NBA All-Star Earvin “Magic” Johnson received the Entrepreneurial Leadership Award on Thursday at The Council of Urban Professionals (CUP) 3rd Annual Leadership Gala fundraiser for his work to advance minority businesses.
Kenneth Chenault, CEO and chairman of American Express, presented Johnson with the award and took a moment to recognize him for his business success and philanthropy efforts.
“Every career he’s been involved in he’s driven to win but you can’t win unless you support others,” said Chenault, one of Black Enterprise’s 100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America. “He holds the NBA record for most assists and carried that over into his business career. He wants his team to win and wants to help individuals in furthering their potential.”
Through strategic partnerships, investments, and endorsements with companies such as AMC Theaters, T.G.I Fridays, 24-Hour Fitness Centers, Burger King, and Starbucks, Johnson led the first major economic push in decades to bring these businesses into minority neighborhoods that were often neglected. His motto is simple: “We are the communities we serve.”
“This feels great,” said Johnson. “CUP is doing a wonderful job of rallying the troops and showing people how to work together to make it better for all of us. Sometimes the deals are so large that you need two or three businesses to come together to get the deal done.”
CUP, a New York-based non-profit organization, advocates for public and private sector diversity issues that affect urban professionals and their communities. Throughout the year CUP hosts sessions that educate minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBE) on how to get access to capital and opportunity through government and corporate diversity programs as well as networking events encouraging MWBE’s to work together to score contracts.
New York Gov. David A. Paterson, who spoke to the crowd of more than 400 civic and business leaders at the gala, said that out of $11 billion in discretional funding only 3% of all state procurement contracts were awarded to businesses owned by women or minorities.
“There is a lack of opportunity for black and brown women procurement operations,” said Paterson. “We must have qualified men and women in every sector of society.” Read more at Black Enterprise