Detroit Pistons owner called to divest from 'racist' prison phone company as NBA navigates Black Lives Matter


  • Courtesy of Detroit Pistons
  • Tom Gores.

Last week, the Detroit Prisons' billionaire owner Tom Gores stepped down from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Board of Trustees following pressure from activists over his investment firm's ownership of Securus, the largest private prison phone company in the country.

Now, activists are urging Gores to either divest from Securus or give up ownership of the Detroit Pistons as the NBA reckons with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Gores's Platinum Equity acquired Securus in 2017. The company has been called "predatory," charging families of prisoners as much as $25 for a 15-minute phone call. Securus has also been sued multiple times for illegally recording conversations between prisoners and their attorneys, a fact that was only brought to light after the company was hacked.

On Monday, The Nation called out Gores "for making a fortune on what is nothing less than racist profiteering."

"NBA franchise owners, if they really walk the walk, should be challenging their fellow billionaire to either divest a prime jewel of his corporate holdings or give up the storied franchise," The Nation's sports editor Dave Zirin wrote.

Bianca Tylek — executive director of Worth Rises, one of the groups that called on Gores to step down from LACMA — agrees.

"The NBA should definitely heed the swift action taken by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as a warning that the public will not tolerate prison profiteering in their favorite cultural institutions, and sports is no exception," Tylek told Zirin. "In fact, the way in which players have led on the issue of racial justice in the last few months should give the NBA pause about their complicity in the way Gores preys on Black and brown families through his roles in the prison industry."

The NBA has shown support for Black Lives Matter by emblazoning the slogan on its courts and player jerseys. In August, NBA players threatened a strike over the police killing of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

In his resignation letter, Gores said he pledged 100% of his personal interest in Securus to reform issues.

"We didn’t know when we acquired Securus that it would become a nexus for addressing the political, social, racial and economic issues roiling America today," he wrote. "But now that we are here, we will not shy away from the hard work ahead."

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