Rich Paul is CEO and Founder of Klutch Sports Group. He is one of the most influential people in American sports. As a result, he is constantly in demand. People seek his advice, they value his input. One moment he’s talking nutrition and child health with with First Lady Michelle Obama. The next, he’s talking with anyone from hip hop mogul Jay-Z, to Beats Electronics co-founder Jimmy Iovine to NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
He’s a very busy man…
Rich Paul, CEO & Founder of Klutch Sports Group (Picture: Kareem Black)
It comes with the territory when you represent prominent NBA players like Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe, Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson, Washington’s Kevin Seraphin, Miami’s Norris Cole, San Antonio’s Cory Joseph and of course, Cleveland’s LeBron James.
Rich Paul & LeBron James (Photo: Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
Even with all the demands on his time, Paul makes time to deal with issues like Black business development and college preparedness for urban students. Paul and his clients are among the most socially conscious prominent Blacks in professional sports. Early Sunday morning on January 10, Paul joined Rodney Veney, Delgreco K. Wilson and Tyrone Pitts to discuss business development and strategic thinking for Black enterprises in the world of sports.
Veney is a Philadelphia-based, Business Manager with extensive relationships among NBA players and one of the Senior Directors of the Philly Pride Basketball Club. Wilson and Pitts are co-founders of kwalifī, an innovative smartphone app that allows student-athletes to track their progress toward meeting NCAA and NAIA eligibility requirements. The meeting centered on the development of business opportunities for Blacks within youth, collegiate and professional basketball.
Paul offered some very insightful analysis and commentary. Subjected to heavy doses of criticism and skepticism when he founded Klutch, Paul has proven to be a very formidable negotiator and representative for his clients. He has a very clear understanding of the situation faced by urban and rural high school student-athletes attending under-performing schools. More importantly, Paul has developed a very astute business acumen. From the streets to the board room, Paul just gets “it”.
Over the past couple of years, Paul has been through some extremely contentious negotiations. He orchestrated the return of LeBron James to Cleveland and a contract extension for Eric Bledsoe with the Phoenix Suns in the summer of 2014. This past year, he secured a 5-year $82 million contract for Tristan Thompson with Cleveland as well as a “lifetime” contract for Lebron James with Nike.
As noted earlier, Paul is both street savvy and corporate sharp. He lost multiple childhood friends to the penitentiary and gun violence by the time he was 18. Those experiences toughened him and made him the person he is today. Paul is fully committed to making sure young men reach their full potential in life, even when the basketball dreams do not pan out. Access to educational opportunities is paramount for Paul.
He wants to see young men and women from tough situations better themselves through educational opportunities.
Pitts noted, “Rich is a very knowledgeable guy and he really understands where we are trying to go with kwalifī… Everybody doesn’t get it, but Rich got it immediately. I was really surprised by his intimate knowledge of Camden. He knows what inner city kids are dealing with.”
Rodney Veney (left), Rich Paul (center) and Tyrone Pitts (right)
Rodney Veney connected Rich Paul with Wilson and Pitts. Veney said, “Once I understood what kwalifī is all about, I was all in… We had a conference call over a month ago. We were going to fly to Cleveland, but Rich insisted on coming to Philadelphia to meet. I deal with kids and their families every year as they try to gain admission to college. It’s really frustrating because so many people lack a real understanding of the rules and regulations. The kwalifī app is an important tool for families seeking college scholarships.”
The mission of kwalifī is to empower student-athletes and their parents. Delgreco Wilson describes it in the following way, “We want kids to take control of their own eligibility process. If there are no interventions, many, many kids will not make it to college. The new rules are real barriers for low-income Black and Brown kids.”
“We are going to need corporate sponsors and corporate partners to get our app in the hands of every high school student-athlete in America. Rich Paul has demonstrated an ability to build partnerships with some of the most prominent corporations in the world of sports. We are fortunate to have talented people like Rodney Veney on our team. Rodney is able to see the big picture and he immediately understood how a guy like Rich Paul could provide invaluable insight and guidance. From day one, I told Rodney, I trust your judgement. He is truly an under appreciated resource in the Philadelphia basketball community.”
The kwalifī app is available for a free download at www.kwalifi.com.
African-Americans have long dominated college basketball on the court. Every year, college send their coaches into Black communities in search of talented Black basketball players. These coaches beg, plead and some even try to bribe young Black men to come play for their colleges and universities.
In the overwhelming majority of instances, the Head Coaches are white. The players are, for the most part, Black.
Does this matter?
Should players, their parents, AAU coaches and others involved in the school decision process consider the racial background of the coaches?
If they do not consider the racial background of the Head Coaches, will the situation ever improve?
Are Black males destined to remain the “talent”? Will their presence on the sideline ever match their presence on the court?
As you can see on the chart (above), Black players are disproportionately represented in the uniforms. These are ten of the biggest conferences with the largest basketball budgets in the nation.
In the Missouri Valley Conference, Blacks make up about half the players and there are ZERO (0) Black Head Coaches in that league. ZERO!
If Black players never see Black Head Coaches and Black Athletic Directors, how will they envision themselves in these positions of authority?