The Economics of Race: Donald Sterling and the NBA a Brand in Crisis

The most exclusive club in America is not a country club or a political party but being a majority team owner in American sports.  This privilege is reserved for a select few, the entry point has nothing to do with college degrees, GPA or how smart an individual is.  Majority sport team owners are extremely wealthy, in the NBA 14 of the 30 of team owners are Billionaires and the remaining 16 have a net worth north of $200 Million.  As a talking point there are a sufficient number of African Americans that fit this category but their net worth alone won’t get them on this short list.

On Saturday morning (04/26) I opened my email inbox at about 7:00am to find out Donald Sterling owner of the Los Angeles Clippers was reportedly caught on tape making racist remarks to Girlfriend which was first reported on on April 25, 2014.  I was very disturbed as a human being more so than as an African American to hear the ignorant statements that he made.   Does it appear that Sterling was setup by V. Stiviano his girlfriend and recorded without his knowledge?  Do most people say things in the privacy of their home that they wouldn’t say in public?  The answer is yes to both questions and under California law V. Siviano probably illegally recorded their conversations.  But in the words of Drake, “…now we’re here…”, the statements Donald Sterling made are now public record and the NBA has no choice but to deal with it.

Race Impacts Everything

Race impacts almost every decision that we make everyday and I am sure that are many people will totally disagree with this point.  Think about where you live, what schools your children attend, who you married, your friends/network, employment, mortgage rates, automobile insurance rates, and deal flow to name a few.  Having said that, sports is the purest example of the economics of race, so now lets dig into the NBA brand.

The NBA Brand

The NBA has been the poster child for diversity in American sports from the coaches on the sidelines, to the executive’s they hire and obviously to the players on the court.

  • 81% of NBA players are people of color

  • 3/4 of NBA players are African-American

  • 27% of NBA coaches are African-American

I have spent a considerable amount of time pouring myself into the subject matter of branding and I realize that at it’s very core that brands are more than colors, logos, and names.  Brands are stories, they are a collective of experiences and impressions that people make an emotional connection to, that drive economic outcomes in our purchasing decisions and the market value of the organizations that they are developed for.

The NBA Has Only One Solution

As a brand strategist if I were advising the NBA here is what I would recommend as the only course of action.  I am not a lawyer so I don’t know all the complexities of the NBA by-laws or the sanctions that the NBA can impose on Donald Sterling as an NBA owner, but here is what has to happen from an NBA brand management standpoint.

  1. Indefinite Suspension of Donald Sterling: There should be an indefinite suspension of Donald Sterling while the NBA is investigating the authenticity of the tape which should be concluded this week.  Basically Sterling needs to stay out of public view and not interact with the the team during the playoffs.  The Clippers organization has already made a statement about the audio without admitting that Donald Sterling is the other voice which no lawyer worth her salt is going to do.

  1. Donald Sterling has to sell the team to Magic Johnson:  Magic and the Guggenheim Partners investment group that own the Dodgers recently purchased the WNBA Los Angeles Spark and are the perfect partners to purchase the team.  It is a great story:  Magic along with Bird saved the NBA in the 80’s.  Magic is in phase II of his career is a highly successful businessman in LA that could save the NBA again during this brand crisis.  He is also a 5-time NBA Champion with the Los Angeles Lakers and is at the heart of the crisis with the instagram photo that was posted.

  1. Provide Donald Sterling with a way out (Mianzi): In the Chinese business culture there is a principle called Mianzi which centers around the idea of saving face.  In China they believe when a business person or company has a public failure that the option of giving them a way out should be provided.  Donald Sterling a billionaire with a network of $1.9B can’t give his way out of this situation regardless of how much he gives to the NAACP or any other organization.  The reality is, is that Donald Sterling could probably maintain ownership of the team but it would be a living a “H___”.  He wouldn’t be able to seat courtside and would no longer be able to hang out with the players in the locker room, no player on the team is going to want to be connected with him whatsoever.  This allows him to ride off into the sunset with his money.

  1. Crisis Management PR (Magic, Sterling and the NBA):  As part of the agreement Sterling can negotiate that Magic and the NBA work with him to salvage his reputation.  It would be the best alternative on the table.  It would be an incredible story that people could get behind and believe in.  It is also the only authentic story that can be developed out of this situation, there is no way to spin this story but you could have an amicable ending for all parties.

I know the NBA is going to move swiftly and decisively in their course of action.  The solution outlined is the best case scenario for all parties involved.  Let’s see what happens.

Detroit’s Largest Selfie at the @DIADetroit: Tag Your Favorite Detroit Personality/Friend to join! #DetroitWeek

It is time to make History!!! Detroit’s largest selfie photo is happening on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 10am (arrive by 9:30am to reserve your space) on the steps of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). The Established Co. is arranging the mass selfie group photo during Detroit Week.

Event Information
Event: Detroit’s Largest Selfie
Location: Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) front steps (5200 Woodward Avenue)
Date: Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Time: 10:00am (arrive by 9:30am)
Register Here:

Tag a Detroit Personality or a Friend

Tag your favorite Detroit celebrity, personality or Friend on Twitter that you would like to see in the mass selfie. Below is a short list to get you started…If your favorite personality isn’t on this list post a tweet with their Twitter handle and the #DetroitWeek hashtag and encourage them to participate.

Amy Andrews: Fox 2 News Anchor – @AmyAndrewsFox2
Reggie Bush – Detroit Lion’s Running Back: @ReggieBush
Stephen Clark: WXYZ Channel 7 News Anchor – @stephenclark
Mike Duggan: Mayor of Detroit – @MayorMikeDuggan
Victor Faust: WXYZ Channel 7 News Anchor – @victorjfaust
Chauncey Glover: Reporter NBC’s WDIV Local News 4 – @CCGONTV
Andrew Humphrey: NBC WDIV Local News 4 Weather – @AndrewLocal4
Glenda Lewis: WXYZ Channel 7 News Anchor – @GLewisWXYZ
Erin Nicole: WXYZ Channel 7 Traffic & Entertainment Reporter- @ENicole19
Ndamukong Suh: Detroit Lions Defensive Tackle – @NdamukongSuh
Devin Scillian: NBC WDIV Local News 4 Anchor – @DevinScillian
Alicia Smith: WXYZ Morning Anchor – @WXYZAlicia
Roop Raj – Fox 2 Anchor/Reporter: @rooprajfox2
Kid Rock: Musician/Artist – @KidRock
Jalen Rose: ESPN Analyst/Fab Five – @JalenRose
Rhonda Walker – Morning News Anchor WDIV-TV4 – @RhondaWalker

Help spread the word!

Connect with Detroit Week Online
Twitter: @DetroitWeek
Instagram: Detroit Week

#DetroitWeek: #DetroitSelfies Inspirational Challenge: The New Faces of Detroit Entrepreneurship + Tech

Can the #DetroitWeek hashtag be a catalyst for people to share their passion? Detroit is a City of Doers that doesn’t require ‘Gatekeepers’. Let’s re-define who the faces of entrepreneurship, technology and innovation are in Detroit? It is time to give a face to the voiceless.

1. Post your Selfie in Instagram and Twitter and include the following information…
2. Include hashtags: #DetroitWeek #DetroitSelfies
3. Include the following: ”I Do ______________”
4. Be creative and integrate your work environment or things that communicates who you are and what you do.

Detroit’s Largest Selfie

Detroit’s largest selfie photo will take place during #DetroitWeek. A location and date will be disclosed in the future. Follow the Detroit Week Twitter  account for more information and updates and be sure to include the hashtags: #DetroitWeek #DetroitSelfies

What is Detroit Week?

Detroit Week is an inaugural week-long celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation that is happening February 17-23, 2014. Throughout the week we expect more than 500 people to attend over 10 events organized by our team and other leading organizations like Grand Circus and Girl Develop It. Our goal is to unify entrepreneurs and local organizations.

Follow Us Online
Twitter: @DetroitWeek

Jayru Campbell – How to Manage His Brand in Crisis (Open Letter)

Fox 2 News Headlines

How do you manage a brand in crisis?  Damage control is critical for brands whether they are personal or corporate.  Their future hangs in the balance while time elapses and the court of public opinion spins out of control.  The worst time to try and learn what to do is when you are going through a crisis like Jayru Campbell.

Jayru Campbell is a four star class of 2015 QB according to Rivals and attends Detroit Cass Tech High School.  Based upon recent reports he is facing assault and battery charges for body slamming a security guard caught on video.

One thing is for certain everyone makes mistakes people and multi-million dollar brands like Michael Vick and KitchenAid.  They are also two classic case studies of brand restoration. Some mistakes have more consequences than others but responsible people and great brands face them head on to garner support, build brand loyalty and restore their brands in times of adversity.

If I were advising Jayru Campbell from a personal brand standpoint this would be my advice to him and his family.

1. Confront the Crisis Head On

Get in front of the situation you can’t allow the court of public opinion to determine your fate because you will lose this battle every single time.  When there is a real crisis you can’t ignore it or act like it didn’t happen.  Based upon the brief cell phone video footage it is difficult to determine who was the aggressor which in this case only matters in the legal proceedings.

2. Provide a genuine, timely, remorseful public apology

Public apologies during crisis are critical and have to be timely and communicated with contrition.  Based upon the situation the response time varies from a few minutes to 48-hours.

Jayru and his team need to make his statement immediately and it should definitely be made before his court appearance next week.

People are usually willing to give you a second chance if you are genuinely remorseful for your actions.  His apologize needs to reflect the following:

  • Don’t admit to anything.  This is a legal matter and admission weakens his position of claiming ‘Self-Defense’.
  • He should apologize to his parents, teammates, everyone who has supported him and Cass Tech for reflecting poorly on the school and nothing more.  This is not your time to ‘Tell Your Story’.
  • Don’t address being recruited by Michigan State University publicly (handle this behind closed doors).
  • Don’t speak to the media.

His family also has to understand they are an extension of the Jayru Campbell brand and what they say can impact his future.

3. Address Social Media Head On

Social media can be your friend or enemy and buzz can be spun whether it is negative or positive to restore and build brands.  If the situation is initiated in a specific medium like Twitter then your response should include that medium as well.  That is not the case in this situation so I wouldn’t respond via Twitter or any other social media platform.

He should shut down any social media accounts he has especially his Twitter account for the following three reasons:

  • He needs to eliminate the opportunity to post comments online that are out of emotion and photos that communicate a pattern of behavior consistent with poor decision-making.
  • He needs to resist the urge to respond to others speaking out about this situation that has negative sentiment.
  • He has to eliminate previous tweets and online comments, retweets, shares, likes, and favorites that could impact his college playing opportunities.

4. Move Forward…Every Crisis is An Opportunity

Jayru Campbell has a real situation to deal with and some major hurdles to overcome.  The court of public opinion will continue to spin which he has no control over it, but he can control how he responses.  I wouldn’t focus on anything except getting through the court situation next week and restoring my personal brand over the following year which will be proven by his actions not his words.

Here is my position…a lot of people are going to say he doesn’t deserve a second chance. I am not ready to throw this young man away and I recognize he has couple of marks against him.

I don’t know Jayru personally and I have never met him, but I will say this.  I believe in second chances and I am a strong believer that ‘Every Crisis’ is an opportunity.  I am hopeful that he will use this as learning lesson and can demonstrate overtime by his actions that he has developed his character so that he can live his dream of playing major college football.



Entrepreneurship vs. Employment: What is the Price of Freedom?

I recently shared a short post on Facebook on Entrepreneurship and the price. Would love to hear your thoughts!

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Detroit Files Bankruptcy: Time to Re-Build and Re-Brand the City!

On July 18, 2013 Detroit becomes the largest city in U.S. history to file bankruptcy with a $18 Billion debt. What does this mean for the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan? We can question whether the tactics of how we got here were ethical, but we are here now. For decades we have transferred the responsibly from one administration to the next and it couldn’t be pushed any further. So what is next?

Is Detroit the Blueprint for the Nation?

Five years ago during the financial crisis that started in 2008 (I am specifically referencing the bailouts between 2008-2009) in the United States when the unemployment rate reached 10% the highest it has been since 1982, people began to lose faith in big government and big corporations. Detroit was at the epicenter of this crisis with the automotive bailouts. People began looking to reduce their dependence on an industrial society that had outsourced everything except its spirit of innovation and creativity. But something more interesting took place. The media and the nation began to take notice at what was happening in Detroit. There has been plenty of conversation that Detroit could be the blueprint for ‘Re-Invention’ for other U.S. cities. This was prior to yesterday’s announcement about filing Chapter 9 bankruptcy which will only continue to fuel this conversation.

Photo Credit:  Shawn Lee Studios

Full Article on MLive:

Hajj Flemings Interview w/ Ann Nyberg and WTNH ABC News – ‘The Entrepreneur’s Journey’

I was recently interviewed by Ann Nyberg of WTNH Channel 8 ABC News in New Haven, CT.  Ann is a well known news anchor that I met via Twitter, this interview was birthed from our online conversation that included a blog post and a few tweets.


Our interaction reinforces the power of the social web and the value of living in the ‘Connection Economy.’  In this segment we discussed my entrepreneurial journey from Ford Motor Company to Brand Camp University.  I drove 1.5 hours from New York City to New Haven, CT the home of Yale University for the live in studio interview and it was well worth the trip.

You can follow Ann Nyberg Online:
WTHN Station:
Twitter: @AnnNyberg

It is Time to Reinvent Yourself!

News flash: ‘The world has Changed’!  We now live in a collaborative, co-created, agile, mobile, post-industrial economy that will be run by millennials/digital natives.  (I believe I covered most of the buzzwords in one sentence.)  In the U.S. we are experiencing a decline in the manufacturing sector and have become a part of a globally connected knowledge based economy filled with noise and information overload.

Today people are grappling with the harsh reality of unemployment, underemployment and/or a lack of job security.  Whether you are an entrepreneur, a corporate executive, athlete, Pastor, or startup founder we are all dealing with the same challenge of how work is being valued and redefined in unstable times.  Most of us were taught growing up to build resumes and were trained to think like an employee.  Today even an employee can’t afford to think like an employee.  It is the the end of mediocrity, the days of creating average stuff will get you fired, overlooked and render you irrelevant.

In October 2010 Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger launched Instagram a photo sharing mobile app and 2-years later was acquired for $1billion by Facebook.  How crazy is it that the New York Times a 162-years old media titan was worth $50million less than Instagram at the time it was acquired by Facebook? Have we done people a disservice by training them to think to work in an industrial society?  The great manufacturing jobs with low education requirements where workers put round pegs in round holes and get paid $60K are not as plentiful as they use to be.  We live in a capital gains driven society where making money on your money is valued higher than labor income.   People with a ‘Reactionary’ mindset will struggle with how work is valued in the new economy.  But the bigger question that each of us will have to address is:  Are you ready to ‘Reinvent’ yourself so that you can ‘Do Work that Matters’?

Is Jack Dorsey an Entrepreneur or Intrapreneur?

“Be nice to geek’s, you’ll probably end up working for one” – Bill Gates

When it comes to entrepreneurs you don’t know Jack!  Maybe you do, Jack Dorsey is the the Co-Founder of Twitter and Square which generated $350 Million in revenue and $5 Billion in transactions respectively in 2012. He now has set his sights on following in the footsteps of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.   He wants to become the next Mayor of New York City one of the fastest growing tech hubs.  So how would you define Jack?  Is he an Entrepreneur or an Intrapreneur?  Clearly Jack’s work history is one of a serial entrepreneur, but his future career goal is to be an employee for the city of New York.

The line between entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship is blurring.  We once asked the question if a person was an entrepreneur.  In a ‘Post Industrial’ Economy this is the wrong question to ask because we are all entrepreneurs.  The real question is are you an entrepreneurs ‘Inside or Outside’ of the company.  This is a different paradigm opposes how we define entrepreneurs.  You are probably saying to yourself hold on a minute.  Put down your rocks and let me state my case.  Let’s look at the data which clearly shows that entrepreneurs are catalysts of economic change in the U.S., with small businesses and startups representing 100% of the net job growth in our country.

Today the training and development that a worker gets in a company is different than it was 20-years ago.  Companies are expecting workers to be self-trained, providing little to no mentorship, and expect these individuals to hit the ground running.  Is it possible to get people working on side projects and developing their entrepreneurial thinking chops so that they can add value to the organization they are apart of today?

Workforce Segmentation

At a macro level the workforce is comprised of two segments: people who are wired to be entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs.  Whether you are a large corporation, startup or a one person operation you are pulling from a highly competitive global talent pool that I coined as builders and leapers.

Builders (Intrapreneur or Employee):  Builders are individuals that build their resume while they build someone else’s dreams.  These individuals are also known as intrapreneurs which are workers that feel more comfortable working inside an existing organizational structure and is looking for the security it affords.  This structure has historically provided guaranteed checks at the end of the pay period even if the individual has underperformed.

Leapers (Entrepreneur or Employer):  Leapers are pure entrepreneurs, individuals who have made the leap and are working full-time on their own business versus moonlighting and working on their passion as a side project.  A leaper wants the opportunity that is connected with taking the risk and forgoing the security that come along with a steady paycheck. They are attracted to the unlimited opportunity and the reward connected with taking on the risk of launching their own idea.  Leapers ultimately falls into the employer category even if it is  initially a single person operation.

At the end of the day we are all entrepreneurs because we all have to invent, innovate, be curious and think outside the box whether we are entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs


“With Great power comes great responsibility” – Spiderman
“…to whomever much is given, of him much shall be required…” – Luke 14:28

Why do you do what you do?  Is it because it is safe?  Is because of fear? Is it because you were told you could make a lot of money doing it?  Every person whether they admit it or not wants to do something that matters and live a life of significance.  This post was written for those who bought the 30-year old lie that was told to every boy and girl who grew up during the industrial manufacturing age. ‘If you go to school, graduate, you will get a job and you will work that job until death do you part’, this statement is no longer relevant today.  At some point most of us woke up and you were unemployed, underemployed or our dreams were at risk because the world we once knew had suddenly changed.  We now live in a post industrial economy where job security, career reinvention, and globalization are changing the way we live, work and play.

If 44% of people are unsatisfied with their jobs (the remaining 56% = 19%-happy, 16%-Somewhat Satisfied, 21%-Somewhat unsatisfied), 32% of U.S. Employees want to find new work and 30% of the worlds job force is jobless then…

‘Why do you do what you do?’