Former NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal has partnered with Miles College, a liberal arts institution in Alabama, to launch an initiative that aims to bring a Papa John’s to every historically black college and university (HBCU) campus.
The four-time NBA champion joined the Papa John’s board of directors earlier this year after the company founder, John Schnatter, resigned last year following reports that he used a racial slur during a company conference call and criticized NFL players kneeling in protest during an earnings call. O’Neal secured $8.5 million in cash and stock options in the deal. The NBA legend also invested in nine Papa John’s franchise restaurants in Atlanta.
“HBCUs have been pivotal in the development of young minds; influential in highlighting the history and culture of African Americans and effectively provided a means for academic success,” said the NBA Hall of Famer, business leader, educator, and philanthropist in a statement. “It is in these great halls of these wonderful institutions that students saw their potential magnified and exemplified.“
Shaq also summoned the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in announcing the new initiative. “Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘If you want to move people, it has to be toward a vision that’s positive for them, that taps important values, that gets them something they desire and it has to be presented in a compelling way so that they feel inspired to follow.’ Today, I ask you to catch the same vision that the noble founders of HBCUs held in carving out a venue to education, independence, and success. Join me and President Bobbie Knight of the great Miles College, as we move toward a business initiative that will open avenues of opportunities for our HBCUs.”
The sports commentator is scheduled to join Miles College’s president, Bobbie Knight, on October 26 on the Campus of Miles College Student Activity Center in Fairfield, Alabama. Founded in 1898, Miles College is located in metropolitan Birmingham and one of only 39 HBCUs to have the designation of a United Negro College Fund (UNCF) institution.
“Miles College is honored to partner with Shaquille and welcome him to our historic and beautiful campus. Shaquille is a skilled investor, savvy entrepreneur, and marketing and branding genius,” said Knight. “This partnership tells the world that this is Miles College’s day, and this is Miles College’s time; to show America that (HBCUs) Historically Black Colleges & Universities can join Icons like Shaquille and launch business ventures on our campuses like a Papa John’s.“
Following his career in the league, O’Neal established a strong business track record as an investor, restaurateur, and franchise owner. He currently owns a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts franchise in Atlanta and previously owned 27 Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises. In addition, he is the founder and owner of Big Chicken, a fast-casual fried chicken restaurant in Las Vegas and Shaquille’s, a fine dining restaurant in Los Angeles. In addition, Shaq is also a minority owner of the Sacramento Kings NBA franchise.