An anti-incarceration activist group is demanding the National Basketball Association make Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores step down from the league’s board and give up the franchise, claiming his private equity company profits off a prison industry that deliberately exploits people of color.
The call comes from a nonprofit advocacy organization called Worth Rises, which according to its website, envisions “a society in which no entity or individual relies on human caging or control for their wealth, operation, or livelihood.”
Worth Rises ran a full-page ad directed at the NBA in the sports section of The New York Times on Sunday, asking, “If Black Lives Matter, what are you doing about Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores?”
Bianca Tylek, who founded the group and serves as its executive director, takes issue with the Los Angeles billionaire’s Platinum Equity global investment firm, which owns Securus Technologies, which provides telephone service to thousands of corrections agencies housing 1.2 million detainees.
BREAKING: Today, in the @nytimes, we ran a full-pg ad addressed to the @NBA, asking what it’s doing about @DetroitPistons owner Tom Gores. We sent Tom a demand letter in March 2019 to sell @SecurusTech by end of 2020, time’s up.
— Worth Rises (@WorthRises) December 20, 2020
She sent a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the league’s board of governors earlier this month asking that they “rebuke systemic racism and racist exploitation by forcing Tom Gores to sell the Detroit Pistons.”
In the letter to the NBA, Tylek wrote, “Securus charges incarcerated people and their loved ones exorbitant rates for phone calls made from prisons, jails, and detention centers across the country.” She said “the corporation routinely charges as much as $15 for a simple 15-minute phone call” and claimed that money is used to pay millions in kickbacks to sheriffs and correctional administrators.
“Put simply, he is a prison profiteer who has no place on the board of one of our nation’s favorite institutions: the NBA,” Tylek said. “The NBA cannot allow Mr. Gores to whitewash his active exploitation of marginalized communities by simply asserting that Black Lives Matter.”
As the Los Angeles Times reported, Platinum Equity announced earlier this year that it had “replaced management at Securus and pledged a series of reforms, including broader ‘rate relief.’” However, as the outlet notes, “Worth Rises is not satisfied with the pace of reductions.”
More from the Times:
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement that the league understands “Worth Rises’ passion for prison reform and have been in regular communication with Tom Gores regarding their concerns. Mr. Gores and his colleagues have had ongoing discussions with a number of nonprofit organizations focused on similar reform and we support their efforts to address these important issues.”
The campaign against Gores began not long after his Beverly Hills private equity firm acquired Securus for $1.6 billion in 2017. Last year, activists called on him to lower rates and sell the telecom, lobbying public pension funds to not invest in the latest buyout fund by Platinum Equity.
In the face of the criticism, the firm still raised $10 billion, its biggest fund yet. Activists had more success this fall when they demanded Gores step down from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where he had been a trustee since 2006. More than 20 members of the Los Angeles arts community signed on to the effort, which was spurred by Worth Rises and Color of Change, another activist group that did not sign on to the NBA letter.
According to the Times, Worth Rising pressured New York last year to become the first major city to offer free phone calls for incarcerated people in its jails. San Francisco recently became the first county in the nation to follow suit.
Gores grew up a Pistons fan in Flint, Michigan. Forbes estimates his net worth at $5.7 billion.