Black History Month: Celebrating some of the world's best athletes
By Ethan Goldstein
Feb. 24, 2022
Graphic by Mikaela Larson
Over the course of history, African-American athletes have played an immense role in shaping the landscape of our modern sports world. In honor of Black History Month, we are taking a look at just a few of the many athletes who have had immense impacts on sport, both through their athletic accomplishments and their business ventures.
First, one current athlete who has used his platform to impact the sports world in a variety of ways is LeBron James. James achieved his current standing by becoming one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but has since expanded his reach into numerous other areas.
Notably, in 2014, James and his business partner Maverick Carter founded Uninterrupted, an athlete empowerment brand focused on changing the public’s perception of athletes. James’ other sports business ventures also include becoming a partner with Fenway Sports Group—a move he made last March—which gives him part ownership stake in the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC.
Serena Williams is one of the most prominent figures in all of women's sports, as she has become arguably the most dominant tennis player of all time. Outside of her time on the court, Williams expands her reach through Serena Ventures, a venture capital fund where Williams invests in companies largely centered around diverse leadership and individual empowerment.
Through Serena Ventures, Williams has established her presence in the business world via investments in over 50 companies that span across numerous industries, including fashion, health, and social good.
Another basketball player who ranks among the greatest of all-time, Michael Jordan, has had success in the sports industry long past his playing days. Jordan’s most notable business success has been through the Jordan Brand, a subsidiary of Nike which has a leading stake in the US basketball shoe market.
Jordan is also an owner of a controlling stake of the Charlotte Hornets. After paying $175 million for his share of the team, the Hornets are now valued at over $1 billion. Jordan’s successful business endeavors currently rank him as the highest-paid retired athlete.
Simone Biles is the most accomplished athlete in women’s gymnastics history, having won the most world gold medals of all-time. Over the course of her career, Biles has expanded her platform into the business sphere by successfully leveraging her personal brand.
In 2021, Biles made the bold decision to spur her partnership with Nike in order to partner with Athleta, as she was given her own performance wear line as well as a larger platform to speak out on female athlete empowerment. According to Forbes, Biles’ ability to leverage her platform and cultivate business partnerships has her ranked as the 4th highest-paid female athlete in the world – she is the first gymnast in more than a decade to rank this high among female athletes.
Tiger Woods dominated on the courses for more than 20 years. As his career progressed, however, Woods also began to expand his legacy, particularly through the creation of the TGR brand, under which Woods has embarked on numerous entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures.
Through his brand, Woods started TGR Design, a golf course design firm that has already amassed a portfolio of world-class golf courses. Another branch of Woods’ brand is TGR Live, an entertainment company largely centered around golf events – the proceeds from TGR Live serve to benefit the TGR Foundation, which is Woods’ philanthropic venture dedicated to empowering students.