Detroit reverend: NBA should share wealth with black community

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An outspoken Detroit pastor is calling foul on the NBA

A lot of men are getting rich by playing professional basketball and Rev. Horace Sheffield thinks the league should share the wealth.

Sheffield  calls it "greenlining" - the economic exclusion of people of color beyond the basketball court.

"We don't feel we get an equal share for what we contribute to the bottom line," said Sheffield.

Sheffield, the head of the Detroit Association of Black Organizations, is taking on the NBA and the Detroit Pistons.

The reverend calls it an economic injustice -  the majority of the Pistons basketball players are black. So is the majority of Detroit residents, who he says are most of the team's viewers and consumers. So Sheffield wants to know why they don't get to cash in on the financial success.

"We want a percentage of the Pistons money to be more reflective among black vendors, black business people, black media, spending money in markets that black folks govern and control," Sheffield said. "That's what we are talking about."

Sheffield was so upset about it back on May 11, he wrote letters to the NBA and Detroit Pistons addressing his concerns but  have yet to hear back.

That's why Rev. Sheffield - along with the help of former Detroit police chief Ralph Godbee, is launching the "Bust the Ball" campaign to not spend money on the NBA.

Basically, if they don't want to do more business with them, he says African-Americans won't bring business to the NBA.

"The NBA revenues are heavily weighted toward TV contracts," Godbee said.  "We're the ones watching on television, buying the jerseys and the gym shoes, dunking the basketballs and shooting the three-pointers. What point do we start from an economic development standpoint, requesting and demanding that the NBA make the same kind of investment."

"We are not even given consideration by the folks who make the decisions on where they spend their money," Sheffield said.

The organization followed up with letters on Wednesday, again drawing attention to what they call the economic exploitation of the African-American players and payers.

FOX 2: "Do they have a point?"

"Absolutely but there are two sides to every story," said Mike Bernacchi.

Bernacchi, a Detroit Mercy marketing professor, says the Pistons aren't just struggling on the hardwood, so are their finances as one of the least money making teams in the NBA. That may be dictating the decisions of the Pistons organization, but the best thing he says the Pistons can do right now, is respond.

"That's why you have to be sensitive," Bernacchi said. "Yes it is a business but there are some things we can do, it all starts with negotiation."

"This is about making certain we have an opportunity to compete and benefit economic market that is created by dollars we helped generate," Sheffield said.

Sheffield and his church will be hosting a regional meeting involving 30 national and local black organizations to discuss how the African-American community plans to deal with the disregard for their dollars on Aug. 18.

The Detroit Pistons public relations department says it did send a response to Sheffield, with a "pledge to move forward in a productive and positive manner to serve the community. Our organization works hard to be an asset for everyone in Detroit and the metro region."