Jayson Tatum remembers how he felt when he first bought a house.
“It didn’t feel real,” said the Boston Celtics forward, a five-time NBA All-Star, set to start Sunday for the Eastern Conference in this year’s All-Star Game.
Tatum told The Associated Press in an interview that he wanted to help others in his hometown of St. Louis experience that feeling themselves and buy their own homes. He said financial services company SoFi gave $1 million to the Jayson Tatum Foundation to help get there.
The donation announced Tuesday will create the SoFi Generational Wealth Fund within the foundation, which will grant funds to homebuyers to help with a down payment.
“I can’t emphasize enough how excited I am to know how many lives and families we can impact,” Tatum said. “And I can only imagine how much of an impact that would have had on me and my mother growing up.”
Tatum, 25, was raised by his mother, Brandy Cole-Barnes, who was 19 when he was born.
“Me and my mother didn’t know about investments or savings accounts when we were growing up. But obviously when I got to the NBA and started making money, we had to ask questions and learn more,” Tatum said. “And that was always important to me, even when I was younger. I just knew I wanted to give back and help people who looked like me and grew up like me.
Established in 2017, the same year he was drafted by the Celtics, Tatum’s nonprofit organizes toy drives, back-to-school giveaways and basketball camps in St. Louis. It also provides scholarships to St. Louis high school students as well as mentoring. The new fund is part of a program that will support single parents, an idea Tatum says he’s had for a long time and has been waiting to find the right time to launch.
“It’s about making sure you’re with the right people,” Tatum said of his philanthropic work, which he sees as much more than just donating money.
“I always go back to St. Louis as much as I can, as often as I can, especially in the summer,” Tatum said. “I just know the impact I can have on my community by being there, by being present.”
SoFi will provide the funds over three to five years and the foundation will determine how to select participants, who are not required to take out a mortgage through SoFi. However, SoFi will provide all participants with access to financial advisory services and tools.
With his team leading the Eastern Conference and the All-Star Game on Sunday, Tatum said it seemed like the perfect time to bring attention to financial literacy and generational wealth.
“Buying a home is an important milestone – representing stability, security and investment – these are things we believe everyone deserves a chance to achieve on their financial journey,” said Anthony Noto, CEO of SoFi, in a statement. The company also announced a partnership with the NBA to become its official banking partner and is sponsoring the SoFi NBA Play-in tournament in April.
Jason Belinkie, CEO of the nonprofit Athletes for Hope, which advises athletes who want to give back, said they suggest athletes start by working with existing organizations to deepen their knowledge of community needs.
“Just like visualizing their journey in their sport and going through these different stages to achieve their goals, they should think about their philanthropy in the same way,” Belinkie said.
Starting a new nonprofit has pitfalls that many athletes don’t anticipate, said Andrew Morton, an attorney and partner at Handler Thayer who leads their sports and entertainment philanthropy practice. He advises athletes to work through a fiscal sponsor and said even athletes without a huge platform or millions to give can make a big difference if they align their goals with their reach.
“If you’re very well-known and have a huge platform, you should be tackling macro issues like social justice or homelessness or hunger,” Morton said. “If you are a left-blocker, you should raise money to put books in your hometown library or buy sports equipment for your high school.”
Tatum said part of his goal with this initiative was to change the narrative around his hometown.
“There are some really good people in St. Louis – people who are really trying to change their lives and their circumstances. And it’s hard,” Tatum said. “And no one has ever succeeded alone. We have all, at one time or another, needed help or assistance from someone whether we know or not.
Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits receives support from the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.
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