We, as a people, have over $1.3 trillion in annual spending. However, our Black-owned businesses account for just over $183 billion. Do you see the problem? Not even 20 percent of what we have stays within our own business infrastructure. We don’t recycle our money within our own communities.
As Malcolm X once remarked, “The ‘eagle’ flies on Friday in Black communities and by noon Saturday it is one dead bird.” Nothing recycles, thus nothing is going to build or grow larger. We are consumer slaves.
We live in a complex on the Virginia side of Washington, D.C. where a few of our neighbors are professional athletes. You can always tell when their crews are assembling. The parking area suddenly looks like a Maybach or Lamborghini car dealership with a million dollars’ worth of depreciating assets right before our eyes. They think it is so cool. We think it is depressing. However, if we look collectively there is an immense opportunity slipping right before our eyes.
The percentage of Black professional football players exceeds 70 percent. The NBA approaches 90 percent. These gifted athletes control billions of dollars that could be directed to significant economic empowerment for the Black communities from which they come. Allow us to show you a few examples of what could be done.
Basketball arenas and football stadiums are being built around our nation on an ongoing basis. There is usually no Black participation included during the construction and design of these stadiums. Levi Stadium in California had only 1.4 percent participation. Imagine if the player associations for these two sports would put this on the negotiating table before the owners: Thirty percent of all construction performed on the next stadiums must be by Black-owned and managed construction firms.
That should include architecture and engineering followed by construction management and all prime and subcontracting, accounting, all legal services. The stadiums should be built in areas that will not gentrify Black neighborhoods and business communities. Thirty percent of all concessions, restaurants, etc. that are allowed within the stadiums and arenas must be Black-owned. Black advertising and public relations firms should be included.
The NFL and NBA player associations also seem to have a great affinity to construction unions. They assume that they are fair and equitable to Black labor. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Only two percent of Black-owned construction companies are union. Why? Because of the Jim Crow treatment by these construction unions. The time is overdue for these Black athletes to step up and do the only responsible thing they can do.
Additionally, where are these teams parking their money? Financial institutions and money management firms should have significant Black utilization. Significant should equate to over 30 percent. No more scandals such as Merrill Lynch bilking NBA players with the encouragement of their upper management (a Black CEO).
The athletes should also participate in the selection of the Super Bowl city. There should be a rating system which determines the likelihood of racially diverse people participating in the wealth that a Super Bowl brings. Which city will have the Blackest vendors? Who is printing the jerseys, the T-shirts, the souvenir books? Who is advertising the Super Bowl? And may we suggest that teams look for Black-owned hotels?
These team owners are asleep at the wheel of diversity and inclusivity. They must feel pressure for diversity coming from the athletes. Just because these teams have been using select vendors for dozens of decades doesn’t mean they can’t change now. The sooner they do it the better off America will be.
The player associations should also have formal memorandums of understanding (MOU) with the top Black professional organizations such as Black architecture and engineering associations, Black contractors, banks, accounting associations, attorneys, realtors, etc. These MOUs should be publicized with ongoing updates to ensure that it is not just “window dressing” but real deal economic empowerment.
Now, this would change the world! After doing that correctly, we could move to our entertainers who would only perform at venues that have documented proof of Black construction, architecture/engineering participation. Again, God has blessed us with remarkable talent. Let’s leverage it. Oh, how badly we need a bigger share of that $1.3 trillion. We can’t think of a better way. Our destiny is in our own hands.
Harry Alford is president/CEO and co-founder of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC). Kay DeBow is executive vice president and co-founder of NBCC. For more info, visit nationalbcc.org.