Rev. Jesse Jackson Urges Professional Sports Teams to Diversify Supplier Contracts

Sports teams are loved by millions of Americans, and each team has a significant impact on the communities they are located in. What’s lacking for many of these teams is the number of employees who are minorities. This is especially true when it comes to procurement services and supplier contracts. As a result, this leads to less money and support going to the diverse people and businesses that make up the communities where sports teams are located. Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. had something to say about it.

In a recent interview with Fair360, formerly DiversityInc, leading up to our 2022 Top 50 event, Jackson spoke of how sports teams – from the NFL to the NBA and MLB – need to build up the infrastructure of their teams, stadiums, vendors and media partners. This can be accomplished by employing minorities in their local communities. For example, this could mean hiring a Black-owned restaurateur as a vendor in your stadium or arena or hiring a Black-owned radio host or TV station to cover your events. 

Building Equity Into Supplier Contracts

The best way to do this is by building diversity and equity into the supplier contracts for each team. This might seem like a daunting task, but Jackson and his team at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition are here to help.

To better understand the current makeup of sports teams and their procurement services and supplier contracts, the coalition and the Citizenship Education Fund (CEF) have created a “Survey of Minority Employment and Procurement” for sports teams. The survey asks questions about minority and female members employed by the team. Additionally, it asks about the types of procurement services provided by the team and the racial and gender characteristics of the team’s corporate officers. 

Putting specific programs in place is another way professional sports teams can increase diversity in supplier contracts. In fact, some are already doing this. Jackson named the Chicago White Sox as an example of a professional team that has policies in place to increase diverse supplier contracts. 

The MLB franchise has a Diverse Business Partners program. The program aims to provide opportunities to minority and women-owned businesses that are “capable of providing the Chicago White Sox and its associated companies with commodities and services through our competitive bid process,” according to the team. Additionally, the team said it is “aggressively seeking qualified vendors” who want to enter into a partnership with the team. The first step is to do so by completing a supplier profile questionnaire. 

Jackson referred to procurement and suppliers as the “backside” of what makes sports teams function. They are what draw in the fans and make each game a memorable experience. 

“We must fight for the backside of these industries that make them happen,” he said.

Educating Youth and Young Adults

In addition to helping organizations diversify their supplier contracts, Jackson’s organization also helps youth and young adults find their career path and participate in Wall Street and corporate America’s economic strategies. Rainbow/PUSH Coalition assists youth and young adults from underserved and marginalized communities to “sharpen their minds.” This helps create a “pool of qualified applicants that can be hired at your companies,” Jackson said. 

“In today’s world, we need brick masons, barbers, plumbers, electricians, financiers and board members,” he said. “We challenge automakers, technology companies, telecom companies, big-box retailers, banks, sports teams and the like to open up to all of America.”

Jackson added that inclusion creates opportunities. He emphasized that embracing diversity is essential for progress, economic prosperity and achieving the American Dream.

 “Keep hope alive,” Jackson said.