The owner of the Brooklyn Nets on Monday announced a plan to spend up to $6 million helping a dozen nonwhite business startups get off the ground.

The Nets’ ownership unveiled the initiative benefitting BIPOC – Black, Indigenous, and people of color – startups in a press release. Each recipient will be eligible to receive up to $500,000, NBA team co-owner Clara Wu Tsai announced.

A business accelerator called BX-XL will select the recipients, aided by the investment platform Visible Hands.

The announcement comes as the NBA franchise lately has been embroiled in off-the-court news of a different sort. Last week, it indefinitely suspended seven-time All-Star Kyrie Irving after he promoted an anti-Semitic book and movie in a tweet.

Criticism of the point guard made headlines for days, focusing fresh attention on the social media platforms of star athletes and their status as role models. Irving’s latest drama – earlier controversies included his refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine, resulting in his ineligibility to play in some games – began on social media, where Irving claims 17 million followers on Instagram and 4.6 million on Twitter.

With BK-XL, we’re bringing the best and brightest BIPOC talent to Brooklyn and giving them the same level of investment and access to resources that others have enjoyed for decades.
Clara Wu Tsai, Brooklyn Nets co-owner

There was no mention of the controversy in Monday’s announcement by Wu Tsai, who co-owns the Nets along with husband Joe Tsai, vice chairman and co-founder of global e-commerce platform Alibaba.

In 2020, the couple’s Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation launched the Social Justice Fund, a 10-year, $50 million commitment to boost racial justice and economic recovery in the borough in the post-COVID-19 era.

BX-XL will choose 12 startups with BIPOC founders for its inaugural 2023 cohort, according to a statement, with an aim of alleviating racial disparities in startup funding and business ownership.

“With BK-XL, we’re bringing the best and brightest BIPOC talent to Brooklyn and giving them the same level of investment and access to resources that others have enjoyed for decades,” Wu Tsai said in the statement.

Companies with Black or Latinx founders only raised 2.4% of the country’s venture capital funds from 2015 to 2020, according to a report from the startup news and analysis company Crunchbase. And only 3.5% of New York City businesses are owned by Black entrepreneurs.

BX-XL’s selected founders will trade an initial $125,500 investment for 7% equity in the company, and can receive an additional $375,000 upon meeting certain benchmarks for growth and operation for at least a year. They will also participate in a 10-week program where they’ll get office space and mentorship from the Barclays Center, its parent company BSE Global, Joe Tsai’s Hong Kong-based Blue Pool Capital, and other investors.

Applications for BX-XL will open on Dec. 5 and close Jan. 20. The selected companies will be notified by early March, and the program will likely run from mid-April to June.

The Nets suspended Irving, seven-time NBA all-star, after he refused to apologize for his Twitter- post endorsement or condemn antisemitism. According to an ESPN report, instead of immediate punishment, Joe Tsai opted instead to wait and educate Irving, enlisting the help of the Anti Defamation League, but Irving didn’t respond to any of Joe Tsai’s texts.