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‘Group Economics’ more than just message on jersey for Miami Heat’s Andre Iguodala

  • August 11, 2020

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — On the surface, the initiative looked like a significant gesture that highlights the NBA’s commitment toward addressing racial justice reforms.

The NBA’s Board of Governors announced they will give $300 million ($30M a year for the next 10 years) to the newly-created NBA Foundation, which is “dedicated to creating greater economic empowerment in the Black community.”

Miami Heat swingman Andre Iguodala, who is also the vice president of the NBA players union, looks at that gesture differently.

“You just can’t be checking a box. Is it a marketing ploy or are we just doing it to build relations? In the grand scheme of things, that’s $10 million per team and that’s essentially a tax,” Iguodala told USA TODAY Sports as part of a wide-ranging interview.

“This can’t be a one-time thing. You look at these larger brands and how much money they make from the community. They give back, but they’re bringing in a few billion a year.”

Iguodala praised the NBA, the league’s board of governors and the players union for agreeing to the initiative. He also noted that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver “realizes this is very important” for the league to support and provide funding for racial justice causes.

Iguodala raised concerns, however, to make a larger point.

He believes that investing in Black businesses and communities will play a significant role in building generational wealth. That, in part, will reduce racial inequality in education, housing and hiring practices, he says.

“We’re still trying to make equal grounding for our next generation,” Iguodala said. “Right now we’re part of the progress, but we have to continue to think bigger than ourselves with a lot of our decisions. We’re in a position where we can gain some wealth being professional athletes. But at the same time, the majority of our people are still bogged down in an oppressive state. So we have to pull them up with us.”

Miami Heat swingman Andre Iguodala warms up before a February game.

Iguodala’s kept a busy schedule during the NBA’s season restart on a quarantined campus at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida. Between games and practices, Iguodala has estimated he has had phone calls or Zoom meetings with tech investors about once or twice a week about possible partnerships.

When he played for the Golden State Warriors (2013-19), Iguodala took advantage of his proximity to Silicon Valley to expand his business portfolio. Recently, though, Iguodala has sought ventures that will serve a bigger purpose.

Iguodala recently joined with Comcast Venture’s Catalyst Fund, which has invested in startups founded by Black, Latinx and women entrepreneurs. He has sought other businesses with similar mission statements. 

“You see a lot of companies being funded for billions of dollars. But when you look at the board members, none of us are involved or a part of the decision-making process,” Iguodala said. “Yet, studies show that when you have a diverse board and a diverse community environment and culture in your company, you have higher profits and higher revenues.”

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To become more immersed in these issues, Iguodala has often spent his free time in recent years reading books, either on business trends or on racial issues. Iguodala has continued that practice when he settled here on the NBA’s campus.

His most recent reads? Iguodala picked up “The Four” by Scott Galloway, which details the business practices of various tech companies, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Iguodala also read Manning Marable’s “How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America,” which explains how the white and Black community have operated under a different set of rules in the free market system. That inspired Iguodala to pin “Group Economics” on the back of his jersey.

“It’s essentially how systemic oppression doesn’t allow us to buy from our own communities, or get loans to build businesses so we can support ourselves and recycle our dollar,” Iguodala said. “That’s how you build your community, get better funding for schools and how you invest in yourself and become landowners. The system is created for us not to be able to do those things. So then we have to depend on other people, whether it be the government or other communities.”

Andre Iguodala, with Group Economics on his nameplate, during an Aug. 1 game against the Nuggets.

The NBA players union has talked at length about these issues. So much that Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving and Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard were among the most vocal players wondering if resuming the NBA season could hurt efforts to address racial justice reforms.

Iguodala said that the players union mostly addressed how the league would manage its health and safety protocols surrounding the coronavirus outbreak or how the NBA would help players with mental health support and amenities, both to cope with being away from family and to help with work-life balance. But Iguodala and other members of the players union also talked with the league to ensure it would support them through words and resources in addressing racial justice reforms.  

“It’s part of my duty to support the views and thoughts and opinions of the players,” Iguodala said. “I may disagree with some things. But if it’s a majority vote and we say, ‘This is how we feel,’ I feel like it’s my job to support that and make that sacrifice to go along with it. That has always been my views on whatever our guys want to do.”

Now that the NBA, its owners and players union agreed on forming a foundation to help the Black community, Iguodala expressed hope this marks the beginning of a long partnership.

“We have to keep our foot on the gas. We can’t be relaxed and say, ‘Look at what we were able to accomplish in a short period of time,’ ” Iguodala said. “You look historically at all the civil rights leaders. They weren’t just doing it for that year or the year after that. They were trying to do it for their kids’ kids.”

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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