If you cracked open the New York Times on Sunday, you might’ve been greeted by the following full-page ad:
“If Black Lives Matter, what are you doing about Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores?”
That’s a hell of a question. And if you ask Worth Rises, a New York-based non-profit that would love nothing more than to completely dismantle the prison industrial complex, it’s also a question that deserves a straight-up answer.
ESPN reports that the advocacy group took out the ad because Gores is the founder and CEO of a private equity firm that owns “one of the nation’s largest and most predatory prison telecom corporations: Securus.”
From Worth Rises:
Securus rakes in more than $700 million annually by price-gouging families—disproportionately Black, Brown, and low-income—struggling to connect and support incarcerated loved ones. The corporation routinely charges as much as $15 for a simple 15-minute phone call, and piles on sky-high deposit fees, among others. Securus then pays correctional administrators and sheriffs millions in kickbacks every year. As a result of Securus’ predatory practices, which Tom Gores has authorized, one in three families goes into debt trying to stay connected to a loved one behind bars, and 87 percent of the people carrying that burden are women, largely women of color.
Sounds pretty shitty to me.
Worth Rises also alleges that under Gores’ watch, Securus was exposed for sharing illegal location-tracking data with police and hit with a class-action lawsuit for artificially inflating prices for calls between incarcerated individuals and their loved ones. Gores also refused to meet with families directly impacted by his business practices.
“It’s unconscionable for anyone to prey on their neighbors in this way, let alone at a time like this,” the group wrote on their website. “He is a prison profiteer who has no place on the board of one of our nation’s favorite cultural institutions: the NBA. Gores should not be allowed to whitewash his active exploitation of marginalized communities by simply asserting that Black Lives Matter, especially in the U.S. city with the highest percentage of Black residents. Gores has to go!”
As for the ad in the New York Times, Worth Rises is calling for the NBA and other team owners to force Gores to sell the Pistons unless he divests from Securus. And considering the league went to great lengths to embrace the Black Lives Matter movement during the NBA bubble, it’s pretty easy to see why this has become such a major issue.
The Pistons have yet to comment on this matter publicly, but Platinum Equity partner Mark Barnhill provided ESPN with the following statement:
Barnhill responded to Sunday’s newspaper advertisement by saying, “Our commitment to the community and to social justice is visible every day,” citing the company’s work with numerous Detroit-area programs and nonprofits. Securus is committed to shouldering “the heavy lifting necessary to transform the company and the industry,” he said.
As for Gores, Barnhill maintains that he’s been “directing any personal profits from Securus to reform efforts in this area.”
I personally don’t expect Gores to sell the Pistons anytime soon, but if players become equally as vocal about this issue, this conflict of interests could present some serious problems for the league.