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NBA joins major businesses advancing second chances

The NBA is partnering with SCBC, which promotes the benefits of second chance employment to people with criminal records.

The NBA’s Social Justice Coalition held a conversation on ‘Clean State’ policies in Washington D.C.

The NBA hopes to grant some second chances.

That became clearer when the Second Chance Business Coalition (SCBC) announced that the NBA joined the coalition as a new company member. SCBC, which now consists of 50 large, private-sector employers, is committed to second-chance hiring and career advancement practices.

“The Second Chance Business Coalition offers an incredible opportunity to source quality candidates who can strengthen our culture with the added benefit of providing a fair shot, for people who have earned it, to get their lives back on track,” said Lesley Slaton Brown, the NBA’s SVP and Chief Diversity and Inclusion officer.

Formed jointly by the NBA, NBA Players Association and NBA Coaches Association in 2020, the NBA’s Social Justice Coalition states that one of its missions is to leverage the game of basketball’s influence to promote policy by advocating for federal, state and local laws that advance racial and social justice.

James Cadogan, the Executive Director of the Social Justice Coalition, believes joining forces with the Second Chance Business Coalition will not only help the league office grow, but also give non-violent offenders an opportunity that doesn’t exist at every stop.

Eighty million people in this country have a criminal record. That’s a quarter of the population,” Cadogan said. “When you think about a quarter of the population being potentially shut out from the workforce, you realize that’s not sustainable …

“So, [we wanted] to be able to step affirmatively into a space where we as the NBA league office are making a commitment to learn, to grow, to tap into a previously untapped market of potential employees.”

Co-chaired by Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase and Craig Arnold, chairman and CEO of Eaton, the SCBC launched in April of 2021 with 29 companies all advocating to promote the benefits of second chance employment while sharing tools, relationships and expertise to advance career and economic opportunities for Americans with a criminal record.

In joining the SCBC, the NBA is essentially starting the process of learning the coalition’s best practices to compare with its own practices “to see how we can improve,” Cadogan said.

The league remains attentive to criminal justice reform policies, which include second-chance legislation such as “Clean Slate” in New York and Pennsylvania.

“As we think about the possibilities for the NBA community as a major employer, to be able to participate in the reform process and in progress towards a more just and equitable society, being a part of the Second Chance Business Coalition allows us to do that in a real way,” Cadogan said. “Being able to be a part of that is something we’re pretty proud of.”

The NBA’s involvement likely means more job opportunities for Americans with a criminal record within a league that wants “to bring in folks who may not have been previously considered,” according to Cadogan.

Heather Higginbottom serves as head of research, policy and insights for corporate responsibility at JPMorgan Chase, which created the SCBC. She also spent a large chunk of her career in Washington D.C., where she worked as a senior advisor in the Obama administration.

In Higginbottom’s work with SCBC, it’s important “to spotlight and make people aware of just how much of the U.S. population is affected by these issues,” she told

“I always find when I’m talking to partners and people about this work that they’re so surprised to find out that 1 in 3 American adults actually have some kind of a criminal record,” Higginbottom said. “And then just how much of a barrier that can be to pursuing employment.”

Higginbottom views the NBA’s involvement in the SCBC as a natural fit, but more importantly, a crucial addition given the league’s popularity and global reach. The full membership of the SCBC’s 50 companies employs millions of people.

For perspective, just four of the member companies – AT&T, American Airlines, Accenture, and Bank of America – employ approximately 1.2 million in more than 100 countries.

So, why add the NBA?

“I get the same question, ‘Why JPMorgan?’” Higginbottom said. “And it really is about understanding that, collectively, with different partnerships, by addressing policy barriers and taking action as employers, we can start to change and provide more opportunities for people. When you think about the different sectors — the sports economy, financial services — an organization and a business as prominent as the NBA, it really helps to drive action to address these challenges.”

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.