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Changing the Game: Ice Cube’s Battle to Buy Regional Sports Networks

By Bryan 18X Crawford and Barrington Salmon, Contributing Writers,The Remaining Name

Increasingly more, Black athletes and entertainers are wanting to broaden past the area of expertise that gained them fame, notoriety and riches, and leverage these positions to help them make their similar mark in the world of business. There are Black people who successfully transitioned from their respective artwork or sport, turning themselves into well-respected businesspeople and a constructive example of what entrepreneurship appears like. The lifetime of the late rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle personifies this point.

Nevertheless, Ice Dice, Nipsey’s West Coast predecessor and elder—or “O.G.”—in the rap recreation and one in every of the founding fathers of the hip-hop style often known as “gangsta rap,” has been blazing huge time enterprise trails of his personal for the past 20 years.

In early April, together with his FOX Sports contract having expired at the conclusion of the 2018 BIG3 campaign, the league inked a new deal to have video games televised on the CBS network. Nevertheless, armed with a high-profile group of buyers with deep pockets of their very own, Ice Cube has a much greater imaginative and prescient. But reaching that objective gained’t come with out challenges, or a struggle.

Many are conversant in O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson, either from his days as a rapper in the group “N.W.A.,” or from his appearing roles in well-liked films resembling “Boyz In The Hood,” and the “Friday,” “Barbershop,” and “Are We There Yet?” collection of movies. Nevertheless, in 2017, Ice Cube determined to delve into previously uncharted business waters by getting concerned in professional sports as one among the founders of the BIG3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league. The BIG3 features 12 groups coached by former NBA All-Stars and Hall of Famers, with rosters made up of gamers who’ve all competed professionally, either in the NBA or overseas. The BIG3 league has turn into one in every of the premier occasions for basketball followers throughout the summer time, a time when there isn’t numerous aggressive professional basketball happening.

Now getting into its third season, Ice Dice is wanting to take the next step in not solely raising the profile of his professional basketball brand, but his personal profile as a Black business mogul. In early April, together with his FOX Sports contract having expired at the conclusion of the 2018 BIG3 campaign, the league inked a brand new deal to have games televised on the CBS network. Nevertheless, armed with a high-profile group of buyers with deep pockets of their own, Ice Cube has a a lot greater imaginative and prescient. But reaching that aim gained’t come without challenges, or a battle.

“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 stated in a press release relating to his investor group’s bid to purchase 21 regional sports networks (RSN). The channels embrace networks in markets similar to Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, and Los Angeles.

Ice Cube and the BIG3, should they win the bid, would then have the foundation in place to construct a brand new national community with unique programming, sports, and different culturally relevant content.

In an April letter written by the BIG3 to the Federal Communications Fee and the Department of Justice, the firm 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 outstanding figures in sports and leisure—bid to purchase 21 regional sports activities networks at present owned by Disney, which the firm acquired in its current merger with FOX. Disney has till June to promote the RSNs if they want to avoid antitrust points in the future.

BIG3 stated that Constitution threatened to drop the RSNs from the cable networks it owns ought to they come underneath new possession. Pre-emptively making this menace would effectively lower the present $10 billion worth package deal. Nevertheless, what makes the move curious is that Liberty Media, Charter’s largest shareholder, can also be bidding for the RSNs. Constitution has been accused before by a Black man for biased practices. In 2016, Byron Allen filed a $10 billion discrimination go well with towards the company, accusing them of not giving networks owned by minority teams the similar broadcasting opportunities as White-owned media corporations.

“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 Dice stated in a press release.

In response to the letter, Constitution didn’t explicitly push again towards 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 embrace conservative media company Sinclair Broadcast Group, Main League Baseball in partnership with Liberty Media.

At Last Call press time, it was unclear if something relating to the sale had been resolved.

Cori Harvey, an lawyer who focuses on enterprise regulation, economics and entrepreneurship, stated the mere proven fact that Ice Dice, LL Cool J, Serena Williams and different athletes and entertainers have joined forces to buy the sports channels is deeply vital. He predicts a ripple effect on Blacks and the larger Black group.

“If this succeeds, even the attempt I think, represents movement along a much-needed path,” stated Ms. Harvey, a former regulation professor at Florida A&M University. It exhibits that it takes generations to shift into this area of access and mentorship. African People have had to construct across generations. This is also our Horatio Alger story. Hip hop and sports activities is usually 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 stated. “We’re seeing major assets and more media assets falling into fewer and fewer hands.”

Dr. Leon, who teaches at Howard University, stated it’s gratifying to see this clique of celebrities coalescing around a standard aim. It’s necessary, he added, that the group appears to have the financial wherewithal to stand up to whatever challenges they could face.

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

Probably the most quick problem is seemingly Channel Communications and Liberty Media. In accordance to the New York Publish, BIG3 accuses Constitution Communications of conspiring with Liberty Media and the owner of the Atlanta Braves and was making an attempt “to pollute the bidding process.”

Ms. Harvey stated, without figuring out all the particulars, if Charter and Liberty Media might have engaged in, these techniques, it might be merely minimize throat enterprise as ordinary.

“I think a part of this is learning how to function in this environment,” she stated. “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 stated those getting into enterprise and other arenas should come ready to make a distinction. “The only way to change the game is that you gotta play the game,” he stated. “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 stated she’s struck by the constructive flip this improvement 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,” stated Ms. Harvey, a former Philadelphia public defender. “This a good foil.”

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

Ms. Harvey disagreed with Dr. Leon’s premise, while noting the importance of what the possession group is trying to do. “We don’t have enough archetypes,” she stated. “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.”