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NBA empowers AAPI voices for Heritage Month in May and beyond

The NBA has a jam-packed month full of celebrations for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.

The NBA's AAPI Professional Exchange (APEX) aims to magnify AAPI voices in the sports realm.

The NBA’s AAPI Professional Exchange (APEX) aims to magnify AAPI voices in the sports realm.

In celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month this May, the NBA family is coming together to honor the rich history, culture, and contributions of AAPI communities.

Spearheading these efforts is the AAPI Professional Exchange (APEX). The NBA’s AAPI Employee Resource Group is curating workshops, symposiums, networking sessions and outreach programs to amplify AAPI voices alongside upholding diversity and inclusion throughout May and beyond.

Bryan Ju, a founding member of APEX, highlighted the purpose behind its inception, driven by a need to provide a voice for the AAPI community within the NBA.

“The real intent behind why we started APEX was to create a platform where we could empower voices within the AAPI (community) and AAPI employees across the league,” Ju explained.

Ilene Tsao, a co-chair for APEX and the business development lead for the NBA’s international basketball operations team, further supplemented Ju’s sentiment.

“I think it’s important for us to celebrate our community and have a space to feel a sense of belonging, especially as Asians within the sports industry,” Tsao stated.

The duo shed light on APEX’s strategic pillars, including professional development, community outreach and networking. Through these pillars, APEX aims to curate a diverse range of events and initiatives resonating with AAPI employees and allies alike.

One such initiative is the Leaders as Teachers Series, which offers workshops for employees to engage with senior AAPI leaders league-wide to learn about topics including basketball analytics, team business strategy and the NBA Equity business.

“The Leaders as Teachers Series has been incredibly impactful,” remarked Krishna Bhagavathula, the chief technology officer at the NBA and executive champion for APEX. “It provides our employees with invaluable perspectives and experiences, empowering them to navigate their career paths within the organization.”

The Association is also hosting a month-long AAPI spotlight series on its LinkedIn page, featuring employees from around the office. This series offers a unique opportunity for individuals to learn more about the diverse backgrounds and experiences of AAPI employees within the NBA.

Community outreach efforts include volunteering opportunities to support AAPI youth programs, such as Apex for Youth.

“APEX has been instrumental in providing avenues for employees to give back to their communities,” Bhagavathula emphasized. “… We’ve seen firsthand the positive impact we can make on the lives of AAPI youth.”

APEX emphasizes that there are numerous ways to support and advocate for AAPI communities year-round.

The NBA also partnered with Authmade, an Asian-owned elevated sports fashion brand, in their “So I Can Dream” collection launched on May 17. A portion of the proceeds will support Apex for Youth, empowering underserved Asian and immigrant youth in NYC.

Twenty students from Apex for Youth will also meet Authmade Creative Director Jason Vu at the NBA offices in New York this month, exploring the intersection between fashion and sports, as well as receiving Authmade apparel to take home.

A highlight of AAPI Heritage Month is the AAPI Sports and Culture Symposium, a collaborative effort between the NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS and USOC held at the NFL headquarters on May 23.

The Symposium will feature two panels of AAPI athletes and industry executives that includes NBA chief marketing officer and executive champion for APEX Tammy Henault. The event will culminate with a networking reception, fostering connections and discussions about AAPI presence in the sports industry. 

Following the symposium, the celebration continues at the WNBA New York Liberty vs. Chicago Sky game at the Barclays Center, with a themed night centering around AAPI Heritage.

In addition, an NBA APEX x Nike Volunteering Opportunity with Apex for Youth on June 8 provides a chance for employees to give back to the community. 

Bhagavathula emphasized the importance of ongoing support and attention to AAPI issues year-round. 

“It’s crucial for APEX to not only focus on AAPI Heritage Month but to maintain a continuous commitment to advocacy and empowerment,” Bhagavathula shared.

“By engaging in grassroots-level involvement within the community and providing opportunities for youth, we can make a lasting impact beyond the month of May.”