Minority owners of color are raising the stakes with greater visibility
Special assistant to the chairman and former Astros minority owner Shawn Taylor shows kids another avenue to the sports world
Artist Swizz Beatz once asked the question in his 2007 song “Money in the Bank”: Now, what y’all wanna do? / Wanna be ballers? / Shot-callers?
For some kids growing up, they want to be ballers. Their entrance into sports is through playing the games. Then there are kids such as Shawn Taylor, who grew up from his South Side Chicago roots and turned into a shot-caller. Taylor was an investor in the group headed by Jim Crane that purchased the Houston Astros in 2011.
Crane’s group included four minority owners of color: Taylor and Milton Carroll, who are African-American, Raul Pedraza (Cuban-American) and Margaret Barradas (a Latina from South Texas).
Taylor sold his shares this summer but remains with the Astros as a special assistant to the chairman.
“Most of my friends — I mean, these are people I went to high school with in Chicago and college at Purdue — are like, ‘Hey, your Astros are this and that,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, unfortunately I just sold my ownership, but I am still special assistant to the chairman,’ ” Taylor said. “It meant a lot to people who look like me, and I’m really big on changing the playbook.
“We have a lot of kids who focus on becoming athletes, and my position has always been, ‘Why not become an owner?’ Ownership to me has always been job one. And if you’re going to be a student-athlete, make sure you invest as much time in being a student as you do being the athlete. So it was an aspirational thing not just for me, but for me to be able to carry a message out there, and call people to see and ask whether their goals were big enough.”
The World Series between the Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers has no shortage of minority owners of color.
Carroll, who did not respond to email requests to be interviewed for this story, has been on the board of directors for CenterPoint Energy since 1992 and an executive chairman since 2013. Barradas worked as the managing director of Crane’s privately held investment company, Crane Capital Group, and Pedraza is the founder and CEO of Miami-based freight forwarding company Magno International. Two years ago, Pedraza went to Cuba with Crane to watch the United States play against Cuba.
The Dodgers probably have the most famous minority owner in Major League Baseball, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who often can be seen at Dodger Stadium sitting behind home plate, to the left of the plate in the second row in the second-to-last seat from the end. Johnson, who has been part of the Dodgers ownership group since 2012, is a former baller who transitioned to shot-caller.
Johnson’s visibility as an owner is important, Taylor said, because young people can see what’s possible. It gives them a goal.
Taylor wasn’t interested in just having stakes in the team; he wanted to be visible in his community so folks could see a person of color with ownership of a professional team. One of the things that sold him on minority ownership was that there weren’t many African-American minority owners in other franchises.
It would also give Taylor an opportunity to rebrand himself and have access to people he might not have through his business ventures or community work. The entrepreneur believed that joining Astros ownership would be a good investment, a long-term asset for him.
“Being African-American, and being an owner of a professional sports franchise, meant so much and means so much to people in my community,” said Taylor, the president and operating partner of Zaxby’s Houston LLC. “In fact, my phone has been blowing up since the Astros have been in the playoffs, let alone the World Series.”
For 30 years, Taylor has been active in nonprofits. His passion is education for students of color and health care. He was president of the foundation for Houston Community College, raising money for scholarships and to fund projects for teachers.
Taylor is on the advisory board for the business school at his alma mater, Purdue. He has spoken to high schoolers about success, goals and the future, and to trust themselves.
One of his roles within the Astros was to be on the foundation board, and working with the staff, they revamped the annual golf tournament.
“We went from raising $40,000 a year to raising $300,000 a year,” Taylor said. “Those first two years we raised just under $600,000. That helped with the Urban Youth Academy, which was built when we had the All-Star Game in Houston, 10-plus years ago. … so I’ve just always been involved.”
Taylor’s path to minority ownership started a decade before the deal was closed when he met Crane. They were both in an organization together, and they would frequently cross paths. Crane is hugely into golf, as is Taylor, who joked that he’s a huge person playing golf, and that created opportunities for the two to get to know one another.
When Crane was assembling a team of investors, he had his general counsel call Taylor to tell him they would love to have him on their ownership team.
“It was the result of a long-term relationship, and because of the things I’ve done in Houston from a community standpoint that kept my name out there and kept him in contact with me,” Taylor said.
With Game 7 of the World Series hours from getting underway, minority owners of color will have an opportunity to use their platform.
If the goal is for kids to see a different way into the sports world, these part-owners can step out and lead the way. And there’s no better time than when all eyes are on their recently crowned World Series champion.