Channel 2 Investigates

Former pro athletes teach Black college athletes how to manage money

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News “Gets Real” about the Black wealth gap and the need to teach the basics about money.

We’ve all heard about college athletes signing big money contracts when they go to the pros, only to lose it all because they don’t know how to manage their money.

Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston learned a former pro is helping young athletes make their money last after their playing days.

Now that college athletes can make money while in college on their name, image, and likeness this becomes even more important.

For four years, Kia Thomas played volleyball for Clark Atlanta University.

“What was that like for you?” Huddleston asked.

“It was great,” Thomas said.

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The team MVP and female athlete of the year for four years graduates in May and said she may not be done playing.

“So, I’m also exploring becoming a professional volleyball player overseas,” Thomas said.

But before any contracts come her way, Thomas said she has a better idea on how to manage her money thanks to a new course called Elevate.

“I felt like it kind of rejuvenated me. It’s easy to kind of lose focus on something or become lax, but this was very motivational,” Thomas said.

Elevate: Creating and Preserving Black Wealth is taught to student athletes in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC).

The SIAC is made up of 15 historically Black colleges and universities, including Clark Atlanta University.

Leighton Batiste with SIAC said a lot of young people have not been taught how to manage money, especially students of color.

“Many of them are graduating without having that necessary conversation about financial wellness, how to properly budget, how to take care of yourself financially and plan accordingly,” Batiste said.

“Do we talk a lot in the course about budgeting and learning how to be financially responsible without having to feel like you need to take care of your group, your friends, your mama?” Huddleston asked.

“We feel the responsibility to pay it backward. Other communities it seems as though they have the responsibility of paying it forward. But we have to look out for mom, grandma, cousin, uncle. And because of that experience and because the demographic of our speakers were from the Africa American community, they were able to touch on that topic,” Batiste said.

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The Federal Reserve found as of 2019 the average net worth for white Americans is $980,550. For Blacks it is $142,330.

Historical barriers including the denial of access to home ownership, educational opportunities like the G.I. Bill and lower wages are just some of the reasons for the wealth gap.

“The biggest part of it is we’re changing lives,” said Adewale Ogunleye, an instructor with the Elevate program.

The former NFL player saw too many professional athletes in debt and penniless. He learned to manage his money and now works for the financial firm UBS which is a partner in the financial literacy course.

“We’re helping people understand about their finances, but more importantly we’re introducing them to the world of finance,” Ogunleye said.

Leighton Batiste said many college graduates leave school with student loans and unnecessary credit card debt.

“So, let’s get ahead of this now. So, I think this just came about from people learning from their failures and them wanting to help students, help a younger generation get ahead,” Batiste said.

Thomas said the course reinforced how to save, budget and not to wait for a big sports contract or even a high-paying job to get her finances in order.

“People want to say well when I make this much money, then I’ll be able to save but when I do this, then I can do this. Just get started,” Thomas said.

“And keep the winning mindset, the mindset that I use to be successful on the court is the same mindset I need to use to be successful with my finances,” Thomas said.

The first Elevate session focused on budgeting.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school program so Elevate wants to develop programming geared toward Black women.

That includes finding Black women speakers. They were all men in the first session.

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