Unsportsmanlike conduct: The exploitation of Black athletes
An action plan for success
Everett Glenn with Minnesota Vikings Coach Leslie Frazier.
(As a sports agent, Attorney Everett Glenn has negotiated contracts for some of the biggest names in sports, including NFL Hall of Famers Jerry Rice, Richard Dent and Reggie White as well as 11 first round draft picks. He has also had a front-row seat observing how Black athletes and the Black community are exploited, enriching others while leaving the community and, ultimately, the athletes themselves destitute. Sports are a $500 billion per year industry, but few of those dollars return to the African-American community. According to Sports Illustrated, by the time former NFL players have been retired for two years, nearly 80 percent of them “have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.” Within five years of retirement, approximately 60 percent of former NBA players are broke. After more than three decades of looking at this tragedy on the collegiate and professional level, Attorney Glenn pulls back the cover on these practices in a three-part series for the NNPA News Service and, more importantly, outlines what can be done to halt the wholesale exploitation and initiate economic reciprocity.)
WASHINGTON, D.C. (NNPA) – A description of Rice University’s stand-alone major in sports management describes the enormity of the sports business: “Experts conservatively estimate the sport industry at $500 billion a year, making it one of the top 10 industries in the nation.”
Touting its sports management program, George Washington University in the District of Columbia observes: “No single aspect of our culture receives as much media attention nor has the power to bring people together as sport.”
It is clear from above that universities are following the money in hopes of their students getting a larger slice of it and, along the way, praying that alumni will not forget their alma mater when they write checks to charity.
However, as we’ve seen in Part I and Part II of this series, Black athletes are primarily fueling this money-machine at the collegiate and professional levels, yet African-Americans are excluded from everything from getting in on construction contracts, agent representation, media advertising and accounting to financial planning.
This must change.
In its TV commercials, the NCAA accurately states that most college athletes will turn pro in a field other than athletics.
I hereby submit Community Action Plan #1:
Petition the NCAA to finance a study to determine what hap-pens to the 99 percent of Black student-athletes in college basketball and football who do not go pro.
Some who do turn pro are ill-equipped for life.
One of the saddest spectacles I have ever witnessed was former All-Pro defensive end Dexter Manley of the Washington Redskins testifying before Congress in 1989 that he could not read, write or spell. He was failed at every point in his life – from high school and university coaches who allowed him to play football without mastering basic academic skills to the NFL that allowed him to continue on his dead-in path to nowhere.
That’s one of the reasons we at the National Sports Authority established our Business of Sport Success pro-gram (BOSS). Essentially, we use sports as a vehicle to motivate middle and high school students to complete high school and go on to college by exposing the students to the business side of athletics.
To get our young Black males pointed in the right direction, we hereby submit Com-munity Action Plan #2:
As part of the BOSS initiative, convene a national conference, to be jointly sponsored by such organizations as 100 Black Men and male Greek organizations for the fall of 2014 to address Black male issues, including Black male student-athletes.
As was pointed out in Part I of this series, Black athletes represent 52.9 percent of Ohio State University’s basketball and football rosters and dominate among its star players, fueling a nearly $130 million athletic department budget on a campus where Black males represent only 2.7 percent of the student body. The disparity between the graduation rate for OSU’s Black football players, at 38 percent, and all student-athletes, at 71 percent, represent the highest disparity in the Big-10.
Community Action Plan #3:
Petition the NCAA and each of the six major conferences (ACC, Big East, Big-10, Big-12, Pacific-12 and SEC) to impose sanctions on their members, including the loss of scholarships and/or a ban on bowl appearances, if the graduation rate of Black student-athletes in basketball and football is not within 20 percent of the graduation rate of all student athletes in their respective institutions, commencing in 2016 when the NCAA’s new eligibility standards for prospective student-athletes go into effect.
In Part II, we cited examples from the long list of professional athletes who earn millions of dollars yet, in the case of Allen Iverson, for example, he had reached the point where he said he could not afford to buy a cheeseburger.
Again, this is where family and friends – true friends, not vultures looking for a soft landing spot – can assist.
It was inspiring to see that Philadelphia 76ers rookie Michael Carter-Williams, who is being managed by his mother and her best friend, is placing his entire salary in a trust fund that he cannot touch for three years. Instead of dipping into his salary of $4.5 million over his first two season – with the possibility of earning $10 million if the 76ers pick up the final season of his two-year deal – Carter-Williams is living off of the money he is making from endorsement deals with Nike and Panini trading cards. Other pro athletes should follow his example.
Of course, athletes need stadiums and arenas in which to play. And, like everything else related to the business side of sports, Blacks are Missing in Action.
Our taxes are used to help finance new or modernized sports facilities, but we do not get a return on our investment.
Approximately two-thirds of the $21.7 billion spent on the 95 stadiums and arenas built between 1990 and 2000 were heavily subsidized or entirely financed by tax revenues. The carnival of construction taking place today is proceeding without an effective strategy to ensure meaningful participation by Black construction professionals. The National Sports Authority (the “Authority”), of which I am president, was established last year, in large measure, to reverse this trend.
The entire Black community will benefit if we can redirect just 10 percent of the sports industry spent on goods and services. Such a shift will create new and exciting opportunities for Black accountants, construction professionals, consultants, financial and real estate professionals in the sports industry.
It will also have the trickledown effect of increasing discretionary income available to Black professionals and businesses to support institutions and organizations in our community, from the NAACP, the National Urban League, the National Action Network and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition to Black churches that have been the backbone of our community.
We know from first-hand experience this can work.
The National Sports Authority was able to secure more than $25 million in contracts for people of color on the Levi’s Stadium project, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers, even though the project was already 60 percent complete and contracts for more than 80 percent of the work had been awarded.
On the heels of that experience, our organization has initiated conversations with the principals on the new $500 million Sacramento Kings arena and the $1 billion-plus Atlanta Braves stadium/entertainment center project, with a view towards creating even more opportunities by being engaged from the very start of those and other projects.
Our effort was supported by more than 12 million Blacks who are members of the California Black Chamber, the National Association of Minority Contractors, the Empowerment Experiment, the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the NAACP, National Action Network, the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, the National Baptist Convention, the National Urban League and the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc., as well as the San Francisco and Oakland African-American chambers.
Of course, the problem extends beyond sports.
A Nielsen report, produced in cooperation with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) titled, “Resilient, Receptive and Relevant: The African-American Consumer 2013 Report,” disclosed that although annual Black spending is projected to rise from its current $1 trillion to $1.3 trillion in 2017, advertisers allot only 3 percent of their $2.2 billion yearly budget to media that target Black audiences.
To address this and related problems, we offer Community Action Plan #4:
Convene a national conference in July of 2014 jointly sponsored by major civil rights organizations and the U.S. Black Chamber to develop strategies for holding colleges, professional leagues and major corporations accountable for the lack of economic reciprocity in their goods and services they purchase.
As Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, senior vice-president, public affairs and government relations for Nielsen, said, “Until we do a better job as consumers in the choices we make and invest in companies that invest in us, we are not going to have any changes.”
We hope you’ll join our nationwide effort at the National Sports Authority to empower our community by letting everyone know that sports in more than a game – it’s a business.