July 28 (UPI) — Former President Barack Obama joined NBA Africa as a strategic partner and minority owner, the NBA announced Tuesday.
NBA Africa oversees the league’s business on that continent, including the new Basketball Africa League. Obama plans to help advance the league’s social responsibility efforts, including programs and partnerships across the continent that support greater gender equality and economic inclusion.
Obama also will have a minority equity stake in NBA Africa, which he intends to use to fund Obama Foundation youth and leadership programs across Africa.
“The NBA has always been a great ambassador for the United States — using the game to create deeper connections around the world, and in Africa, basketball has the power to promote opportunity, wellness, equality, and empowerment across the continent,” Obama said in a news release.
“By investing in communities, promoting gender equality and cultivating the love of the game of basketball, I believe that NBA Africa can make a difference for so many of Africa’s young people.
“I’ve been impressed by the league’s commitment to Africa, including the leadership shown by so many African players who want to give back to their own countries and communities. That’s why I’m proud to join the team at NBA Africa and look forward to a partnership that benefits the youth of so many countries.”
The BAL was first revealed during 2019 NBA All-Star festivities. After the COVID-19 pandemic delayed its launch, the BAL held its inaugural season in May with 12 teams from 12 different African countries.
Obama, whose father is from Kenya, is an avid basketball fan who has partnered with multiple NBA players on several projects. He also participated in 2020 All-Star festivities in his hometown of Chicago.
“We are honored that President Obama has become a strategic partner in NBA Africa and will support our wide-ranging efforts to grow the game of basketball on the continent,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
“In addition to his well-documented love for basketball, President Obama has a firm belief in Africa’s potential and the enormous growth opportunities that exist through sports. NBA Africa will benefit tremendously from his engagement.”
The NBA has a long history in Africa and opened its African headquarters in Johannesburg in 2010. Since then, the league’s efforts on the continent have focused on increasing access to the sport and the NBA through social responsibility, grassroots and elite development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, NBA Africa Games and the launch of the BAL.
Obama joins a consortium of strategic investors in NBA Africa led by Babatunde “Tunde” Folawiyo, chairman and CEO of Yinka Folawiyo Group, and Tope Lawani, co-CEO of Helios Fairfax Partners Corporation.
Additional investors include former NBA players Luol Deng, Grant Hill, Dikembe Mutombo, Joakim Noah, Junior Bridgeman and Ian Mahinmi.