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MLS Launches Breakthrough Partnership With Black-owned Banks

The 2022 Major League Soccer season is hardly two weeks old, but history has already been made alongside the National Black Bank Foundation thanks to a $25 million loan.

MLS is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts. On Thursday, the league announced plans to leverage a $25 million loan facilitated by the National Black Bank Foundation (NBBF), a network of Black-owned retail financial institutions that seeks to close the racial wealth gap by helping underserved communities gain access to capital.

The transaction is the first of its kind, according to an official Major League Soccer press release, as no other sports league has previously carried out a commercial transaction of this size exclusively with Black-owned banks.

Major League Soccer’s partnership with the National Black Bank Foundation is a tangible step in the efforts to close the racial economic gap in the United States, and it’s the right business decision for us,” league Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “As a league, we continue to increase our initiatives in support of racial justice. In order to make a genuine impact, economic justice must be part of the equation. This transaction with a syndicate of community-focused Black banks is an important measure, and it is our hope this will raise awareness of the importance of Black-owned banks and their impact on the economy.”

The involved Black-owned banks, as well as the often-overlooked communities they serve, will benefit from the league’s high credit rating, which will allow the loan to work toward “[growing] the banks’ capital cushion through fees and interest earned, creating additional capacity for new lines of credit for home and small business loans in communities of color across the country,” the parties said.

“Major League Soccer has raised the bar for corporate America with this transformative partnership,” said NBBF Co-founder and General counsel Ashley Bell. If other leagues and major corporations follow the MLS model, lives of Black families all across this country will change for the better because their local Black bank will have the capital resources to approve historic numbers of home and small business loans.”

“This transformative partnership between MLS and Black banks around the country is evidence of what can happen when leaders courageously stand up and decide to participate in equitable change,” added Dr. Bernice A. King, CEO of King Center and Board Member of the NBBF.

As King continued:

“I brought MLS and NBBF together because I saw an opportunity to create a partnership with the power to transform lives in Black communities and change hearts and minds throughout our nation. This deal undoubtedly marks an important moment in the continuing struggle for civil rights in the United States.”

This is not the first time that an investment in Black communities — and diversity across the board — has appeared in the US and Canada’s premier professional soccer league.

During the “MLS is Back” tournament in summer 2020, a collection of over 170 players launched Black Players for Change — an organization that won the league’s 2020 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year honor. BPC is also a partner in this historic transaction alongside NBBF, 100 Black Men of America, Inc., and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.

More recently, MLS and FC Cincinnati announced an apparel partnership with three local Black-owned businesses last April. The deal was part of Cincy’s “One Club, One Community, One Goal” initiative.

Click here to read Major League soccer’s official announcement and learn more about Thursday’s news.

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