Clara Wu Tsai and Joe Tsai. Photo: Brooklyn Nets / Supplied

The owners of the Brooklyn Nets have announced they’ll be donating $50 million to social justice and community initiatives with a focus on those that benefit Black communities in Brooklyn. 

Couple Clara Wu Tsai and Joe Tsai, who also own the Barclays Center and WNBA team New York Liberty, said Tuesday the funds would be distributed over the next 10 years in consultation with community members, basketball players and their employees. 

“After George Floyd’s death, we felt like we needed to take a firm stand on racial injustice,” Wu Tsai told CNBC. “I wanted to state our beliefs on this issue — that racism is pervasive and needs to be addressed, and I wanted to lay out core principles that clarified our purpose as an organization.” 

Protesters arrive at Barclays Center in June as a thunderstorm passes through. Photo: Alex Williamson/BK Reader

The couple has set out a five-point plan, which includes giving Black basketball players a platform to speak out against racism. They also plan to make their company BSE Global more racially diverse, push for anti-racism programs in the NBA and WNBA and use the Barclays Center as a place for conversation on racial justice.  

The plaza outside the Barclays Center became a place of protest for the Black Lives Matter movement this year, something that Wu Tsai said they welcomed. They said they were proud of the Nets players who showed leadership speaking out against racism. 

Wu Tsai said while players had tried to raise issues on racial justice across sports leagues before, people weren’t ready to hear it. “The time is right, and the mood within the organization to accept these kinds of initiatives finally is here,” she told CNBC

“You have to admit that racism exists, and you have to understand that there are systemic imbalances in society that cause racism and cause lack of economic mobility and lack of wage trajectory,” Wu Tsai said.

Following violent clashes at Barclays Center in June, NYPD officers surround Atlantic Terminal. Photo: Alex Williamson/BK Reader

While the details of how the money will be used and granted is still being worked out, the couple said their focus is on benefiting the BIPOC community, particularly Black people, with a priority in Brooklyn.

“We will fund pilots and programs that are scalable and which address systemic imbalances and root causes that produce racial gaps in education, health and wealth,” they said. 

For those wanting to access funds, the organization said its initial areas of focus would be mentorship of  young men and women of color, access to capital for BIPOC and women-owned small businesses and skills training to improve job mobility and wage trajectories. They would also address immediate needs created by COVID-19 in Brooklyn.

Joseph Tsai is a co-founder of Alibaba. Photo: BSE Global.

Joe Tsai, co-founder and executive vice-chairman of Chinese internet giant Alibaba Group, is ranked as one of the top 10 richest sports team owners in the world. Forbes puts his net worth at more than $13 billion. 

The Tsais are active philanthropists both individually and through the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation. Wu Tsai is involved in a variety of causes, including the Reform Alliance, which she helped found with rapper Jay-Z, Meek Mill and others to help reform the U.S. criminal justice system. The couple also recently donated $10 million to the NBA Foundation in partnership with the NBPA to drive economic empowerment for Black communities.

With the announcement, Wu Tsai wanted to make sure Brooklynites knew they were not just writing a check. The organization was seeking the best possible person to run the initiative for them, and while the details of the funding was still being worked out, Wu Tsai said she would be personally involved.

“I’m going to be out there because I care so much about these issues and about having an impact.”

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Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a freelance writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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