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On June 15, the National Football League announced it will be borrowing $78 million from 16 Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and minority- and women-focused banks to support and expand business opportunities with diverse enterprises across the country.

The NFL worked with Bank of America to identify these financial institutions that provide vital investments to diverse individuals, businesses, and communities.

Additionally, the new business opportunities will help fund growth, increase investment back into the communities they serve and create broader visibility for the institutions themselves.

The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Joe Siclare, EVP of Finance and League Policy with the NFL and Pete Williams, Senior Vice President and Chief Credit Officer at Mechanics & Farmers (M&F) Bank in Durham, North Carolina.

Joe Siclare. Photo Courtesy: University of Bridgeport

Siclare explained, “Our goal is to look for and activate these opportunities where we bring in the National Football League and what we represent as a business to emerging vendors and service providers. We know what we bring to the table as the National Football League. We’re also trying to encourage other large companies to do business with these banks in order to provide a consistent revenue stream.”

The NFL and Bank of America also consulted with National Black Bank Foundation (NBBF), a leading organization that provides legal, regulatory and operational support services to Black-owned banks.

“A lot of Black banks have consolidated over the years because small banks are very susceptible to downturns in the economy.” Siclare elaborated, “If their community struggles the banks struggles so the more national companies that can provide reliable revenue streams will keep those same banks providing their service.”

Williams agreed, saying, “It also provides us with broader visibility. I’m surprised at the number of people even in our community that aren’t aware of M&F Bank and our history so having opportunities like this adds additional credibility to what we’ve been about for over 100 years.”

Mechanics and Farmers Bank was born in 1907 as a state-chartered commercial bank, under the authority of a charter issued by the Legislature of the State of North Carolina.

Of the 16 selected, the NFL collaborated with Bank of America to identify banks such as M&F and structure a new three-year term loan facility that provides not only financial returns generated from interest but also access to the League and its Clubs for future endeavors. 

M&F stands today as one of less than 20 Black-owned banks in America.

The founders had a dream for their community. The nine businessmen — the pioneers — who became the original incorporators of the bank were successful and active community builders, and by the time M&F was chartered most of them had been involved in the establishment of numerous other institutions and organizations that formed the nucleus of a thriving business and residential district in Durham, anchored by what became known as Black Wall Street.

Photo Courtesy: CBS 17. After more than 100 years, M&F Bank remains a mainstay in Durham’s African-American community. By Russ Bowen.

These men were R. B. Fitzgerald, J. A. Dodson, J. R. Hawkins, John Merrick, Aaron M. Moore, W.G. Pearson, James E. Shepard, G. W. Stephens, and Stanford L. Warren.

Williams stated, “I think our founders would be very proud of what we’ve accomplished at this point. I’m elated that we found ourselves where we are today and hopefully can do more to serve our communities.”

Pete Williams. Photo Courtesy: M&F Bank

Williams affirmed he wants all to feel welcome at M&F Bank, “People are often very intimidated by banks, we’re just regular folks looking to do good business with folks of all different backgrounds and economic circumstances.”

Siclare defended the global gridiron giant’s impact on the communities among other American conglomerates. “A lot of very, very large corporations made payments and promises and now some of them are having trouble looking for ways to meet those obligations.” He continued, “In the same respect, there are a lot of companies that realize these banks are a central service to our economy and service communities that otherwise would be underserved.”

Like a mouthguard-clinched receiver running across the middle anticipating being crunched by a monstrously shoulder-padded linebacker, Siclare acknowledges the universally ubiquitous NFL is often exposed to big hits by the media and public at large. “When people choose to spend a fair amount of leisure time watching football and engaging with football, you better realize there’s a responsibility that comes with it. That’s what we’re trying to do, our social justice platform includes economic advancement, education, community/police relations and criminal justice reform.”

Siclare elaborated on the announcement, “This is no shadow lending or lending through someone else — these banks are our direct lenders. They can leverage that in their market with corporate clients. And it’s not over, we want to keep growing the number of FDIC banks.”

A career banker, Williams concluded, “the banking business is still a people-to-people business. It’s looking someone in the eye and evaluating what they’ve presented on paper to make a determination on whether or not this is someone I’d like to do business with. That’s the same for the customer as well as the bank. It’s a two-way street.”

This interview was edited for brevity.

Hailing from Charlotte North Carolina, born litterateur Ezekiel J. Walker earned a B.A. in Psychology at Winston Salem State University. Walker later published his first creative nonfiction book and has...

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