Sports | December 21, 2020 12:02 pm

Activists Call on NBA to Oust Pistons Owner Tom Gores Over Ties to Prison Business

Gores's private equity firm owns the prison telecom corporation Securus

Activists Call on NBA to Oust Pistons Owner Tom Gores Over Ties to Prison Business
Pistons owner Tom Gores addresses the media before a game.
Getty Images

In a full-page ad published in Sunday’s New York Times, New York-based nonprofit Worth Rises called on the NBA to force Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores to sell his team because of his financial interest in a prison telecom company.

Gores’s private equity firm, Platinum Equity, owns the prison telecom corporation Securus, which Worth Rises calls “predatory.”

“Securus rakes in more than $700 million annually by price-gouging families — disproportionately Black, Brown, and low-income — struggling to connect and support incarcerated loved ones,” according to the nonprofit. “The corporation routinely charges as much as $15 for a simple 15-minute phone call, and piles on sky-high deposit fees, among others.”

After Worth Rises founder and executive director Bianca Tylek co-signed a letter criticizing his ownership of Securus in October, Gores resigned from the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

“If Black Lives Matter, what are you doing about Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores?” reads the advertisement, which was addressed to the league and the rest of the owners.

Worth Rises defines itself as a “non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to dismantling the prison industry and ending the exploitation of those it touches” that is working toward “a safe and just world free of police and prisons.”

“We understand Worth Rises’ passion for prison reform and have been in regular communication with Tom Gores regarding their concerns,” NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg.

According to Worth Rises, attempts at having “constructive dialogue” with Gores have “failed to produce relief for incarcerated people or their families” and, despite complications from COVID-19, “Gores’ predatory profiteering continues.”

“It’s unconscionable for anyone to prey on their neighbors in this way, let alone at a time like this,” the organization says on its website. “He is a prison profiteer who has no place on the board of one of our nation’s favorite cultural institutions: the NBA. Gores should not be allowed to whitewash his active exploitation of marginalized communities by simply asserting that Black Lives Matter, especially in the U.S. city with the highest percentage of Black residents. Gores has to go.”

The Pistons declined to comment on the situation but did refer ESPN to Platinum Equity partner Mark Barnhill to address the matter.

[“Gores] is directing any personal profits from Securus to reform efforts in this area,” he said through a spokesperson.

Platinum and Gores bought the Pistons in 2011 and he bought Platinum’s stake to give him 100 percent of the team’s equity in 2015. He is worth $5.7 billion, according to Forbes.

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