Portland Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum is swapping his team uniform for his press hat this NBA offseason to tackle today’s most challenging social issues as the host of his own talk show series. ReMaking America is set to launch ahead of the November 3rd election on PlayersTV, the athlete-owned sports media network. Forbes has learned that Democratic vice presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris is among his first guests.
“America certainly is a great country with plenty of freedoms, but there are a lot of systemic issues that need to change,” McCollum told Forbes in an exclusive interview by phone from his home in Oregon. “I have an extremely unique perspective growing up African American in an inner city, going to public school, off to a private university, into the NBA and now living among the top 1% of Americans that I bring to this show and that I can use to help make this country better and more inclusive.”
Each 30-minute show will focus on one topic where McCollum will interview a guest – a politician, community leader, activist, scholar, athlete — with the goal of creating a list of actionable items, or small steps as he described them, that can be the catalyst for meaningful change. Thanks to a new distribution agreement announced today with budget cord-cutting service Sling TV, PlayersTV will be able to to bring the show to 100 million homes.
Education reform is at the top of his list, which should come as no surprise to any NBA fan who saw him promote the cause on his uniform when the season restarted in the bubble. He’ll also tackle voting rights and issues with law enforcement in the Black community, among others.
He has few superstar friends he can call on to help him there. This summer he joined LeBron James’ More Than A Vote campaign and recorded a PSA to help fight voter suppression. He also became a member of the executive council of the Social Change Fund founded by teammate Carmelo Anthony, and fellow NBA stars Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade to support critical issues to the Black community.
The 29-year old also has a journalism degree from Lehigh University and earned his chops in the media industry hosting a weekly sports talk morning show in Portland before moving on to co-hosting his “Pull Up Podcast” with ESPN analyst Jordan Schultz. Since the Trail Blazers were eliminated from the NBA bubble in August and he was put on rest for a back injury, he said he is now full-time focused on his off-the-court craft, researching show topics and potential interview candidates.
“CJ is such a very thoughtful and such a selfless person who wants to use his God-given platform to effect change,” said Deron Guidrey, cofounder of Players Media Group, the company overseeing PlayersTV. “He’s one of the few athletes who has the skill set as a journalist and a producer to lead this kind of conversation. He checks off the boxes as not just the right person and right name for this, but the right human being.”
In addition to Harris, McCollum’s guest wish list includes author Malcolm Gladwell and retired professional basketball legend Bill Russell. But he wants “all walks of life” regardless of their political views.
“One of the things I know is what I don’t know, so I won’t discriminate with guests,” he added. “I need to improve, too. Creating dialogue is the first step.”
As one of the original investors in PlayersTV, McCollum has a lot riding on the success of the series, currently slated from eight to 14 episodes, depending on when the next NBA season can begin. One commercial sponsor has already signed on to support the full series, with an official announcement imminent.
Social Change Fund founders Paul and Anthony, fellow NBA stars Kyrie Irving and Anthony Tolliver, MLB Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr, All-Star pitcher Trevor Bauer and NFL greats Travis Kelce and Vernon Davis are among the 25 athletes who also have a financial stake in PlayersTV. Their combined social media reach is over 300 million people, according to the company.
Irving set the bar high with his production of a one-hour special #SayHerName: Justice for Breonna Taylor which highlighted her murder and the lack of awareness around Black women victims of police brutality. Guests included rapper Common, journalist Jemele Hill, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza. The show was picked up by BET.
Fellow basketball star LeBron James who co-hosts The Shop and world champion US Women’s National Team superstar Megan Rapinoe who has a special Seeing America, both on HBO, are the only other current active athletes serving as the face of television talk shows. McCollum is the only one solo hosting his own episodic series.
Forbes estimates McCollum made $23.8 million in salary and endorsements this past season to rank among the world’s highest-paid athletes. He signed a three-year $100 million extension with Portland in 2019 that kicks off with the 2021-22 season. In addition to deals with Chinese sneaker company Li Ning, AT&T, Jamba Juice and Levi Strauss, he recently took up wine making with Oregon winemaker Adelsheim Vineyard. His first signature pinot noir released in early September, McCollum Heritage 91, sold out in 45 minutes.
Credit: Source link