She waited a long time to get the opportunity to own a sports team!
Meet Valerie Daniels-Carter, an HBCU alum and the only Black woman minority owner of the Milwaukee Bucks.
According to The Undefeated, Daniels-Carter, a Milwaukee native, has been a sports fan her entire life, something she says started at a very young age.
“I played high school ball. I played college ball. My brothers, which I had six of, always challenged us to be engaged in sports and things of that nature. I played tennis in college, in high school. So I’ve always been engaged in some form of sports. I love sports. I think it’s probably one of the greatest outlets an individual can have if they’re not professionally doing it. I think everybody has something that they can relate to when it comes to sports,” explained Daniels-Carter.
When it was time for her to go to college, initially she thought about attending Spelman, but she went on to attend Lincoln University, where her sister was an alumnus. She played collegiate basketball for the HBCU, and even got a chance to go pro with an offer from the Milwaukee Does, but decided to pursue entrepreneurship instead. Despite growing up in a segregated city, Daniels-Carter said she never felt like there was a shortage of opportunity for her, even as a Black woman. She credits her upbringing with her success today.
“Growing up in Milwaukee, I had a very good childhood, and I experienced a lot of opportunity, as I do today, by being a resident of Milwaukee. It has not come without its challenges, as we all know, but life is really what you make it. And for us, I had a wholesome upbringing. I had family, I had relationships and things that make life complete. And so I’m very pleased with how I was raised and the values that were instilled in me as a young person and where I am today,” she said.
She also went into depth about the impact sports had on unifying the city when she was young. After the Bucks drafted Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, formerly Lew Alcindor in 1971, Abdul-Jabbar went on to take the Bucks to their only NBA championship in franchise history. Daniels-Carter called it an “electrifying time” in the city’s history. It also further cemented her love for her hometeam. Despite a five decade drought in championship wins, that love followed Daniels-Carter as she remained a loyal fan of the Bucks.
While working on her master’s degree, Daniels-Carter started V&J Foods and opened her first restaurant, a Burger King, two years later in 1984. Eventually, she branched out, expanding the Burger King brand and launching a Pizza Hut, then other companies like Cinnabon, Auntie Anne’s pretzels, Nino’s Southern Sides, and even ice cream. Her success in the fast-food franchise landed her an opportunity of a lifetime in the sports world. In 2003, when Michael Jordan was set to purchase the Bucks from former team owner Herb Kohl, Daniels-Carter was a member of the potential sports-ownership group. Kohl eventually rescinded his sale offer and Jordan joined the Charlotte Bobcats ownership group, forcing Daniels-Carter to wait another decade before the opportunity to present itself. That opportunity eventually came in 2014.
“When [the first deal] didn’t happen, I said to myself, ‘I still have that desire.’ I still would like to be a part of an ownership group because I knew eventually the team would sell. And so I went to my brother John, and I said, ‘Look, I know the team is still going to sell them, and whoever buys the team, I’d like to formulate a group of individuals to be a part of the ownership structure,’” Daniels-Carter recalled.
Eventually she assembled the team, a group of four Black Milwaukee business executives who created Partners for Community Impact, an investment collective. The group then eventually went through the arduous process of purchasing a minority stake in the Bucks, presenting to both the owners and the NBA.
“It’s a long process. The application process alone would make somebody say, ‘No, I’m not going to do this.’ But we did, and we stood there relentlessly waiting for the opportunity to be a part of this new organization. And it happened. Some people said it would never happen,” said Daniels-Carter.
Now, she stands as the sole Black woman to own part of the Milwaukee Bucks and one of just three Black women minority owners in the NBA, including actress Jada Pinkett Smith (Philadelphia 76ers) and BET co-founder Sheila Johnson (Washington Wizards). She also sits on the board of directors for the Green Bay Packers, elected in 2011. Daniels-Carter hopes that she can continue championing diversity in sports and inspire others to get into positions in the sector outside of just playing a sport.
“There’s so many opportunities in sports…and being able to have individuals of color, diverse individuals, operate in those spaces, is critically important. I can just go down a list of opportunities within the sports world that we need individuals that look like you and me…to be a part of. I really am a strong advocate for allowing individuals that have the capability and the capacity to execute at a high level, to be able to be given an opportunity. But if we’re never in the boardroom, if we’re never around the table, there is a lack of consciousness in the room,” said Daniels-Carter.
While she’s open to the possibility of purchasing a larger ownership stake in a professional sports team one day, right now, she’s more focused on celebrating the Bucks recent championship win, only the second in franchise history, and one Daniels-Carter predicted ahead of the NBA Finals.
“Bucks and win,” she said.
Thank you for paving the way, Valerie! Because of you, we can!
Photo Courtesy of Valerie Daniels-Carter/The Business Journals