NBA Foundation awards grants to local nonprofits

Courtesy of NBA/MN Timberwolves (l-r) Greg Taylor and Jennifer Ridgeway

The NBA Foundation earlier this month awarded two local organizations, Summit Academy OIC and the Sanneh Foundation, grants to support their outstanding work elevating Black communities through employment and career development. The grants are part of the Foundation’s third grant round, totaling more than $6 million to 22 organizations around the country. To date, $11 million has been awarded to 40 national and local nonprofits throughout the 30 NBA team markets.

Summit Academy OIC is an accredited vocational school located in North Minneapolis with a 50-year history of work in the Black community. The Sanneh Foundation, located in St. Paul, serves the holistic youth development needs of Twin Cities youth, focusing its efforts on low-income urban and immigrant youth populations, and promotes in-school and after-school educational attainment programs.

“Both organizations have a long history of being trailblazers…for the Black community,” said Jennifer Ridgeway, Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx executive vice president of social responsibility. “We are thrilled that they were selected from a national pool.” Ridgeway and NBA Foundation Executive Director Greg Taylor both talked to the MSR in separate phone interviews.

The NBA Foundation was created in August 2020, a couple of months after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, as a first-ever charitable foundation dedicated to driving economic opportunity for Black youth. Taylor is its first executive director.

“It’s been a great first year,” he declared. “We’ve set a vision. We’ve developed effective partnerships across the country, including Canada. I think I’m really pleased with the progress to date around our objective.”

Added Ridgeway on the Timberwolves’ and Lynx’s local involvement, “We certainly champion the nonprofits in our community doing the groundwork. The Timberwolves and the Lynx are longstanding champions of equity in our community.”

Wolves and Lynx principal owner Glen Taylor (no relation) pledged $10 million toward the NBA’s $300 million commitment to the NBA Foundation.

“We work very closely with the partnership,” added Greg Taylor. On the selection of Summit Academy and Sanneh in the latest round of grants, he said, “We couldn’t be more excited about [their selection.

“We do have a pretty rigorous decision-making process,” explained Taylor. “We want organizations that have a track record of preparing young people… That includes youth development and life skills and education and workforce development. It’s important that you have a track record of success.”

Said Ridgeway, “This is one step… Over the last year, we learned we need to do more work” in the Black communities. “We are taking steps and being intentional in moving forward.”

Taylor earned his law degree from Indiana University School of Law. Prior to joining the NBA in 2013, he was president and CEO of the Foundation for Newark’s Future and a vice president of programs at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. 

Prior to his current role to which he was named in January, Taylor was the NBA’s senior vice-president of player development and worked with players on continuing education, financial management, and mental health and wellness programs.

“I feel like I’ve been preparing for this moment for 20-plus years in my work career,” he said on leading the NBA Foundation. “I feel particularly prepared.”