition. It’s time for Black people to own our labor and if it isn’t possible to do so in the States (franchises here routinely sell for billions), we should be looking to own in our own homeland. Stop running from Africa because the NBA certainly is running towards it.