Professional Athletes at SRI30

Professional Athletes at SRI30

Professional Athletes at #SRI30 were touted as the “next wave of impact.” I was delighted to learn from a panel of retired professional athletes about their second careers… giving back to the community. I am not a big sports fan but most Americans are. This panel presented a great opportunity for many the SRI community to learn about how professional athletes are having a positive impact, while also providing them an opportunity to learn from others in the SRI community. Many former pros have substantial sums of money to invest but, as important, they also have a great deal of “influence capital.” Synergies that may result could be transformative. 

Professional Athletes: The Panel

Daniel Hughes, founder of Athletes Influence, put together the panel, consisting of the following:

  • Former NBA player Antonio Davis, CEO, Eminence Consulting;
  • Former NFL player Warrick Dunn, founder of Warrick Dunn Charities;
  • Former NBA player Devean George, CEO of George Group North;
  • Former Ms. Olympia Sheryl Grant, CEO of Sheryl Grant Enterprises; and
  • Former NFL player Derrick Morgan, managing partner of KNGDM Group.

Professional Athletes: Selected Quotes

Impact investing is an area where we are seeing a growing number of athletes focus their efforts when they leave the playing field. More and more socially minded sports figures want to impart their secrets about overcoming adversity, the importance of hard work, and not giving up to non-athletes who can benefit from that wisdom when it comes to starting businesses and building strong financial futures.  The SRI/ESG/impact investing community is a powerful resource for these high-profile athletes to learn what others are doing and how they can shape and focus their efforts in ways that will help the greatest number of people. (Paula DeLaurentis, CEO of The SRI Conference)

Real community transformation involves more than just building affordable housing, it requires a holistic operation that is self-sustaining within these communities. The “Building Blocks” model integrates affordable housing with a co-op grocery store and our after school Building Blocks programming, which includes commercial kitchen and skills training. These programs have long-term impact in a community. We are deploying this model outside of the Twin Cities, in Atlanta, Milwaukee, Oakland and other areas where impact is needed. (Devean George)

My life experiences growing-up and my career definitely influence what I’m doing to help finance and build for homes for single moms. It’s well known what I went through, my struggles and personal story. But it’s more than that … this is my passion. We make sure that it all comes together, and recently we just gave away to a single mother in need our  173rd home. (Warrick Dunn said)

I believe members of the professional athlete community, the panelists on this stage, have much more to contribute to Impact Investing efforts than meets the eye.  A lifetime dedicated to teamwork, sacrifice, commitment and more, a professional athlete can make a difference in an impact project as advisors, board member, product development, brand ambassador, and yes, as an investor when it makes sense.  We are about making a difference and welcome the opportunity to have a huge positive effect on millions of lives. (Sheryl Grant said)

A Few of My Takeaways

I was very interested in Devean George’s approach as a real estate developer. As the former head of California’s Cooperative Development Program, I was particularly intrigued with his use of a low income housing building with a food co-op on ground floor. It all stated with an after school program for homework that included food. George emphasized the importance of wrap around services that facilitate a family’s transition to sustainability. There is plenty of evidence that moving children out of poor neighborhoods can help their chances of success in education and in future careers. Of course, many people have family and other social ties to their neighborhoods, so disrupting those bonds are problematic. George’s approach is to make neighborhood look like the others without moving by providing them with some of the same critically important amenities.

Similarly, Derrick Morgan made good use of his neighborhood’s designation as an opportunity zone designation by addressing housing, education and job development activities. His project involved bottom up engagement with all the stakeholders.

Warrick Dunn’s home development project involved making a financial literacy program with financial advisor available. That idea should resonate and motivate the hundreds of financial advisors on the audience to seek out or create such opportunities for their own practice and neighborhoods. Dunn’s project also educated families on foods to eat, how to shop, building vegetable boxes for backyards, and scholarship programs.

Sheryl Grant was more focused on entrepreneurship. Her video felt a little like an infomercial to me but her spirit and skills can certainly help lift people out of poverty through their own efforts.   FIT for Business. Geared toward women of color.

Antonio Davis started with basketball camps, which I imagine may be how most former MBA players start to give back. Start with what you know. He’s now moving to teaching kids how to fly drone, play music and learn other skills. The key is he is starting in his own community and is looking for more opportunities. Hopefully, attendance at the SRI30 will help him and the other professional athletes create synergistic effects that we can all build on.

For additional coverage, search SRI30 on or #SRI30 on Twitter. More coverage of the Professional Athletes panel. Pre-register for SRI31 and be among the first to know what panels and sessions will highlight the conference this fall in Orlando.


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