Tilted Playing Field
In the course of consensual indulgences for mutual benefit, sometimes the balance between expectations and consideration requires a renegotiation by duress if not otherwise forthcoming. For example, suppose you provide a service, and there is an insufficient acknowledgment of the value of that service. In that case, your contribution is dismissed as incidental or unnecessary to the successes or is interchangeable. The “commodity” is the foundation of a product or service.
However, devoid of the benefit of unobstructed advancement on merit, it resonates as capricious gratitude being allowed to partake in the process, not the benefit. This dampens ambition by despair due to lack of opportunity. By evaluating contributions, ambition rises above participation, breaching the levee of limitations for more meaningful recognition and reward for contributing to others’ achievements.
Imagine the “commodity” is human labor and specialized talents or skills honed and proven to be the foundation of the product or service provided, which otherwise could not be offered with the same quality. So the “commodity” and the capital are codependent, with the capital possessing the majority of the power, decision making, and designations. With the missing ingredient being capital or seed money to sustain the liquidity of the operation’s existence, talent is dependent. It is a consensual understanding for a mutual benefit until the arrangement has progressed beyond the original terms or either becomes no longer necessary.
The original terms being firmly at the discretion of the capital providers refusing to mitigate the conditions leaves two options. Express dissatisfaction while bemoaning for change and patiently waiting for redress or removing yourself and your contribution from the scenario. Patiently bemoaning at least provides participation while disassociation invites replacement.
To better understand the options, if the “commodity” is disrupted and irreplaceable, the capital would be more amenable to the changes to preserve their interest and investment. But, on the other hand, if disassociation of talent is tendered, a viable option would have to be available. Perhaps made available by your ingenuity having everything except the capital, but what if you had a succession plan, the resolve, and the capital. Then what?
The enterprising spirit undertaken to create the situation you decided to separate from is the calculated risk needed. It is the same spirit that can propel your ambitions forward. Why can’t you do for yourself what you were doing for someone else? Uncertainty? Of what? Like Heavy D and the Boys rapped, “We got our own thang.” Get up and do your thang.
You can witness a movement, be part of a movement, start a movement, or be the movement. The movement is to increase the residual benefits of actions already undertaken by doing them somewhere else or leveraging the prospect of doing so elsewhere. So, quit pump faking when you can take your shot. Deliver unto yourself what you request in vain and wait indefinitely to be provided. The inducement has been profoundly provoked and repeatedly aggravated. To remain is a choice.
This applies to any situation you may find yourself confronted with, but I have something specific in mind. Everything is irrational when first proposed if the possibility is foreign or uncomfortable, but not to the fearless visionary and cold calculator. Sports are a melding of many facets of life and bonding. It also generates billions of dollars on the collegiate and pro levels, not to mention merchandise and gambling implications.
According to the US Department of Education, there are 107 HBCU’s operating in the United States. Those with D1 athletic programs in football and basketball can upset collegiate athletics by a swing in the “commodity” they attract. For example, the flamboyant visionary mind of Coach Prime with the brazen audacity to think we can compete with the big boys first by recruitment and then by performance has proven the premise.
With the advent of NIL’s and the transfer portals, the landscape of HBCUs resources, valuations, and academic outreach can multiply with two changes. The ability to accommodate the expansion and attract the “commodity.” The “commodity” or student-athletes have an opportunity to affect social justice simply by where they choose to play sports.
If enough talent commits, national recognition and championships will follow the talent. What Black talent provides to most of the largest universities in the country, some with racist and slavery participating histories, they can provide to the institutions created as a refuge combating Black people exclusion from education.
Furthermore, an accurate portrayal of history would undoubtedly be encouraged and transparency less problematic, not to mention the cultural affirmation. The insidious and exploitive undertones enjoyed by non-HBCUs can be converted to create a legacy of athletics, academics, and resources. Essentially, an irrepressible movement. Black Lives Matter should mean that Black Talent Matters and where that talent is displayed. NIL especially makes this lucrative for individual athletes and HBCUs.
The resources, sponsorships, amenities, media coverage, merchandise, fame, and more will be flooded upon the athletes of current pioneers like Coach Prime, Rampaging Eddie George, and others who establish this transformative opportunity. The legendary Coach Eddie Robinson comes to mind, among others, as a keeper of the aspiration until the circumstance were ripe as they are now. Time has taken its place and this space and time are unprecedented. However, if some would not support or respect the freedom of choice now prevalent in collegiate sports, we could fill that void by creating solutions to satisfy our needs.
The rallying cry would certainly be answered by former pros, HOF players, volunteers, business leaders, businesses, academics, and celebrities to pridefully coach and mentor HBCU talent. The response and support can revitalize the surrounding businesses, community, and campuses with the talent concentrated. Entertainment and concerts could be incorporated to generate additional revenue sharing and venue fees. Fundraisers similar to Farm Aid, Telethons, and We are the World can be organized to benefit HBCUs directly. Consider if a musician made a smash fire song and donated the proceeds to HBCUs or if many artists did the same. What about a tour?
There is no limit to the possibilities of concerts, Versus type events such as sponsored by Tim and Beatz, or live streaming prospects. The fashion and culture statement popularizing HBCU gear would leave no doubt about what culture we promote. Make HBCU apparel as popular as Timberland boots or other designer items so coveted and supported by Blacks. The elevation of aspirations requires that we make the fashion instead of just wearing it, becoming producers instead of just consumers. The impact would be directed towards achieving the goal we so willingly protest for but are unwilling to support using our economic muscle.
The resulting entrepreneurial initiative and investment would ensure a vibrant microcosm of prosperity similar to Black Wallstreet, providing allowances for student subsidies, facility improvements, and overall Black condition. I propose making Juneteenth a fundraising event for HBCUs, giving the date meaning and producing practical gains instead of the current masquerade.
Celebrating Juneteenth by stimulating the economy for all and purchasing t-shirts adds zero meaning or purpose to this hollow holiday. Why not gather resources instead of spending them? Why not embrace a resolution to harvest measurable progress towards real Black freedom? The masses of ordinary people possess the power when moving in unison as a concentrated initiative.
Supporting HBCUs would expand academic growth, producing more representation in politics, medicine, business, and investments. If the programs are not offered, create them. If they exist, improve them to rival the best offered anywhere. Internships would supplement the educational value with practical guidance and experience.
Talent is the innovation and equalizer when appropriately focused. Self-awareness is knowing where the self ends and being aware of circumstances beyond yourself having an impact on a grand scale. It is not about you but the future of us. Talent and how it is utilized tilts the playing field like nothing else. Look at Nike. The representation of talent is what they really sell.
Talent can create ownership and distribution percentages shared across the HBCU spectrum to schools other than the D1 participants to dominate the other divisions or benefit from the D1 capital successes. So why is inclusion in someone else’s prosperity more important at the exclusion of your own because they have finally accepted your talent or revenue for their benefit?
To build the social justice sought, protesting in the streets has its limitations. Protest in the pockets, balance sheets, fiscal projections, and boardrooms provides quantitative incentives and deterrents. In addition, HBCUs would be open to whoever chose to enroll there, fully embracing all contributions as valuable to its success.
Those who benefited can tithe a percentage of their prosperity. The investment generating returns, loosely structured, similar to a student loan or donation, would secure the opportunity for those who follow. The Fab Five shook college basketball to its core. Phi Slama Jama 82 to 84 and Georgetown Hoyas from 84 to 91 frightened the NCAA basketball world.
Consider Larry Bird went to Indiana State and singlehandedly put them on the map and himself on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Nothing before or since, just the power of one player. The point is they will find you. Imagine the possibilities at an HBCU with the top talents of today consolidated. We can make Black History and establish legacies at this pivotal moment of change. Think like a boss and become the movement that shapes the future with generational reverberations.
Likewise, pro football is especially vulnerable. Are you ready for some NFL football, the conversation that is? Let’s talk about creating an Equity Football League, a league where fairness is the standard, not the comparison. Fairness is a standard, while equality is a comparison.
A standard is easier to assess and apply being static, while a comparison is fluid by nature and subject to the changing criteria of evaluation. Impartiality should be oblivious to considerations deprived of fairness and exclude incidental irrelevancies. The Brian Flores lawsuit has pulled back the curtain on what many persons associated with the NFL already knew to be true, ownership bias exists.
To further extend the conversation to the pros, there seems to be an ongoing devaluation of Black’s contribution beyond the “commodity” phase proven by lack of head coaching, management, and ownership representation. The new league ownership could be constituted as a Corp, LLC, Social Club Membership, a service contract and exotic Reit, or hybrid player/public owned with revenue sharing.
Maybe owned and distributed through blockchain or subscription. Games can be played at HBCU stadiums with HBCU bands as paid entertainment or other celebrity entertainment. The players acquired from the college pipeline and free agent NFL players. Coaching and management from the excluded ranks of the NFL and college.
It is nearly impossible to envision Black ownership in the NFL, likewise a fair percentage of Black management and head coaches where nary an eyebrow is raised either way. However, we don’t have another fifty or sixty years to wait. The Black quarterback has largely silenced the conversation of qualification and opportunity, but ownership still eludes Blacks.
It was once taboo to even imagine a Black quarterback, but now it is common. The Black NFL players and coaches directly contribute to the head coach’s success, only not to be rewarded for their contribution to that success with head coaching opportunities. Compensated but not represented in terms of a fair opportunity at the pinnacle. The compensation is not proportionate with the revenue generated because ownership is forbidden.
Suppose a Black owner was initiated in the NFL. Perhaps the top talent’s gravitation would prefer them as a destination even at a discount but assured by the talent accumulated to dominate the Superbowl and create a dynasty. Not only would it disrupt the league, owner’s valuations, and the gambling industry, it would force the NFL adaptation to remain competitive.
Being refused ownership, the alternative would be to start your own league, draining them of the talent pool they take for granted. With the entertainment value depleted, the revenue would soon follow with waning interest. Then, at the absolute best, a prosperous alternative league would emerge or a merger expanding the NFL to include the Black ownership and players.
With seventy percent of the NFL players of color, what would the NFL value be to compete with a league that gained a sizable percentage of that talent? The NFL would have to pay extreme premiums to retain the talent, further enriching the athletes depleting their monopoly, needing the “commodity” to survive financially, and increasing the number of professional players to fill the void. The goal is to create fairness, ownership participation, and redistribution of wealth, not segregation.
There is precedent for Blacks creating their own equity and entities to rival any others using leverage and intelligence. Reginald F. Lewis was as respected as any American businessman of the highest degree. His ownership and entrepreneurial initiative were demonstrated and achieved during a more tumultuous and discriminatory time than now becoming one of the richest Black men in modern America during the 1980s. He was the first Black American to build a billion-dollar company, TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc.
Furthermore, there are sports examples where alternative Black enterprises and individuals leveraged talent, intelligence, and dignity to retort exclusion. The Negro League produced teams comparable and superior to MLB and an influx of talent, including Jackie Robinson. The Harlem Globetrotters is another example, including the likes of Wilt Chamberlain. The Living Legend Jim Brown rebuked ownership in his prime to dispel any misconception they controlled his dignity.
We can assemble those with the capital to circumvent the NFL ownership structure by collective endeavor and creative financing. The diversity of this effort would ensure its success. Suppose Black billionaires such as Robert Johnson of BET fame, Robert F. Smith of the investment world, media giants Byron Allen and Oprah Winfrey, Shawn Carter and Beyonce, Rihanna, and Tyler Perry invested capital and knowledge.
Furthermore, if Magic Johnson, Daymond John, Serena Williams, and an endless rollcall of billionaires and millionaires not conflicted by race contributed capital. All recognizing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity bringing a degree of accomplishment, venture capital, public money, and expertise to the table. They represent a diversity of industries able to mobilize their influence and forte in addition to capital.
Be advised that the burden is not theirs but ours. Black leadership does not relieve us of our responsibility as a grassroots movement complementing them. We cannot rely on others, despite their color, to deliver us without our exertion as a base of engaged solidarity. There is strength in numbers, especially when resolute in objective. This is our duty to be unyielding and unified.
No contribution is too small. The sixties protest was successful for one reason, solidarity of spirit and purpose. We must be willing to risk confrontation of interest to achieve an objective. Fairness is a form of respect and likewise is assured by earning it or taking it. Anything given stands to be taken away by the giver. Thus, the creation of formidable industries demands respect and discourages opposition.
Any creation of industries as outlets for talent and opportunities fairly distributed rejecting status quo biases provides economic empowerment and social redress. The fourteen plus percent of the Black population is significant enough to send a shiver through the economic landscape.
Utilizing our 1.6 trillion purchasing power no longer scattered promotes social justice and fairness using the language of money. Merchandising, supply chains, cable, and television rights through Black venders would diversify the benefit to Black prosperity and education. So, enter the fray with dollars in hand and resolve on display.
Once done, the challenge to their product, revenue stream, tax base, and lease obligations would humble their restrictions allowing fairness by necessity with their capital no longer needed. But unfortunately, the ongoing impulse to endure unfavorable conditions negates the possibilities of new horizons for those who are visionary and bold.
If they are so fond of a tilted playing field, then accommodate them with a tilted field but in our favor this time. I am sure there will be no hard feelings in a free market society of the fittest. The winds of change are blowing strongly. We should not resist but set our sails with the wind.
Their arrogant taunt and empty promises are if you don’t like it, what can you do about it but complain? That is where they made a colossal miscalculation if our courage to create an alternative league surpasses the frustration of exclusion from their club’s hierarchy. A King rose out of an unlikely challenge when David slew the giant Goliath. The mighty can be brought to heel with a well-placed blow.
The NFL has a very shortsighted vision of their business model or an overwhelming concession to prejudice and exclusion, dismissing the value of fairness to the “commodity.” There are many Goliaths to be slain. Track and field is another area of concentration that HBCUs could benefit from significantly. The rise of or rather suppression of women’s sports by lack of funding is also a social and economic opportunity for women to capitalize while also elevating their craft.
The spirit of education, ownership, and self-determination manifested the HBCU to counter the exclusion from educational pursuits with no choices before that weren’t rampant with discrimination. By our ancestor’s power and tenacity, HBCUs were founded in the mid-1800s, with the first being Cheyney University of Pennsylvania in 1837.
Knowing the Black struggle, sufferings, and sacrifices to produce the higher learning institutions of the HBCU makes them our original Alma Mater. Therefore, HBCUs are our Alma Mater by vision, if not by attendance.
We have always been welcome at our own thang, our HBCUs when no other would accept us. Remember that when it is time to pledge your services. Talent consolidation leads to comprehensive self-determination by revenue generation. Given the Black athletic talent and revenue generated, why do HBCUs struggle for sustainability or resources if not forsaken by the very people it was created to empower. The shameful allegiance to and exploitation by these other institutions of Black talent robs HBCUs.
If you want to protest something, protest that, by choosing who cultivated your future before you knew you had one. That is a practical step toward social justice, education, and economic viability using supply, demand, and exclusivity. It is not racial. It is business. It is not segregation. It is self-determination. It is our new business model for redistributing the wealth earned from our labor and talent. Same for the entertainment and music industries.
If the business model resembles what has been historically used against us, I can assure you that it is coincidental and sanctioned by comparison. Otherwise, they should not practice it. So consider it playing their game, their rules, but to our benefit this time. In addition, a tax-deductible donation would direct resources to HBCUs from taxes you would pay otherwise to the IRS.
There is no need to beg for fairness when you can provide yourself justice. Give your product or service the value you have provided theirs, and it will attract resources and customers, especially if marketed correctly, providing residual value to the patrons in addition to yourself. They pay to see the “commodity,” not the owners.
If you build it, they will come but more importantly, make sure you come because we already have our own thang and the talent to stock it. We are not commodities to be traded on the open market or paraded at a combine for white owners to choose from, like a slave auction to enrich themselves by our labor. Support our thang.
Start at the roots, HBCU. Let’s support Black ownership, wealth creation, and HBCUs with Black talent and resources. Talent is our leverage and venture capital to use wisely. Remember, there is no need to beg. But, there is a need to do. Now, what team are you playing for, the beggars or the doers?
Thurston K. Atlas
Creating A Buzz