Posts tagged amateurism
June Open Letter From Ricky Volante, HBL CEO

In the six months since hiring David West as the HBL’s COO, our Management Team has been hard at work. With approximately one year until our June 2020 launch, I want to recap what we’ve accomplished and what to expect in the coming weeks.

Inaugural Cities of the HBL

Our team reviewed the Prospective City List carefully, focusing on: (1) market size, (2) the local basketball market, (3) school and educational options, (4) venue options, (5)the city’s appeal to potential recruits, (6) cost of living, (7) proximity to elite talent, (8) commercial marketability, and (9) the geographic footprint of the HBL. Upon concluding our review process, we determined that the following cities will be the Inaugural Eight:

  • Atlanta, GA

  • Baltimore, MD

  • Charlotte, NC

  • Norfolk, VA

  • Philadelphia, PA

  • Raleigh, NC

  • Richmond, VA

  • Washington, DC

The Inaugural Eight includes three of the top 10 markets by greater metropolitan area population in the US (Atlanta (9th), Philadelphia (8th), and DC (6th)), five of the top 25 markets by greater metropolitan area population  (Baltimore (21st) and Charlotte (22nd)), and three of the Top 10 highest rated local markets for NBA viewership  (Norfolk (1st), Raleigh (7th), and Richmond (8th)).

If you have not already noticed, the Inaugural Eight are located on the East Coast, in close proximity within the Mid-Atlantic and Piedmont. These teams will eventually be known as the eastern division (or conference) of the HBL. Over the course of the next five years, the HBL will launch additional divisions of eight teams in the other quadrants of the US.

Why start with the East? In addition to the market size and basketball interest within these markets, we wanted to align ourselves where much of the best talent in the country already resides.


Additions to the HBL Advisory Board

We have added several important members to the HBL Advisory Board:

  • Manny Ojobaro is the Interim Head of Finance at Capital G, a private equity firm under Alphabet, Inc., the parent company of Google. Manny has a strong background in finance, investments and transactions, having also held positions with EY and Google.

  • LJ Kwak Yang is a leadership and business developer, entrepreneur, investor, and former Googler. LJ has considerable experience in guiding start-ups, developing leaders, and interacting with the investment community.

We’re excited to welcome Manny and LJ and look forward to working with them.

Creation of the Athlete Advisory Board

David and I often mention that we are working to add current and former professional athletes to the HBL Athlete Advisory Board (AAB). The HBL AAB members will serve as mentors to our players and further as a resource to the HBL, especially when making critical decisions that will impact our athletes and the direction of the League. We feel that athletes should have an important voice in the growth and future direction of the HBL. Professional athletes are typically blocked from these kinds of opportunities because the barriers to entry within ownership groups of professional teams are often too high.

The initial members of the AAB will be announced later this week, and we expect to add more people in the coming weeks, especially as the NBA playoffs conclude.

RJ Hampton Goes Abroad and Kenyon Martin Jr. Decommits From Vanderbilt

As many have already discussed, RJ Hampton, a consensus top 5 prospect from the Class of 2019, announced that he will forego all US-based basketball opportunities to play with the NBL Breakers (New Zealand) next season. A week later, Kenyon Martin Jr. decided to decommit from Vanderbilt and announced that he, too, will be playing overseas next season.

What does this mean? Well the obvious answer is that the US-based basketball options for players after high school (but pre-NBA) are flawed. If they weren’t, why would players feel the need to look elsewhere? But rather than dwelling on the downside of this situation, the good news is that starting with the Class of 2020, no player will have to choose between: (1) compensation abroad, (2) playing with 25-year olds domestically, or (3) being exploited for all they are worth domestically. Instead, they will have the opportunity to join the HBL and receive meaningful educational opportunities while being compensated, all without feeling the need to move 5,000 miles away. This won’t be limited to athletes straight out of high school either, as returning players from previous recruiting classes will have the opportunity to join the HBL as sophomores, juniors, or seniors without having to enter the transfer portal.

Looking Ahead

There is still much to accomplish between now and next June. Looking ahead, there will be many more things to announce in the coming days and weeks.

Coaching Search

We have begun the process of identifying and contacting potential head and assistant coaches for our teams. This will be a critical component of our overall strategy for recruiting players. It’s crucial that a player and his family feel comfortable knowing that our coaches will be of the necessary caliber to holistically develop and prepare them for the next stage of their career. We’re looking forward to wowing the world with these, and anticipate making our first hire within the next month.

Additions to the Management Team

As with growing any business, it is important to build a team that is talented and mission-aligned, and it’s no different for the HBL. As the hiring of David legitimized our efforts in the basketball community, we will be adding additional members to the Management Team soon that will have NBA front office, player representation, and/or college basketball coaching and operations experience. These additions will contribute to the HBL’s business and basketball operations.

Team Intellectual Property

Now that our cities have been unveiled, our design team has begun to identify potential names and color schemes for each city. Upon finalizing each team name, we will then begin the process of developing a logo/mark and corresponding merchandise. Local artists in each market will have the opportunity to participate in the development process, as we try to capture the essence and vibe of each city.

Team Ambassadors

As an extension of the Advisory Board and Athlete Advisory Board, the HBL will be announcing Team Ambassadors for each of the inaugural eight teams. Ambassadors will be one of the public faces for our teams as they enter the world’s consciousness. Think Spike and the Knicks, though the Ambassador will be more than just the team’s super-fan. HBL Team Ambassadors will be far more involved in the business side of the League, whether as part of each city’s operational team, as an HBL shareholder, and/or even as a coach. As with the other personnel announcements, get ready to be really excited.


Since David joined the Management Team in November we have welcomed a series of new investors, and will continue to. One of the most exciting parts of the regional model we’re implementing is that it drastically reduces the first-year operational costs of the League. We took heed of the AAF’s collapse and wanted to establish a strong footing that will allow the HBL to steadily grow in the coming years, while not taking an all-or-nothing approach at the onset. Our  plan lets us get the HBL right with a regional footprint and then roll it out nationally over the course of the next half decade.

Player Recruiting

Speaking of rollout, scouting for the HBL’s first 100 players has officially begun! As the summer season ramps up, we will continue to identify our targets in the Class of 2020, as well as current college players and top international prospects.  Don’t expect to hear actual names until towards the end of the year or even 2020, as we remain respectful of our targeted athletes’ need to maintain varsity eligibility until they are ready to make their move to the HBL. As these names hit the news, you’ll be able to see why the HBL is confident we will be the premier college basketball league in the world, and that #AmateurismIsACon.

***Statements in this letter that refer to forecasts, future plans, or expectations are forward-looking statements that involve a number of risks and uncertainties. Statements that refer to or are based on projections, uncertain events, or assumptions also identify forward-looking statements. Such statements are based on the company’s current expectations and involve many risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in these forward-looking statements.

The Real Scandal: We Don't Fairly Compensate College Athletes

Answer this quickly: if a young man in high school develops something special, patents it, and commercializes it, licensing it to a major state university and makes $100,000 in royalties, how do you feel about him?  Do you cheer his ability to turn his talents into financial success?  How would you feel if he then went to the same state university on scholarship, combining his education with his business partnership?

Scandalized yet?

Well according to the NCAA, you should be.  At least if the “patented” talent is sports related.  In the wake of recent revelations from Pat Forde and Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports that dozens of high school athletes received payments to bring their talents to the elite schools of Division I.[1]  And the NCAA’s response was to call this an “affront,” “systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now,” and the work of “unscrupulous parties” the NCAA must “clean up.”[2]

The Historical Basketball League (the HBL) couldn’t disagree more.

At the core, the concept of NCAA “amateurism” can be thought of as a wealth transfer.  College sports are valuable, but while Mark Emmert can earn nearly $2 million for his role in commercializing the sport, if an athlete negotiates a contract to share in the revenue he helps to generate, he can be banned for life.  The result is everyone else gets a slice of the pie that the athletes help create.  The scholarship the athlete gets is valuable, but it’s a far cry from what the true market value of those services would be if the rules did not insist that the surplus go to Emmert and other non-athletes when the market outcome would send it to the athletes themselves.

The side payments revealed by Yahoo! Sports start to paint a picture of what a star collegian might be worth.  For example, as alleged by Yahoo! “Dennis Smith, who would go on to play at North Carolina State in 2016-17, received $43,500 to … $73,500 in loans” though the loans only had to be paid back if Smith did not sign with the agency that made the loan.  Others allegedly received smaller amounts, ranging from $26,136 for Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead, to $16,000 to LSU’s Tim Quarterman, to $10,000 to future number one draft pick Markelle Fultz.

This is where you should perform a character check on yourself.  If you hear those figures and you think the scandal is that athletes sought compensation for the services, you’ve missed the point.  If you hear those figures and think the black market nature of the system meant that even the athletes who sought compensation were still underpaid, then you might be ready for the future of college sports.

That future is the HBL.  The HBL will be a professional, collegiate club-sports league operating as a for-profit corporation.  The HBL will employ college athletes to play a full summer season of basketball, and those athletes will also be enrolled as full-time students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that will make up the HBL’s membership.  These will be real students getting paid real money to help their universities generate revenue, no different than when the chemistry department pays a chemistry student to work on a new drug patent during the summer semester.

Because the HBL will be a club-sports league, the NCAA and NAIA have no regulatory power over our corporation or the HBCUs’ participation in the HBL, and so the “amateurism” ethos that treats college athletes’ labor, who are predominantly black, as unworthy of full and fair compensation, while allowing white administrators to reap the benefits will be turned on its ear.  With a summer basketball schedule and full-time employment, athletes will no longer have to choose between their education and athletics or between fair compensation and collegiate competition.

From a purely business point of view, what the NCAA wants to do is wonderful for the HBL.  We’re hoping the NCAA keeps insisting on ostracizing anyone who thinks college athletes are worth more than a fixed price scholarship.  Every time they say “you earn too much” we say “come earn what you’re worth with us.”  Every time they say it’s a scandal that the future number one draft choice earned $10,000, we say, you’re right, he should have received $100,000.

The problem with Amateurism is that it makes people confuse capitalism with controversy, business with badness.

It’s time for America to recognize that the real scandal is that athletes have to hide what they are worth or accept a fraction of their value.  The real scandal is that we hear about athletes receiving some portion of what they are worth and we think it’s a problem that must be cleaned up, rather than the first step in righting a wrong.

If you’re ready to right that wrong, come join us at today.  We’d like you to join us in making the world a little bit more just.  Are you ready to tell the NCAA that their days of exploiting athletes in the name of protecting athletes from exploitation are over?

Amateurism is the scandal; the HBL is the solution.