Steve Ballmer says CEOs need to ‘encourage action’ to help black people

Steve Ballmer says CEOs need to ‘encourage action’ to help black people


Steve Ballmer, former chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., gestures as he speaks during a news conference after he was introduced as the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles, California.

Kevork Djansezian | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Los Angeles Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said he’s “very sad” and “angry” about the current events plaguing the nation due to discrimination against black people in America.

Ballmer appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Wednesday to discuss a wide range of topics, including his role in creating economic opportunities for black people following an outbreak of protest throughout the country after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minnesota.

Floyd died on May 25 after video footage showed Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck following his plea of being unable to breathe. Chauvin, who was fired along with three other officers, was charged with murder.

Floyd’s death has also reignited conversations about police brutality in the black community, social and economic disparities and lack of sufficient education.  

“One of the big issues have been its all been black leaders historically talking about these issues and it’s time for white leaders to stand up and really speak and encourage action,” Ballmer said. 

Ballmer,  who purchased the Clippers for $2 billion in 2014, became a National Basketball Association owner after racist comments made by ex-Clippers owner Donald Sterling became public. The NBA banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million.

Asked what role CEOs play in providing better access to enhance economic opportunities, Ballmer said both public and private companies have “have distinct responsibilities” to take it to the “next notch” – turning words into action.

“We need to have the conversation,” Ballmer said. “We need to do implicit bias training. We need to make sure that we’re hiring a diverse slate of candidates. But how do we stimulate more action? How do we stimulate more advocacy, volunteerism, donation to non-profits?

“How do we surface the organizations that are doing the good work that matter in this area whether its criminal justice or help improve the percentage of black teachers in the schools or police reform?” Ballmer added. “There is so many things going on and I think its up to our CEO community to be apart or lifting that up.”

Ballmer echoed comments made by basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who appeared on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” Tuesday.  Abdul-Jabbar said sports owners, especially those in the NBA, can combat racism and social inequality via providing more education and “financial opportunities” to underprivileged communities.

“Black Americans are often the last hired and the first fired; we can change that,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “There’s a lot of positive ways we can relate to our fellow citizens and work on this problem and eliminate it.”

Ballmer also discussed the impacts of Covid-19 and how to understand the data better using USA FACTS. The non-profit organization uses government statistics to track the economic impact Covid-19  is having on society.

In some states, Covid-19 has impacted the black community at higher rates. Ballmer, the founder of USA FACTS, said the website could assist when determining what areas and communities will need the most “support in the economic recovery.”

Ballmer was asked about the pending return of the NBA, which could be decided as early as this week. The NBA is attending to become the first big U.S. sports league reopen after suspending games due to Covid-19 on March 11.

The NBA recently announced it was in discussions with its media partner Disney on resuming its season at the company’s ESPN campus in Orlando. Ballmer didn’t guarantee a return was imminent, but his “enthusiasm” on a return of the season has increased.

“My enthusiasm that I haven’t seen the last of the 2019-20 Clipper team … is growing, especially since I think we have absolutely a great opportunities for a championship this year,” he said. 

The Clippers currently sit second in the Western Conference with a record of 44-20.


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