Major League Soccer is following up with its 2020 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion iniatives. On March 10, MLS announced that it will leverage a historic $25 million loan from a syndicate of Black banks. This will be the first time any sports league has completed a major commercial transaction exclusively with Black banks.
The MLS is a men’s professional soccer league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation. The league is composed of 28 teams — 25 in the U.S. and three in Canada.
The deal involves the National Black Bank Foundation (NBBF), a nonprofit network of Black-owned retail financial institutions, which organized a syndication team led by two Black-owned banks, Atlanta-based Citizens Trust Bank and New York-based Carver Federal Savings Bank, The Boardroom reported.
“This transformative partnership between MLS and Black banks around the country is evidence of what can happen when leaders courageously stand up and decide to participate in equitable change,” Dr. Bernice A. King, CEO of King Center and Board Member of the NBBF, told MSL Soccer newsletter.
According to King, the partnership was her idea.
King, daughter of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., added, “I brought MLS and NBBF together because I saw an opportunity to create a partnership with the power to transform lives in Black communities and change hearts and minds throughout our nation. This deal undoubtedly marks an important moment in the continuing struggle for civil rights in the United States.”
NBBF co-founder and general counsel Ashley Bell agreed. “Major League Soccer has raised the bar for corporate America with this transformative partnership,” said Bell. “Suppose other leagues and major corporations follow the MLS model. In that case, lives of Black families all across this country will change for the better because their local Black bank will have the capital resources to approve historic numbers of home and small business loans.”
Those involved say the involved Black-owned banks and the communities they serve will benefit, as the MSL’s high credit rating will allow the loan to work toward “[growing] the banks’ capital cushion through fees and interest earned, creating additional capacity for new lines of credit for home and small business loans in communities of color across the country.”
“Major League Soccer’s partnership with the National Black Bank Foundation is a tangible step in the efforts to close the racial, economic gap in the United States, and it’s the right business decision for us,” league Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “As a league, we continue to increase our initiatives in support of racial justice. Economic justice must be part of the equation to make a genuine impact. This transaction with a syndicate of community-focused Black banks is an important measure, and it is our hope this will raise awareness of the importance of Black-owned banks and their impact on the economy.”
Through this partnership, MLS will not only work with the NBBF, but also the 100 Black Men of America, Inc., National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and Black Players for Change to educate their constituents and members on economic empowerment programming.
Black Players for Change is an independent organization consisting of more than 170 players, coaches and staff of MLS, working to bridge society’s racial equality gap.
“Through securing deals like the one we celebrate here today, we directly address and establish a platform to overcome the undervaluing of Black participation in the economic ecosystem. Creating opportunities like this demonstrates that we are moving in the right direction. We welcome the opportunity to continue this positive forward momentum in partnership with MLS and others,” Black Players for Change founder and 11-year MLS veteran Quincy Amarikwa told MSL Soccer newsletter.
In October 2020, MLS unveiled a series of initiatives to combat racism, advocating for social justice and increasing Black representation in the sport.