SWAGBAGad

Shaquille O’Neal Partners With American Express To Invest $10 Million In Black Businesses

By  |  0 Comments

NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal is partnering with American Express AXP -0.6% as part of the Coalition to Back Black Businesses, which includes a $10 million commitment to support Black-owned businesses over the next four years.

Eligible Black-owned small businesses have until Sept. 21 to apply for a $5,000 grant. The Coalition, which also includes the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., National Business League, National Black Chamber of Commerce and Walker’s Legacy will then select 280 finalists to complete a more in-depth application by Sept. 22. Those who meet the requirements will receive the $5,000 grant starting Oct. 6. A quarter of grant recipients will go to women-owned Black small businesses, and recipients will be invited to participate in a mentorship program to help further grow their businesses.

The 48-year-old O’Neal has been an American Express cardholder since 1992.

“Every time I’ve asked for something to help in the community, they’ve always been there,” O’Neal said over the phone Monday. “The grant program, I think it’s beautiful.”

The Hall of Fame center said that Black businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, especially community staples that people have gone to for a long time. One barber shop O’Neal went to in Atlanta had to close down because of the lockdown in Georgia. He had a program there with local schoolchildren that gave free haircuts to kids who got straight A’s and brought their report cards to the shop. It had to open back up in a different location because it had no business coming in for months at a time. 

“You can’t run a business for four months with no income coming back,” the Laker great said. “Small businesses have to be very, very careful. I think I saw a report yesterday that we may not get back to normal until the end of 2021.”

American Express has always been a reliable and consistent partner for O’Neal. He said when his child’s school didn’t have enough laptops to supply everyone for remote learning during quarantine at the beginning of the pandemic, AmEx helped Shaq sponsor computers for the school and other schools in need in the area.

As for O’Neal’s personal businesses, they’ve certainly taken a hit over the last six months, including several restaurants in the Las Vegas areas struggling to make ends meet before getting back on track. But he and his partners will persevere, he said, without the help of PPP loans from the federal government.

“I see a lot of rich people taking loans for help. I’ll never do that,” O’Neal, a four-time NBA champion, said. “I don’t want to start a war against wealthy people, but let’s just say that’s something I wouldn’t do. Me personally, when there’s 40 million people out of work and losing houses and losing businesses, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with myself being the guy with the big houses and a lot of cars taking money. I’d rather just sell one of my cars.”

Shaq
TNT’s Inside The NBA crew of O’Neal, Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkey. Damairs … [+] DAMAIRS CARTER/MEDIAPUNCH/IPX

You’ve been seeing Shaq a lot on TV lately during the NBA playoffs on TNT’s award-winning Inside The NBA, which is off until the Western Conference Finals begin on Friday. But he did take some time to analyze the Los Angeles Clippers and why they haven’t yet advanced to face the Lakers in the conference finals and instead will play the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday in a winner-take-all Game 7.

“Because you can’t get cute,” O’Neal said. “When you’re up 3-1, sometimes you think the next game’s gonna be easier. And then you lose Game 5 and you start getting tight. And then you go into Game 6 really tight and your game plan doesn’t work. So now it’s Game 7. All the pressure is on the Clippers.”

Shaq said he hates to say it, but he’s predicting a Nuggets upset win in Game 7.

“They’re playing with house money,” he said. “They weren’t supposed to be there. You already hear everybody talking about Lakers vs Clippers Western Conference Finals. So if you count me out, I’m gonna be very, very loose too.”

But returning from the NBA bubble to the real world, things have been tight for far too many Black-owned businesses, which is why O’Neal is so enthusiastic about partnering with American Express— also the sponsor of Inside The NBA’s halftime show— for the $10 million grant program to help businesses out there who are really hurting.

“There’s a lot of people out there struggling, a lot of people who lost everything,” Shaq said. “When you’re out of work for four, five months, there’s not a lot you can do.”