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NBA to launch grant program for minority-owned businesses

Fast Break for Small Business will provide $6 million in grants and business services

The NBA, in partnership with an online legal services company, will create a small-business grant program targeted to businesses owned by people of color, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community, the league announced on Thursday.

The league and LegalZoom have committed $6 million over the next three years to Fast Break for Small Business, which will offer grants and legal and business services to minority-owned businesses as small businesses across the country continue to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The first application round began Thursday and runs to Nov. 23, and the second round will begin around the start of the 2022 WNBA season in the spring. Fifty businesses will receive $10,000 grants, along with services from LegalZoom. Hundreds of other businesses will solely receive LegalZoom services.

“They are such an important part of our community,” Oris Stuart, the league’s chief people and inclusion officer, said of minority-owned small businesses. “They employ more than their fair share of the workforce. … They are [an] essential part of our ecosystem and the success of the broader community.”

LegalZoom will offer its services, ranging from compliance support and trademark protection to family estate planning, to grant recipients free of charge. Startup costs for small businesses can average about $30,000, according to some studies, which can be detrimental to minority entrepreneurs, who are less likely to receive loans, said LegalZoom’s chief marketing officer John Buchanan.

“So much of what we are trying to do with the NBA is to help support these communities by giving them a chance to get access to financial help, to legal help, in order to give them a chance to thrive,” Buchanan said.

Studies found that minority-owned businesses, particularly Black ones, were hindered while attempting to obtain federal coronavirus relief funds last year. At one point in April, 71% of relief funds went to white-owned businesses, according to data from the Small Business Administration that was reviewed by The New York Times.

Even before the pandemic, minority-owned businesses faced institutional discrimination. For Black-owned businesses, in particular, owners have historically faced higher rates of loan denials and are charged higher interest rates.

Fast Break for Small Business is yet another offspring of the NBA’s nascent initiative, sparked by the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd in 2020, to commit resources and funding to social justice organizations and causes.

Within months of Floyd’s murder, the NBA, its governors and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) created the NBA Foundation, a $300 million fund intended for social justice organizations, and the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, a committee that leads the two organizations’ civic engagement work.

In May, the league announced the creation of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award, which will be given annually to the player who best exemplifies the social activism of Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. The inaugural award was given to now-Los Angeles Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony.

In the offseason, the Rookie Transition Program, a joint orientation symposium run by the NBA and NBPA for first-year players, added a social justice component, a first in the history of the 35-year-old program.

At the end of the three-year run, the NBA hopes that Fast Break for Small Business will have impacted and grown a large number of businesses that in turn created employment opportunities in communities of color.

“The measure of success will be not only the number of organizations we’ve touched, but the rate and pace at which they’ve grown,” Stuart said. “It’s our hope and expectation that we’ll fill in some gaps for some of these organizations and perhaps make a difference in their growth trajectory.”

Martenzie is a writer for The Undefeated. His favorite cinematic moment is when Django said "Y'all want to see somethin?"