Major League Soccer is making some history off the pitch as it enters its 27th season.
MLS has inked a partnership with the National Black Bank Foundation (NBBF) in which it will leverage a five-year, $25 million loan from a syndicate of seven black-owned banks, in what the league says is a first-of-its-kind transaction.
MLS executive vice president and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer Sola Winley said while the loan isn’t earmarked, these funds will be used for strategic league investments and could spur similar transactions in the future.
“I think there’s no limit to what opportunities exist for us to continue to do business with Black banks,” Winley said.
The move comes after the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks became the first major sports franchises to secure financing from black banks. MLS hopes its league-wide partnership encourages other major sports leagues to do similar transactions with syndicates.
This deal is expected to grow the participating banks’ capital cushion through fees and interest earned, while creating more capacity for new lines of credit for home and small business loans.
King Center CEO and NBBF board member Bernice King played an integral role in facilitating the partnership, which includes collaborating with 100 Black Men of America Inc., National Coalition of 100 Black Women and Black Players for Change. The alignment with these organizations is meant to increase the overall awareness of black banks and economic empowerment programs.
Atlanta United FC owner Arthur Blank, who sits on MLS’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, was also influential in getting the deal approved, Winley said. MLS and the NBBF worked with leaders across the league, including club ownership, officials, and current and former MLS players.
The syndication team, organized by the NBBF, was anchored by Citizens Trust Bank (Atlanta) and Carver Federal Savings Bank (New York). It also includes Alamerica Bank (Birmingham, Ala.), Carver State Bank (Savannah, Ga.), Columbia Savings & Loans (Milwaukee), Mechanics & Farmers Bank (Durham, N.C.) and Unity National Bank (Houston).
“You can’t talk about social justice without talking about economic justice at the same time,” Winley added.