Sixers, Devils ownership announces $10 million social initiative for Black communities
In mid-June the Philadelphia Sixers released word to a handful of reporters that Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Sixers and NHL’s New Jersey Devils among other franchises, planned to unveil a diversity and inclusion initiative in coming weeks.
But there were no other details.
HBSE continued to develop a comprehensive initiative and announced Monday that it will pour $10 million “over the next five years to drive action and invest in the cities where our teams live, work, play and perform,” HBSE said in a news release.
The initiative is a four-point plan that will invest in Black communities, support Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs, promote education, health and employment and enhance a workplace of respect, inclusion and diversity.
The Sixers are the first NBA team to release specific details on their social justice initiative.
“As leaders and stewards of community pillars, the eyes of the world are on us to do better, and they should be,” HBSE founder Josh Harris said in a statement. “While we will never be able to correct the past harm and injustice faced by Black Americans, it’s our duty to provide resources that enable tangible action and greater opportunities for equality.
“We are committing to a fundamental change in our business strategy by embedding our organization with Black communities and businesses through significant and sustained investment and support. We are deeply committed to fighting for a better, more inclusive future and we pledge to be leaders in doing so.”
This is in addition to the $10 million the Sixers have pledged to the NBA’s new foundation designed to create greater economic empowerment in the Black community. Along with the 29 other teams, that’s part of a $300 million investment.
Ben Simmons works with a student during a community event. (Photo: Courtesy Philadelphia 76ers)
The plan includes:
Investing in Black communities
HBSE will contribute a minimum of $2.5 million to improving “resident quality of life and further equitable development in Black communities (such as employment programs, home-buying assistance for long-time residents, public space improvements and youth programming.” It will also provide capital commitments for real estate projects, including affordable housing, health centers and commercial improvements.
Supporting Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs
The 76ers and Devils have pledged $5 million to Black-owned businesses as part of HBSE’s Buy Black Partnership Program, and the sports and entertainment company will expand partnerships with Black-owned businesses, including working with the African American Chamber of Commerce in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Promoting education, health and employment
HBSE will contribute an additional $2.5 million through the Sixers Youth Foundation and Devils Care Foundation, including free internet access to 1,000 families in the School District of Philadelphia and endowments to the Newark, New Jersey, Boys and Girls Club and Urban League of Essex County (New Jersey).
Amplifying a workplace of respect, inclusion and diversity
HBSE will hire a chief diversity and impact officer, “focus on new recruitment, retention and career advancement programs to increase the representation of Black and minority employees across HBSE and partner with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to explore careers and gain exposure at HBSE.”
The company will also enhance its Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board in addition to creating a Black Employee Resource Group that will feature “support groups, workshops and a speaker series to foster continued race-based education, empathy and mindfulness within our organizational culture,” HBSE said.
“It is crucial for us to take action in fighting against systemic racism and social injustices, which have persisted for far too long,” HBSE co-founder David Blitzer said. “Moving forward, we are making a continued commitment to racial equality as a key focus of our business, advancing institutional and situational change where we live, work and play. We cannot and will not tolerate racism, injustice or hate, and take responsibility to be a part of the solution for the future of our industry, the cities we serve and our country as a whole.”
Said HBSE CEO Scott O’Neil: “Today HBSE makes a proud announcement, and one that touches the heart of who we are and who we aspire to be. Today we share our racial equity commitments with the world, and make a promise to listen, learn, and – most importantly – take action. We have a unique opportunity to lead our industry and communities in our internal and external efforts to bring awareness to causes and battles that matter.
“The Black neighborhoods where we play and perform matter. The Black employees we call colleagues and family matter. The education of the Black youth in our communities matters. The opportunity for Black entrepreneurs to receive investment, advice and access matters. The voices of our athletes – whether they compete on the court, ice, field or computer screen – matter. What we do now matters.”