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We Ball Sports, an e-commerce retailer that operates the most frequently visited, privately-owned football gear and apparel website in the world, has just completed a merchandising agreement with a media company that serves historically black colleges and universities. As a result of their contract with Las Vegas-based Urban Edge Networks, We Ball Sports will now be the exclusive supplier of baseball apparel to HBCU schools. To implement the agreement, We Ball Sports will be working directly with officials from the streaming sports media service HBCU League Pass, which is owned by Urban Edge Networks.
“This is a significant partnership for us that shows the impact of the organic visibility and community we’ve built,” said We Ball Sports co-owner Nehemiah Mitchell. “HBCU League Pass is an outstanding partner that enables us to bring both of our communities together to further our reach and foster relationships between young athletes and the HBCU community.”
For We Ball Sports, the agreement with Urban Edge Networks and HBCU League Pass takes them a step closer to reaching their ultimate goal, which is expand their reach across a broader range of sports, both nationally and internationally.
Meanwhile, officials at HBCU League Pass are just as excited about this new joint venture.
“Nehemiah Mitchell, Brendan Royal, and Darreon Herring [the We Ball Sports founders] have their fingers on the pulse of Gen-Z and cultural trends,” said Todd Brown, CEO of HBCU League Pass. “Their amazing growth over the past couple of years and genuine relationship with the youth sports community made them an easy selection and the perfect partner to support HBCU baseball.”
The overriding purpose of this partnership is to help HBCU League Pass reconnect with the history and tradition of Negro League baseball, which broke color barriers while providing opportunities for thousands of black athletes to practice America’s most popular sport between 1920 and 1951. Players in HBCU programs will be wearing branded, integrated apparel that highlights the unforgettable legacy of the Negro Leagues, where Jackie Robinson launched his career before becoming the first African-American to play in the major leagues.
In addition to their support for HBCU baseball programs, Urban Edge Networks has also formed a collaborative relationship with the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. This underscores their commitment to their mission, which is to renew the public’s awareness of the contributions of Black Americans to the historical development of America’s national pastime.
A Company with a Vision
Brendan Royal, Darreon Herring, and Nehemiah Mitchell all come from football backgrounds, having played the sport at the Division I level. So, it was logical for them to concentrate on establishing their brand in the football niche initially, and that decision has huge significant dividends.
But We Ball Sports triumvirate never planned to restrict their marketing to football. Their goal from the beginning was to supply customized, innovative, trend-setting sports-specific products that would meet the needs of athletes from all across the sporting spectrum.
Given these larger ambitions, the chance to partner with Urban Edge Networks and HBCU League Pass to supply baseball apparel to historically black college and university athletic departments came along at the ideal time.
“The opportunity HBCU League Pass has provided us is significant, and we’re set to deliver high quality and well-designed apparel in time for the HBCU’s baseball season next spring,” the We Ball Sports ownership trio said in a joint statement.
Serving the Needs of the Black Student-Athlete
While the We Ball Sports—HBCU League Pass agreement focuses on sports, it should never be forgotten that the most important mission of HBCUs is to provide all their students with a high-quality education. Sports is one means to achieving those ends, however, as the owners of We Ball Sports know as well as anyone.
Their company’s relationship with HBCU institutions will aid the latter’s pursuit of their vital educational mission. We Ball Sports will be providing durable, long-lasting, high-quality supplies to athletic departments that must spend money wisely and efficiently, especially when they’re allocating funds to support non-revenue producing sports like baseball (and all sports outside of football and basketball).
There is a natural harmony between the mission of the HBCU athletic departments and the origin story of We Ball Sports.
The company was the brainchild of three young black entrepreneurs, who combined personal experience in the collegiate and professional sports worlds with hard-earned business acumen to rise to the top of their industry in an incredibly short period of time (We Ball Sports was launched in late 2017). They pursued their academic studies at American universities under the auspices of athletic scholarships, and found a way to leverage their classroom and gridiron experiences, plus their interest in e-commerce, to find success in the highly competitive sports gear and apparel sector.
The story of how Brendan Royal, Darreon Herring, and Nehemiah Mitchell built their enterprise from the ground up is one that young aspiring entrepreneurs (including those who might be playing baseball at historically black colleges and universities) would be wise to study and emulate.
Appreciating and Acknowledging the HBCU Difference
The announcement of the agreement between We Ball Sports and HBCU League Pass is timely, since greater attention is now being paid to HBCU schools for the wonderful job they do preparing young black athletes for sports and for life. Current and former professional athletes are now making a concerted effort to support athletic programs and departments at HBCUs, through word of mouth and by offering their services financially and as coaches.
In 2019, NBA superstar Stephen Curry announced his pledge to fund Howard University’s golf program for the next six years. Last year NFL Hall of Famer Deon Sanders left behind a lucrative broadcasting career to accept a position as head football coach at Jackson State University, becoming the highest-profile ex-athlete to follow that route. Willie Lanier, a football legend who starred for the Kansas City Chiefs in the 60s and 70s following a sterling college career at Morgan State University, is funding the installation of modern playing surfaces on HBCU football fields through his nonprofit Honey Bear Project.
Tyrone Wheatley, who played college football at the University of Michigan and in the NFL as a running back for the New York Giants, is now the head coach at Willie Lanier’s alma mater. He has much to say about the benefits of the HBCU experience.
“My first semester at University of Michigan, I didn’t like it,” he recalled while speaking to ABC News. “Now, you’re here [at Morgan State] and this is the first time ever in my professional career that I’ve ever felt comfortable doing a situation like Black Lives Matter. … I don’t have to explain if I want to take a knee … or me supporting the young men who want to take a knee.”
Wheatley also praises the high level of instruction available to young black athletes who choose the HBCU option.
“I have met some of the brightest and best coaches out there,” he declared. “At the end of the day, we have the essentials and everything you need to be successful at an HBCU.”
The work HBCU League Pass is doing, in close cooperation with historically black college and university administrators and athletic departments, is bringing much-needed and much-deserved attention to black athletes who are playing their part to help HBCU schools thrive.
Given the important historical association between baseball and equal opportunity for black athletes in sports, it is appropriate that We Ball Sports’ alliance with Urban Edge Networks and HBCU League Pass will improve the gear and apparel for young people who’ve chosen to play the game that the legendary Jackie Robinson loved. Black participation in baseball has been declining for decades (several HBCUs have dropped their baseball programs), and the sport needs all the help it can get to keep its traditional relationship with the black community alive.
The agreement between We Ball Sports, Urban Edge Networks, and HBCU League Pass will benefit all parties involved. Just as We Ball Sports will be financially and materially supporting athletic programs at historically black colleges and universities, so, too, will the athletic departments at those institutions be supporting the greater black business community. The fact that they will be doing business with a company that was founded by former collegiate athletes only adds to the virtuousness of the arrangement.