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Changing the game: Ice Cube’s battle to buy regional sports networks

NNPA NEWSWIRE — …Ice Cube is looking to take the next step in not only raising the profile of his professional basketball brand, but his personal profile as a Black business mogul. In early April, with his FOX Sports contract having expired at the conclusion of the 2018 BIG3 campaign, the league inked a new deal to have games televised on the CBS network. However, armed with a high-profile group of investors with deep pockets of their own, Ice Cube has a much bigger vision. But reaching that goal won’t come without challenges, or a fight.

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By Bryan 18X Crawford and Barrington Salmon, Contributing Writers, The Final Call

More and more, Black athletes and entertainers are looking to expand beyond the field of expertise that gained them fame, notoriety and riches, and leverage these positions to help them make their same mark in the world of business. There are Black people who successfully transitioned from their respective art or sport, turning themselves into well-respected businesspeople and a positive example of what entrepreneurship looks like. The life of the late rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle personifies this point.

However, Ice Cube, Nipsey’s West Coast predecessor and elder—or “O.G.”—in the rap game and one of the founding fathers of the hip-hop genre known as “gangsta rap,” has been blazing big time business trails of his own for the past two decades.

Many are familiar with O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson, either from his days as a rapper in the group “N.W.A.,” or from his acting roles in popular movies such as “Boyz In The Hood,” and the “Friday,” “Barbershop,” and “Are We There Yet?” series of films. However, in 2017, Ice Cube decided to delve into previously uncharted business waters by getting involved in professional sports as one of the founders of the BIG3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league. The BIG3 features 12 teams coached by former NBA All-Stars and Hall of Famers, with rosters made up of players who have all competed professionally, either in the NBA or overseas. The BIG3 league has become one of the premier events for basketball fans during the summer, a time when there isn’t a lot of competitive professional basketball going on.

Now entering its third season, Ice Cube is looking to take the next step in not only raising the profile of his professional basketball brand, but his personal profile as a Black business mogul. In early April, with his FOX Sports contract having expired at the conclusion of the 2018 BIG3 campaign, the league inked a new deal to have games televised on the CBS network. However, armed with a high-profile group of investors with deep pockets of their own, Ice Cube has a much bigger vision. But reaching that goal won’t come without challenges, or a fight.

“The BIG3 is not part of the old boys club and that doesn’t sit well with a company like Charter, which has been called out many times for unfair treatment of minority organizations and for consistent disregard of its own customers,” Ice Cube said in a statement regarding his investor group’s bid to purchase 21 regional sports networks (RSN). The channels include networks in markets such as Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, and Los Angeles.

Ice Cube and the BIG3, should they win the bid, would then have the foundation in place to build a brand new national network with original programming, sports, and other culturally relevant content.

In an April letter written by the BIG3 to the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice, the company accused Charter Communications of interfering with the BIG3’s investment group—which includes Ice Cube, fellow hip-hop legends LL Cool J and Snoop Dogg, basketball Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Clyde Drexler, tennis star Serena Williams, comedian Kevin Hart, and other prominent figures in sports and entertainment—bid to purchase 21 regional sports networks currently owned by Disney, which the company acquired in its recent merger with FOX. Disney has until June to sell the RSNs if they want to avoid antitrust issues in the future.

BIG3 said that Charter threatened to drop the RSNs from the cable networks it owns should they come under new ownership. Pre-emptively making this threat would effectively lower the current $10 billion price package. However, what makes the move curious is that Liberty Media, Charter’s largest shareholder, is also bidding for the RSNs. Charter has been accused before by a Black man for biased practices. In 2016, Byron Allen filed a $10 billion discrimination suit against the company, accusing them of not giving networks owned by minority groups the same broadcasting opportunities as White-owned media companies.

“In response to our filing, Charter says they are willing to talk to ‘whomever.’ Given their consistent animosity toward diverse ownership groups with inclusive messages like ours, we say we don’t believe them. Anyone who looks at the facts won’t either. They have done everything they can to keep us from owning these RSNs and that’s why we have asked the FCC and the DOJ to investigate,” Ice Cube said in a statement.

In response to the letter, Charter didn’t explicitly push back against the allegations, saying, “Charter currently has an agreement to carry these networks and welcomes the opportunity to discuss a future carriage agreement for these networks with whoever ultimately owns them, including Big3. Regardless of who owns the programming, we approach all negotiations with the same singular objective of reaching carriage agreements that best meet the needs of our customers.”

The BIG3 met on April 17 with the antitrust division of the DOJ, two days after the deadline to enter bids for the RSNs. Others in the bidding include conservative media company Sinclair Broadcast Group, Major League Baseball in partnership with Liberty Media.

At Final Call press time, it was unclear if anything regarding the sale had been resolved.

Cori Harvey, an attorney who specializes in business law, economics and entrepreneurship, said the mere fact that Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Serena Williams and other athletes and entertainers have joined forces to purchase the sports channels is deeply significant. He predicts a ripple effect on Blacks and the larger Black community.

“If this succeeds, even the attempt I think, represents movement along a much-needed path,” said Ms. Harvey, a former law professor at Florida A&M University. It shows that it takes generations to shift into this space of access and mentorship. African Americans have had to build across generations. This is also our Horatio Alger story. Hip hop and sports is often how we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.”

“This is a coming-of-age story. This is an example of employees buying the company. It shows that many hands make light work.”

Dr. Wilmer Leon, III, agreed.

“This is incredibly, incredibly important if we’re ever going to have a chance of moving our situation forward,” he said. “We’re seeing major assets and more media assets falling into fewer and fewer hands.”

Dr. Leon, who teaches at Howard University, said it is gratifying to see this clique of celebrities coalescing around a common goal. It’s important, he added, that the group appears to have the financial wherewithal to withstand whatever challenges they may face.

“They are not immune (to being derailed) but their financial wherewithal gives them a definite mechanism to withstand challenges,” said Dr. Leon, the political scientist, author, columnist and talk show host. “These resources put them at another level. They’ll have resources to pay an attorney like Willie Gary.”

The most immediate challenge is apparently Channel Communications and Liberty Media. According to the New York Post, BIG3 accuses Charter Communications of conspiring with Liberty Media and the owner of the Atlanta Braves and was trying “to pollute the bidding process.”

Ms. Harvey said, without knowing all the details, if Charter and Liberty Media may have engaged in, these tactics, it may be simply cut throat business as usual.

“I think a part of this is learning how to function in this environment,” she said. “It may not necessarily be a race-based issue. This may be a competitive obstacle. Some people may react viscerally to Black people seeking to jump into the bidding, but the Black celebrities are dealing with people who have had generations of exposure to this playing field. We see people battling for six inches of land, not willing to give up an inch of ground. Business is no different.”

“This is the cost of doing business. Throwing money to thwart the opposition isn’t unusual. It’s a part of the game, a part of the business. They are creating barriers to entry for all competition.”

Dr. Leon said those entering business and other arenas should come prepared to make a difference. “The only way to change the game is that you gotta play the game,” he said. “And the only way to win the game is to play the game. It may be a White man’s game, but I’m not ready to give it to them yet.”

Ms. Harvey said she’s struck by the positive turn this development represents.

“What jumps out is this is a shining light because many of these ills in the Black community are because of the impact of the hip hop culture of consumerism and violence,” said Ms. Harvey, a former Philadelphia public defender. “This a good foil.”

Dr. Leon argued the ownership group should seek to use the venture as more than a more investment. “If your belief system is not focused on the liberation of your people, it’s a waste of time,” he said.

Ms. Harvey disagreed with Dr. Leon’s premise, while noting the importance of what the ownership group is attempting to do. “We don’t have enough archetypes,” she said. “I’m sick of the fact that the only available archetypes are the drug dealer, hip hop artists and athletes. We often don’t have enough role models at high levels. Fourteen-year-old Black boys’ role models need to be a Black man in a suit. The image of Barack Obama and his beautiful, strong, Black family is something all of us can aspire to. All we can imitate is what we see.”

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COMMENTARY: Coach Saban, Shut Up and Coach

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Jackson State will continue to get its fair share of 5-Star recruits. Coach Prime and all HBCUs can offer an experience that Alabama certainly can’t. It’s nothing like an HBCU experience. This is just the beginning. We will continue to see 5-Star Black athletes signing with HBCUs.
The post COMMENTARY: Coach Saban, Shut Up and Coach first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Burl “The Coach” Jones, Sports Editor, Houston Forward Times

Recently, Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban made a statement that Texas A&M bought every player they signed with NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) deals.

Alabama came in second in recruiting this year. That has rarely happened since Saban stepped on campus at Alabama. He also stated that Jackson State University, an HBCU coached by Deion Sanders, signed the #1 recruit in the country to a $1 million NIL deal.

The NIL phenomenon was created in June 2021 by the NCAA. This allows athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image, and likeness. Previously, the NCAA made billions in revenue off the backs of college athletes. With the advent of the NIL, expect a shift in the landscape of college football recruiting.

Schools like Texas A&M, Texas, and Oklahoma, have very rich boosters and alumni who have access to millions. They will come up with very creative ways to offer lucrative NIL deals to 5-star recruits. This apparently doesn’t sit well with Coach Saban, who is used to having his way, and getting most of the 5-Star recruits to sign with Alabama.

This will definitely level the playing field and gives schools like Texas A&M, that hasn’t won a National Championship in decades, a chance to recruit 5-Star athletes on a national level and could eventually lead to them winning a National Championship in the near future.

At least that’s what they hope in College Station.

As far as Coach Saban’s statement about Jackson State signing the #1 recruit in the country to a $1 million NIL deal is concerned, that was quickly debunked by Coach Prime, who immediately tweeted that he will address that lie. He followed that up with this statement:

“I haven’t talked to Coach Saban. I’m sure he tried to call. We need to talk publicly- not privately. What you said was public, that doesn’t require a private conversation. Let’s talk publicly and let everybody hear the conversation.”

Coach Saban is speaking from a place of privilege and bigotry. He is used to having his way and getting the players he wants. How dare a little old HBCU such as Jackson State get the #1 recruit in the country? It’s a slap in the face to all HBCUs to insist that they must pay a Black kid to attend an HBCU.

Paying recruits is certainly not new; it has been going on for years.

Former Houston Texan Travis Johnson, who was a 5-Star recruit, recently stated that Alabama offered him six figures in 2000 when he was being recruited.

“Y’all were the NIL before the NIL,” he said.

Jackson State will continue to get its fair share of 5-Star recruits. Coach Prime and all HBCUs can offer an experience that Alabama certainly can’t. It’s nothing like an HBCU experience. This is just the beginning. We will continue to see 5-Star Black athletes signing with HBCUs.

Coach Saban needs to be concerned about that pipeline that he had in Texas, getting those 5-Star recruits to leave the state. That oil money in Texas will be keeping those boys at home. Texas and Oklahoma will be joining the SEC in a few years and that will also influence Saban’s ability to recruit in Texas.

With all those factors coming into play, here is a bit of advice Coach Sabin:

SHUT UP AND COACH!!

“I’m just Telling It Like It Is!!”

The post COMMENTARY: Coach Saban, Shut Up and Coach first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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COMMENTARY: Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Racial tragedy struck Buffalo, New York, on May 14th. Hate came up from the ground and reared its inhumane and immoral head. Ten Black people were murdered by a White man who hated Black people. It’s that simple and that sad. Payton S. Gendron, 18 years old, was the shooter. He also injured 3 people as well during this shooting spree.
The post COMMENTARY: Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By James B. Ewers Jr. Ed.D., Houston Forward Times

Racism is a longstanding social illness in the United States of America. Seemingly, there is no cure for it.

It has been with us for as long as I can remember. The result of it has created heartache and heartbreak.

Lives have been lost and it has left the stain of disgrace on this country. Accomplishments, it could be argued, are sometimes overshadowed by our blatant disregard for some members of our beloved community.

I know for sure that racism will be around for as long as I live. It has been a part of my life experiences.

Unfortunately, and I say this with no pride, I have witnessed racism up close and personal.

I have been around long enough to watch the many levels of racism that exist in this country.

For example, we have had educational racism. Segregated schools were the norm until the case, Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka ended it.

Did that stop us from getting an education?

The answer is a resounding no!

Black colleges, now called Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), were founded in order that higher education was afforded to African Americans.

At this moment, HBCUs are the hottest and most talked about educational venue in the land.

Everybody wants to attend an HBCU. I am a graduate of an HBCU (Johnson C. Smith University), and I know the power and influence they have.

The right to vote has always been problematic for African Americans. It is a fundamental right for all Americans, according to the Founding Fathers.

The problem is that the ‘current fathers’ don’t see it that way.

Will that stop us?

The answer is another resounding no!

African Americans are now voting in record numbers and that trend will continue.

There are states in this union that are creating trumped-up rules to keep us from exercising our privilege at the polls.

Some in this country have taken racism below ground zero. There are people in our states who hate Black people and want to kill us.

That is a powerful statement, yet it is factual and true.

Interestingly, there are citizens who believe the opposite. I suspect their experiences are different, and they live in an almost contactless America.

If you are one of those people, pay close attention now.

Racial tragedy struck Buffalo, New York, on May 14th.

Hate came up from the ground and reared its inhumane and immoral head.

Ten Black people were murdered by a White man who hated Black people.

It’s that simple and that sad.

Payton S. Gendron, 18 years old, was the shooter. He also injured 3 people as well during this shooting spree.

The victims were assaulted at a Tops Friendly Markets store and the victims ranged in ages from 20-86.

This crime of hate is unthinkable and was done with malicious intent.

The killer was not a Buffalo resident. He drove approximately 200 miles from Conklin, New York, to commit this heinous crime.

Gendron had already scouted out the place for his crime. He knew that many African Americans shopped at that location. That is sick beyond words.

According to reports, Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said, “We found some things that show he was here in early March, and then again, we know he was here on Friday, basically doing reconnaissance on the area.”

Gramaglia added, “He was in the store, both on Friday and Saturday.”

These statements were made by him to CNN’s Erin Burnett.

Payton S. Gendron surrendered to police after this life-altering atrocity.

America, where are we headed? Only time will tell.

The post Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings appeared first on Houston Forward Times.

The post COMMENTARY: Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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American Petroleum Institute Lays Out Solutions to Rising Gas Prices

NNPA NEWSWIRE — A study of fact sheets provided by the American Petroleum Institute suggests that the complicated answer includes more production in America, which could add more supply. “More U.S. supply means relief for the global market,” Lem Smith, API’s vice president for Federal Relations, wrote in an op-ed.
The post American Petroleum Institute Lays Out Solutions to Rising Gas Prices first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The average price for a gallon of gasoline has hit record numbers in Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

This week prices rose nationally by four cents, and consumers wondered why the cost is so high.

A study of fact sheets provided by the American Petroleum Institute suggests that the complicated answer includes more production in America, which could add more supply. “More U.S. supply means relief for the global market,” Lem Smith, API’s vice president for Federal Relations, wrote in an op-ed.

“America has an abundance of resources right under our feet, and policymakers should send a clear message that America is open for energy investment,” Smith declared.

API noted that gasoline prices are determined by the supply and demand of crude oil and expenses for refining, distribution, retailing, and taxation. Those fundamental market realities drive prices at the pump, officials stated.

The main components of retail gasoline prices are the cost of crude oil, taxes, refining costs, and distribution and marketing costs, API officials stated.

Of those, the price of crude oil has the most significant impact – accounting for 56 percent of the cost.

“Because of this, changes in the price reflect the global cost of crude oil, which is influenced by current conditions and expectations of consumer demand, supply, inventories, geopolitical events, and other factors, generally have an effect on pump prices,” the organization stated in a fact sheet.

Further, federal, state, and local governments levy various taxes in fees on transportation fuels.

The nationwide average tax on gasoline is 57.09 cents per gallon, including a federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon and state-level taxes that range from 68.15 cents per gallon in California and 15.13 cents per gallon in Alaska.

API President and CEO Mike Sommers recently discussed the critical importance of American energy leadership “at a time of geopolitical volatility and rising energy costs around the world.”

Sommers urged policymakers to advance U.S. natural gas and oil production to support stability in global energy markets and ensure access to affordable, reliable energy for American consumers and our allies overseas.

“Most everyone knows that the world needs oil and natural gas in a big way and will for decades or more to come; the only question is where that oil and gas is going to come from,” Sommers remarked.

“As much as ever, we need to think hard about that economic truth and our energy future. That means recognizing energy from natural gas and oil as the critical strategic asset it is to America.”

“We can’t treat oil and natural gas as a kind of switch that is turned on or off to suit the moment,” Sommers continued.

“Production and delivery don’t work that way. Yet the overriding policy lately has been to cancel pipelines, block permits and deny leases – all things that discourage investment.

“As more Americans face the consequences of bad policy, the elements of good policy become that much more apparent and desired. We have an opportunity together to re-center the energy discussion with basic realities and good common sense as our starting point.”

Sommers called on the administration and Congress to develop a new five-year offshore leasing program; hold onshore leases on federal lands per the Mineral Leasing Act; approve LNG export applications and allow the approval of exports to non-free-trade-agreement nations, and craft transparent, consistent permitting regulations to enable the development of vital energy infrastructure.

The U.S. has pledged to increase LNG exports to Europe by 65 percent over the next six years.

How quickly could U.S. oil producers scale up production to put downward pressure on domestic gasoline costs?

What could the federal government do to promote that production?

API officials said it begins with access to resources, advancing infrastructure, and enabling – rather than deterring – the industry’s financing.

“Importantly, financial markets have become less hospitable to the natural gas and oil industry partly because of the Biden administration’s positions, policies, and signals,” API officials asserted.

“Those who have capital may be reluctant to invest in long-lived energy assets in such a climate, and a relatively fixed pool of cash flows that could be re-invested by industry have been increasingly spread thin.”

API listed four “concrete actions” the organization believes the Biden-Harris administration could immediately take to support American production.

They include conducting federal lease sales, completing a new five-year program for federal offshore leasing, supporting energy infrastructure, and reopening access to Alaska.

“The administration should reinstate the leases it suspended in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the permit development it approved in the National Petroleum Reserve,” API officials wrote.

“These were permitted with stringent environmental standards and could prove a significant source of domestic production over time.”

The post American Petroleum Institute Lays Out Solutions to Rising Gas Prices first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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