In 1996, I wrote an article headlined, “Endorsements for Dominique,” after she won a gold medal in gymnastics during the Olympic Games in Atlanta. I suggested that instead of Black folks complaining about the lack of endorsements from major companies, Black companies should be the first to endorse Dominique. (Read the entire piece at Blackonomics.com.) Now, the same situation is upon us with Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas, the beautiful, talented, amiable gymnastics gold medal winner. Except this time, major companies have already stepped up to get first dibs on the Gabby cash bonanza.
The few stupid and negative comments by the envious and jealous crowd notwithstanding, the Gabby Douglas Money Train has already left the station. And I trust and pray that Gabby and her family will not get caught up in the hype, positive or negative, and reap all the benefits of their sacrifices and Gabby’s superb God-given talent. I pray they will be good stewards of their rewards and not follow the path of so many who squandered their treasures. It looks to me that Gabby’s mother has been through enough hard times to know exactly how to handle the good times.
Kellogg’s was first out of the box (no pun intended) to endorse the young phenom. They had Gabby’s picture on that box of Corn Flakes before she got off the balance beam. Many more will follow Kellogg’s lead including, I hope, Black-owned companies. Like Dawes before her, who has grown into an outstanding young woman, Douglas can be the example we want our children to see and emulate, not necessarily in gymnastics but just in general. Moreover, Black-owned companies can gain the same benefits as all the other firms looking to cash in on Gabby’s success.
With the prospect of earning millions of dollars, it is important for responsible adults to help Douglas navigate through the “shark-infested waters” of the marketing and advertising world. In addition, I am sure she will have dozens of folks knocking on her door in hope of becoming her agent. Thus, I would be remiss if I did not say my hope is that she will hire a Black agent and use as many Black businesses as possible to assist her. That way, some of the millions she receives will circulate a few times among Black people before they leave us. Of course, all of us should do the same in our daily consumer/business routines. My first book was “Economic Empowerment or Economic Enslavement?” Implicit in the title was an important message: We have a choice.
Not only is Gabby Douglas talented in her craft, she has a great personality, a pleasant spirit and a positive outlook on life. She has had her struggles, as any 14- or 15-year-old will, but the most important thing about her struggles is that she persevered. In order to get through trials, one has to do exactly that, go through them instead of quitting. She and her family did that, and look at what was waiting on the other side.
I am so happy for Gabby and her family. She deserves all the gifts, accolades, endorsements and applause she gets — and much more. And to think she has the ability to do it all over again in Rio de Janeiro four years from now is even more exciting.
May Douglas continue to prosper in her chosen field of endeavor and may she maintain her equilibrium as she is approached by hundreds of folks who want to be her friends and want her to help them sell something. Believe me, she will need as much or maybe even more “balance” on the business side of things than she needs on that balance beam.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his website, blackonomics.com.