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Aerial over North Carolina Central University in the Spring

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HBCUs have long been noted for their underexposure in the mainstream media and lack of funding on par with other halls of higher learning. That has led premier Black talent away from those institutions in the belief that their opportunities might be stunted.

In response, the NBA is deepening its commitment to HBCUs and will air the inaugural NBA x HBCU Classic. On Saturday, February 19, during the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend, Howard University will meet Morgan State University in Cleveland for the special head-to-head.

The NBA asked the two noteworthy HBCUs to come to The Forest City. Howard athletic director Kery Davis wrestled with how to sell his basketball coach, Kenny Blakeney, on the idea. However, it turned out that Blakeney was automatically on board.

“This is great for everybody,” Davis said. “A rising tide lifts all boats, and this is a great opportunity for all HBCUs and for us individually in terms of exposing people to our university and our university’s history, traditions and excellence, quite frankly. So, [Blakeney] got it right away.”

The first NBA x HBCU Classic is scheduled to take place at Wolstein Center, and the game will be aired across the country. The NBA also announced the creation of a fellowship for HBCU students, and it promised that over $1 million would be donated to HBCUs through organizations like the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) and the UNCF (United Negro College Fund) as well as directly to the institutions.

“The NBA is committed to supporting the growth of the next generation of leaders from the Black community,” the league said in its official press release. “HBCUs – which produce 20 percent of the country’s Black college graduates but only account for three percent of all colleges in the United States – have historically been under-resourced, averaging one-eighth the size of endowments of historically white colleges and universities.”

Ed Scott, Morgan State University vice president, and athletic director, was excited about the news and what it means for Black students interested in HBCUs. “The NBA should be commended for the foresight and willingness to address important issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion,” he said.

Davis echoed the sentiments of his rival. Their schools may be opponents on the basketball court but are allies when it comes to the fight for diversity and giving HBCUs greater equitability when it comes to their students. “I think it gives us an opportunity to connect with an audience who potentially don’t know much about us,” Davis said. “But also, not only does it give an opportunity to get exposure to the universities, it also gives an opportunity to tell the story of the universities — which is even more important.”