Rev. Jesse Jackson Calls on Professional Sports Teams To Diversify Procurement & Supplier Contracts

Sports teams are loved by millions of Americans and each team has a significant impact on the communities they are located in.

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. gave remarks and led a prayer before dinner at the evening portion of the DiversityInc 2022 Top 50 event in NYC.

What’s lacking for many of these teams is the number of employees who are minorities, especially when it comes to procurement services and suppliers, which in turn leads to less money and support going to the diverse range of the people and businesses who make up the communities sports teams are located in. And Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. has something to say about it. 

In a recent interview with DiversityInc leading up to our Top 50 Event, where Jackson gave remarks during the evening portion of the 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 by employing minorities in their local communities. 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. 

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.

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. spoke at the 2022 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity event on May 3.

To better understand the current makeup of sports teams and their procurement services, 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, the types of procurement services provided by the team, the racial and gender characteristics of the team’s corporate officers and more. 

Putting specific programs in place is another way professional sports teams can increase supplier diversity and 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 supplier diversity. 

The MLB franchise has a Diverse Business Partners program in which it 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. The team said it is “aggressively seeking qualified vendors” who want to enter into a partnership with the team, and the first step is to do so by completing a supplier profile questionnaire. 

Jackson referred to procurement and supplier teams as the “backside” of what makes these 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.

Jackson with his team and DiversityInc CEO Carolynn L. Johnson at the 2022 Top 50 event.

Educating Youth and Young Adults

To help youth and young adults find their career path and participate on Wall Street and Corporate America’s economic strategies, Jackson’s organization also helps youth and young adults from underserved and marginalized communities “sharpen their minds,” to 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, Telecomm Companies, Big Box Retailers, Banks, Sports teams and the like to open up to all of America.”

Jackson added that inclusion creates opportunities.

“Inclusion is the key to growth. Inclusion is the key to fairness. Inclusion is the key to the American Dream. Inclusion is the key to economic prosperity. Inclusion is the key to making America better and better and better.

 “Keep hope Alive!”

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