- Shaquille O & # 39; Neal spoke to Business Insider in an interview tied to the announcement of a new American Express subsidy program for black-owned small businesses.
- Working with a coalition of business groups and collectives, American Express is providing US $ 10 million in grants over the next four years to support black small business owners in the United States.
- You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.
NBA legend Shaquille O & # 39; Neal partnered with American Express this week to announce a new scholarship program that will benefit black-owned small businesses in the United States.
Working with the US Black Chambers, Inc., the National Business League, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, and Walker & # 39; s Legacy, American Express will fund $ 10 in grants over the next four years through an initiative called the Coalition Millions of dollars given to black small business owners to support black businesses. "
280 black entrepreneurs who employ between three and 20 people will each receive a grant of $ 5,000 this year under the program. The Application for the scholarship program The submission deadline is September 21st and those who apply must meet a list of eligibility criteria described on the program website.
O & # 39; Neal spoke in a phone interview with Business Insider this week about the scholarship program and its history of partnering with American Express for various corporate and philanthropic endeavors. He also reflected on his relationships with small businesses in general and the recent strike by NBA players, which called for action on social justice issues the shooting of Jacob Blake by the police.
This interview has been compressed and edited for reasons of clarity.
How did your partnership with this program come about?
I've been with American Express for almost seven or eight years now. Small businesses need our support more than ever, and black business owners have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. American Express asked me to do this and of course I am proud to partner with American Express as they are launching an initial Coalition to Back Black Businesses scholarship program. They give $ 10 million to small businesses over four years, and I think it's a great program.
How can the program help local small businesses deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic?
It helps the owners with funding, and we also have a mentoring program to help them grow their business and recover from the effects. We not only give money, we also lead them and help them with what they need to reach the next level.
How does your business history influence the work you do here with Amex?
I mean, Amex has helped me a lot. Just recently, some schools in my hometown needed laptops. American Express was there, and I was there, and I think we were able to put laptops in two or three schools so they could do the online training. But listen, American Express, we've been working together for a long time and you have supported me in all my things. "Shaq's fun house." "Shaq's mom said to blow your mind"; You know my mom does this charity dinner of the year for a scholarship program to help nurses go to school for three or four years. American Express advocated this, which is why I love American Express. When they asked me to be part of the Coalition to Back Black Businesses scholarship program, I said, "Of course I will."
And I've always supported small businesses, black businesses. I live in a little town called McDonough, Georgia, and that's all there is out there, small business. And business is so good to me and so nice out here. The only time I go to Atlanta is when I have to go to work. Everything you need is out here. They have a place called The Farm Store. Because I live on a farm. You know, they have everything I need: hay, seeds, fertilizer, things for the desk, knives, pens, ice cream scoops, things that are sunny, things for the dogs, things for the tree house. But they fought for a while. I probably kept them open personally, but you know these places have problems. Because you're thinking about it, they tell you to stay in the house for three or four months. Don't go anywhere. 40 million people lose their jobs. People are losing their homes. Of course, small businesses will be affected.
Are there any other cases in your life that you have posted about the plight of small business?
Well there is this guy on Instagram, Instagram name @sia_collective. He makes shoes. I bought like 200 pairs of shoes from them. Black business. A man who was in the military. Now he's in the shoe store. I checked in and liked what he was doing and bought a lot of shoes. @sia_collective.
What do you think of NBA players in the bubble using their voices to shed some light on some of the issues we're discussing here?
I mean, I like the guys using their platform and voice. They draw attention to the situation. But at some point we have to hand over to the next in line, whoever that is. You know whether it's the mayors or the senators. The vote is pending. We have to vote. We need to put people in place who can definitely and actually make change.
During the strike, did you even think of the various lockouts you went through, or how did you see that in relation to your experience?
They stood up. Each his own you know They stood up for what they think is important. I'm not going to say it was good or bad, but they did what they had to do. I will say my favorite picture is the one with Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jim Brown all sit on seatstalk about certain topics.