The life of a professional athlete is divided into two distinct arcs, during and after sports. Career paths during their playing years are plagued with adversity. Athletes must commit to rigorous physical training and conditioning, and endure painful injuries along the way. Most will spend years trying to redefine their lives after sports. But one trait shared by successful athletes in the modern era is a desire to give back to the neighborhoods where they honed their skills and the cities in which they played. A new sub-set of pro-athlete has turned to impact investing as a post-sports career, and their projects are gaining steam and turning heads today at the SRI industry’s most important annual meeting.
A panel of former professional athletes this week addressed The 30th Annual SRI Conference in Colorado Springs – the largest and longest running meeting of sustainable, responsible, impact and ESG investors.
“The Next Wave of Impact – The Professional Athlete” was curated by Danny Hughes and included: former NBA player Antonio Davis, CEO, Eminence Consulting; former NFL player Warrick Dunn, founder of Warrick Dunn Charities; former NBA player Devean George, CEO of George Group North; former Ms. Olympia Sheryl Grant, CEO of Sheryl Grant Enterprises; and former NFL player Derrick Morgan, managing partner of KNGDM Group.
Throughout his 11-year career in the NBA, Devean played for the Los Angeles Lakers (with whom he won three NBA Championships), the Dallas Mavericks, and the Golden State Warriors. Today, Devean George is president and CEO of George Group North, and executive director of a charitable nonprofit, Building Blocks. His real-estate company specializes in multifamily residential development, mixed-use projects, property redevelopment and management, while Building Blocks is focused on mentorship programming, affordable housing, and sustainable community development.
Devean George said: “Real community transformation involves more than just building affordable housing building, it requires a holistic operation that is self-sustaining within these communities. The “Building Blocks” model integrates affordable housing with a co-op grocery store and our after school Building Blocks programming, which includes commercial kitchen and skills training. These programs have long-term impact in a community. We are deploying this model outside of the Twin Cities, in Atlanta, Milwaukee, Oakland and other areas where impact is needed.”
During the panel discussion from the main stage of The SRI Conference, the retired athletes explained to an audience of more 900 SRI practitioners, including RIAs, portfolio managers, mutual funds, institutions and social entrepreneurs, that successful impact endeavors depend on the “influence capital” they all have committed in one form or another. Their stories, emotional at times, conveyed the personal connections they shared with groups they are helping, demonstrating the real power of impact.
Paula DeLaurentis, CEO of The SRI Conference, said: “A growing number of high-profile athletes are turning to impact investing to make a difference after they leave the playing field. The SRI/ESG/impact investing community is here to provide these athletes with the knowledge, encouragement, and connections they need to be successful in this area.
After announcing his retirement from the NFL last summer, Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan launched a $200 million Opportunity Zone fund to invest in marginalized communities, specifically in markets for housing, community development and job creation. Morgan engaged on a personal level to ensure that his OZ fund had a positive social impact, while turning a profit a well. But he didn’t stop there. With his strong business acumen and impact vision, Morgan also created the KNGDM Impact
Fund to raise to invest in and help sustain real estate and operating businesses in Opportunity Zones.
Responding to a question about what’s pushing athletes into impact projects, former NFL star Warrick Dunn said: “My life experiences growing-up and my career definitely influence what I’m doing to help finance and build for homes for single moms. It’s well known what I went through, my struggles and personal story. But it’s more than that … this is my passion. We make sure that it all comes together, and recently we just gave away to a single mother in need our 173rd home.”
For former Ms. Olympia fitness Sheryl Grant, empowerment for women of color is the inspiration. Grant draws crowds by the hundreds across the country for her F.I.T. for business programming – F.I.T (Faith – Intuition – Tenacity) to help women (particularly women of color) break through the glass ceiling in corporate settings, and build the skill sets to be C-level executives and eventually to own businesses. She also works with -senior-level execs at major corporations to help build more diverse boards and leadership teams.
Sheryl Grant said: “I believe members of the professional athlete community, the panelists on this stage, have much more to contribute to Impact Investing efforts than meets the eye. A lifetime dedicated to teamwork, sacrifice, commitment and more, a professional athlete can make a difference in an impact project as advisors, board member, product development, brand ambassador, and yes, as an investor when it makes sense. We are about making a difference and welcome the opportunity to have a huge positive effect on millions of lives.”
SRI CONFERENCE & COMMUNITY SPONSORS
The SRI Conference sponsors include: Aberdeen Standard Investments, Act Analytics, Advisor Partners, Allianz Global Investors, American Century Investments, Appleseed Capital, Axiom, Brown Advisory, Calvert Impact Capital, Calvert Research and Management, Capital Good Fund, Capital Impact Partners, Clean USA Power, College for Financial Planning, Community Capital Management, Dell, Earth Equity Advisors, Energy Income Partners, Entelligent, EQIS Capital Management, First Affirmative Financial Network, Folio Institutional, General Mills, Green Century Funds, Gurtin Municipal Bond Management, Hope Enterprise Corporation, Iroquois Valley Farms, Jantz Management, Kiva, Matthews Asia, Miller/Howard Investments, Morningstar, Inc., MSCI, Natixis Investment Managers, Open Invest, Parnassus, Pax World Funds, Praxis Mutual Funds, RBC Global Asset Management, Riskalyze, Sarasin Asset Management, Saturna Capital, Self Help Federal Credit Union, Shelton Capital, S&P Dow Jones Indices, TerraCycle, Thornburg Investment Management, Tides, Trillium Asset Management, Uncommon Giving, Vanderbilt Financial Group, Vanguard, Vert Asset Management, and WaterEquity.
ABOUT THE SRI CONFERENCE
The SRI Conference is the premier annual gathering of the sustainability/SRI/ESG/impact investing world. The 30th SRI Conference is taking place November 11-15, 2019 at The Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, CO. For more information, go to www.SRIConference.com.
Folio Financial, Inc. is the parent company of The SRI Conference & Community. Folio Financial (formerly FOLIOfn, Inc.), Folio Investing, Folio Institutional, First Affirmative, and VIA Folio together comprise the Folio brands, delivering innovation that benefits investors and those who serve them.