When you grew up as an African American, it is rare to see people who look like you own something, even in our societies. The African American Sports and Entertainment Group has a plan to change this in East Oakland, California.
Led by co-founders, Oakland Native and US Marine Corps veteran Ray Bobbitt, AASEG officially arrived in the summer of 2020. And has since set the wheels in motion to potentially bring back professional basketball to Oakland in the form of a WNBA franchise and acquire an NFL team for the city.
One goal of AASEG in acquiring the first majority of the black-owned NFL franchise is to push money and resources back to the community around the Oakland Coliseum complex and East Oakland. Together with two professional sports teams, the group looks to provide high-quality, affordable housing for the community, jobs, a Hall of Fame museum honoring artists, athletes and entertainers in Oakland, a new stadium and convention center, and a black-owned business district.
I myself grew up in the Bay Area and lived in Oakland for a period, and I know the pride in and around Oakland, so it’s encouraging to see a group of people who know the community take the lead in giving back to their community in such way. I recently spoke with Mr. Bobbitt about the project and what it means for him to be a part of this and do it in his backyard, for his community.
“For people to really understand the importance of it and how I feel about it is to understand the area in the neighborhood and in the communities around the Colosseum,” Bobbitt explained.
“So, it’s probably one of the most influential and marginalized societies in the country. So, it’s one of those things where, you know, the Colosseum has so far been a place of civic pride, with all our iconic sports teams. Obviously, with The Oakland Raiders who were born here, and the Oakland Athletics and Golden State Warriors have won so many championships here. So, we’ve had many parades here and a lot of pride. But the three teams also with concerts and everything created a financial opportunity to supplement the income in an area like this. ”
“My brother and sister both work benefits. And I as an entrepreneur in my family sold things around the Colosseum. So I was the kid you would see out there selling water bottles if it was hot and selling small umbrellas if it rained. So I’ve always had one financial relationship with the Colosseum website. I love the Raiders. I’m a big fan. But my relationship with the team was that I was on my grandmother’s roof and could watch the fireworks when they won. But there’s always been more of a financial relationship with it. “So, for me as an adult at this point, being able to be in a position to create an economic vehicle in the place that can help revive this community is just a blessing.”
Bobbitt and AASEG took a step closer to achieving their goal last week when Oakland City Council unanimously voted to enter into an exclusive bargaining agreement (ENA) with the group. So now AASEG, in partnership with Loop Capital (the largest African-American-owned investment banking company), has 18 months (plus a 6-month extension) to negotiate an agreement to control the 100-acre Oakland Coliseum facility.
There is still a lot of work to be done, but since the AASEG group was formed less than 18 months ago, they have made tremendous progress in realizing this dream. It has not been easy, and it has really required a team effort from everyone involved. A few years ago, the group initially came together from a common interest in fighting to keep the Raiders in Oakland.
“And so, as we kind of went through the process, it became a little easier to outline the framework or the goal because we looked at it like 75 percent of the players in the NFL are African Americans, but there are no owners.” in Bobbit.
Together with Ray Bobbitt, AASEG Oakland Coliseum’s project partnership is led by community leaders such as Shonda Scott, CEO and founder of 360 Total Concept, Robert Bobb, former city administrator and deputy mayor of Washington, DC, and president and CEO of Robert Bobb Group LLC, Alan Dones Who is Co-founder and CEO of SUDA LLC, AASEG co-founder Karim Muhammad, superagent for basketball Bill duffy, and LaNiece Jones the founder of LA Jones & Associates and Chairman of the BWOPA Oakland / Berkley Chapter. These are just some of the names that lead the way in restoring the community in Oakland with this Coliseum project.
Another important component is the community aspect of the project. AASEG is in place in these Oakland communities around the Coliseum site, doing the work and showing its commitment by not only telling Oakland residents their plan but actively demonstrating their intentions. AASEG works with these different community leaders and has given them ownership interests within the company, which will eventually turn into more resources and greater reach for society.
While there is still a way to go, this project may be the lifeline that East Oakland has been looking for for decades. East Oakland is one of those more poor and underrepresented societies in the nation. AASEG is about to provide something that would benefit their society for generations to come. By, among other things, bringing in professional sports teams, jobs, educational programs and affordable, high-quality housing, they also give people ownership in the community. As black people in America, it is something we have very little of even in our own neighborhoods.