Growing up as an African American, it’s rare to see people that look like you have actual ownership of anything, even within our communities. The African American Sports and Entertainment Group has a plan to change this in East Oakland, California.
Led by Co-founder, Oakland native and US Marine Corps veteran Ray Bobbitt, AASEG officially came to be in the summer of 2020. And since then have set the wheels in motion to potentially bring professional basketball back to Oakland in the form of a WNBA franchise and acquire an NFL team for the city.
One objective for AASEG in acquiring the first majority black-owned NFL franchise is to pour money and resources back into the community around the Oakland Coliseum complex and East Oakland. Along with two professional sports teams, the group looks to provide quality affordable housing for the community, jobs, a hall of fame museum celebrating the artists, athletes, and entertainers of Oakland, a new stadium and convention center, and a Black-owned business district.
Having grown up in the Bay Area myself and living in Oakland for a period, I know the pride in and around Oakland, so it’s encouraging to see a group of people that know the community taking the lead in giving back to their community in such a 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 the way I feel about it is to understand the area in the neighborhood and in the communities surrounding the Coliseum,” Bobbitt explained.
“So, it’s probably one of the most impacted and marginalized communities in the country. So, it’s one of those things where, you know, the Coliseum for so long has been a place of civic pride, with all of our iconic sports teams. Obviously, with the Oakland Raiders being born here, and the Oakland Athletics and Golden State Warriors have won so many championships here. So, we’ve had a lot of parades here and a lot of pride. But those three teams also with concerts and everything created an economic opportunity to supplement income in an area like this.”
“My brother and sister both work concessions. And me as an entrepreneur in my family, I sold things around the Coliseum. So, I was the kid you would see out there selling water bottles if it was hot and selling small umbrellas if it was raining. So, I’ve always had an economic relationship with the Coliseum site. I love the Raiders. I’m a huge fan. But my relationship with the team was me being on my grandmother’s roof, being able to watch the fireworks when they won. But it’s always been more of an economic relationship with that site. So, me as an adult at this point, to be able to be in a position to create a economic vehicle at that site that can help revitalize this community is just a blessing.”
Bobbitt and AASEG took one step closer to accomplishing their goal last week when the Oakland city council voted unanimously to enter an exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) with the group. So, now AASEG, in partnership with Loop Capital (largest African American-owned investment banking firm), has 18-months (plus 6-month extension) to negotiate a deal for control of the 100-acre Oakland Coliseum site.
There is still a lot of work left to do, but since the AASEG group was formed less than 18-months ago, they’ve made tremendous strides in making this dream a reality. It hasn’t been easy, and it’s certainly taken a team effort on the part of 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 sort of went through the process, it became sort of more easier to outline the framework or objective because we were looking at it like 75 percent of the players in the NFL are African American, but there’s no owners,” Bobbit said.
Along with Ray Bobbitt, the AASEG Oakland Coliseum project partnership is led by community leaders like Shonda Scott, CEO and founder of 360 Total Concept, Robert Bobb, the former City Administrator and Deputy Mayor for Washington, D.C., and President & CEO of the Robert Bobb Group LLC, Alan Dones who is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of SUDA LLC, AASEG co-founder Karim Muhammad, basketball super-agent Bill Duffy, and LaNiece Jones the Founder of LA Jones & Associates and President of the BWOPA Oakland/Berkley chapter. These are just a few of the names leading the charge in restoring the community in Oakland with this Coliseum project.
Another significant component is the community equity aspect of the project. AASEG is on the ground in these Oakland communities around the Coliseum site doing the work and showing their commitment by not only telling Oakland residents their plan but actively showing their intentions. AASEG is working with these different community leaders and has given them equity stake within the company, which will eventually turn into more resources and greater outreach for the community.
While there is still a way to go, this project could be the lifeline that East Oakland has been in search of for decades. East Oakland is one of the more impoverished and underrepresented communities in the nation. The AASEG is on the brink of providing something that would benefit their community for generations to come. By bringing in professional sports teams, jobs, education programs, and quality affordable housing, among other things, they’re also providing people ownership within the community. As black people in America, that’s something we have very little of even in our own neighborhoods.