The only real reason people are criticizing Sean “Diddy” Combs’ desire to purchase the Carolina Panthers and LaVar Balls’s announcement to start a minor basketball league is because they are black men.
Don’t get your Confederate flag boxers in a bunch Clay Travis sports fans.
This is not about pulling the race card.
Many black people have been the most vocal cynics and are absolutely included.
The National Football League’s Carolina Panthers announced they were selling the 24 year old franchise after the NFL took over a team investigation of allegations of sexual harassment and racist conduct against owner Jerry Richardson.
Already having teased the sports world by tweeting his desire to own a professional sports league, Diddy immediately put his Sean John hat in the ring to be the next owner with an impromptu Instagram video.
Subsequent social media reactionary criticisms were as tired as they were swift.
First, people criticized the relative net worth of Diddy (roughly $800M) and the value of the Panthers ($2.3B) as an automatic disqualifier.
No one criticized Frank McCourt when he purchased Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers incredibly leveraged in debt.
No sustained outcry exists for white owners who mix debt and equity to purchase teams or finance their stadiums with taxpayer money.
Second, people criticized Diddy as if he’s some dancing, ad libbing character in one of his songs, thus disqualifying his business acumen.
In fact, Diddy made more money than any musician over the past year, and it was from a variety of different businesses unrelated to music.
Third, people criticized Diddy for saying “North Carolina Panthers” in his impromptu Instagram post to imply he doesn’t know enough about sports to purchase a sports franchise.
The default is not to take Diddy seriously.
KRON-TV black reporter Henry Wofford went so far as to say Diddy looked like he “smoked a blunt and drank a 40” during the Instagram announcement. Wofford has since apologized.
Too late Hen Dawg. The internal village hating damage is already done.
All of the current NFL owners made their fortunes outside of sports before their current investment. Successful businessmen are so in a variety of industries as Diddy is.
The Miami Marlins were once the Florida Marlins, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were once the Los Angeles Angels and the California Angels respectively. Diddy can change the private enterprise name accordingly.
Furthermore, the Brooklyn Nets are owned by Russian Mikhail Prokhorov with strong ties to Valdamir Putin (once opponent but flipped), doping, and corruption and no one has ever questioned his ownership.
Fourth and most importantly, there is only one majority black owner (retired NBA superstar Michael Jordan is majority owner of Charlotte Hornets) between the two leagues of 62 teams with an overwhelmingly number of black players (NFL, NBA) and no majority black stakeholdership in any broadcast networks who financially benefit off of displaying black labor.
No sustained criticism existed for the NBA when it let Steve Ballmer purchase the Los Angeles Clippers instead of any competing bids with African American interests even after the previous owner Donald Sterling was forced to selling the team for being racist toward black people.
And yes, Diddy is serious. According The The Charlotte Observer, Diddy and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback turned activist Colin Kaepernick are currently recruiting investors to purchase the Panthers.
Diddy is a veteran of the spotlight and undeterred by any criticism of his successful rise from New Jack Swing. background dancer to business mogul.
LaVar Ball is similarly undeterred.
The criticism Ball has received has the same air of barrier to entry invalidation.
It is undeniably challenging to pivot from some of Ball’s knuckledragging comments, and I wouldn’t fault detractors if Ball’s divisive behavior was the basis for dismissing the dadstar (yeah, I just made that up).
But those comments aren’t the real reason Ball is dismissed and not taken seriously by many casual and devout sports fans.
Ball is a visionary with big dreams for his family. Some of the tired old criticisms with Diddy do indeed apply here.
First, Ball has been criticized because he is starting the Junior Basketball League for players who skip college, seen as an affront to higher education.
NCAA, bifurcated in the form of autonomous Power 5 Conferences SEC, Big 10, PAC 12, ACC, Big 12 has made a sham of amateurism. Football and basketball player graduation rates compared to non revenue sports and the general student body are consistently troubling.
Players are paid below market value for their labor, aren’t allowed to collectively bargain, and are unable to profit immediately from their intellectual property to make their lives better after college even if they don’t make it professionally.
Ohio State’s football program is worth $1.5 billion, only hair less than the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills, the same amount as the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers and more than the National Basketball Association’s Miami Heat.
Many of the same schools like the nearly $1 billion valued Alabama football team wouldn’t let black players in until 1971. Until that time Historically Black Colleges and Universities (“HBCUs”) were the biggest resources for black athletic talent.
The same revenue derived from black labor helps these same institutions benefit the general student body and research to make them more competitive academically.
Meanwhile, many HBCUs are currently struggling financially, emptying endowments, and now have crumbling infrastructures to make any of them competitive with Power 5 conferences.
Louisville and Rick Pitino’s corrupt basketball program came crashing to earth after fraud and other improprieties with Adidas led to the Department of Justice making arrests of 10 individuals. The University of Kentucky’s basketball team specializes in “one and done” players.
Secondly, Fox Sports basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb tweeted the NBA already has a developmental league (The G-League) that pays a comparable salary already ($3K-$10K) and thus there is no need for Ball’s league.
If G-League players do not receive an NBA training camp invite, the amount of money a player can make be as low as $2K a month for many players.
Besides, this is America. Competition in the marketplace is the cornerstone of capitalism. Several other minor basketball leagues currently exist beside the G-League.
Third, people criticize Ball for starting a shoe and athletic wear line Big Baller Brand as if he has to go through Nike, Reebok, Adidas, or Under Armour for their blessing.
There are no majority black stakeholders in Nike, Reebok, Adidas, or Under Armour, whose entire billion dollar brands were built on the backs of black labor and celebrity.
There is a power vacuum that needs to be filled and Diddy and LaVar Ball are not just running the wishbone to fill it.
Diddy and Ball are seriously making moves to shift the paradigm of black ownership in the sports industry that is sorely needed.
Diddy and Colin Kaepernick becoming owners of the first black majority owned NFL franchise called the Panthers in the same year Marvel Entertainment’s Black Panther is released would be delicious irony.
Like him or not LaVar is truly a big baller.
Economic inequality can’t stop, won’t stop unless it is confronted, but it certainly doesn’t need or require any help perpetuating it.
History is being made.
It’s time for brand new flava in ya ear, and that’s worth celebrating.
Exavier B. Pope I, Esq. is an award-winning attorney, on-air legal analyst, media personality, Fortune 500 speaker, content creator, writer, tastemaker, thought leader, and licensed yoga instructor. Mr. Pope is the host of #SuitUP Podcast for his production company 528 Media Group and has appeared on and has contributed to Vox.com, CNBC, BBC, Al Jazeera English, Fox News Channel, HLN, NBC Nightly News, WGN, Fox Business Channel, ESPN, Clear Channel, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Huffington Post, Jet, and Black Enterprise. Mr. Pope is represented by top media and literary agency RLR Associates.
© 2017, Exavier B. Pope I, Esq., 528 Media Group.
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