He's an NBA All-Star; she's a two-time Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion. But for Jrue and Lauren Holiday, their commitment to excellence transcends sports. Last year, they boldly pledged the remainder of Jrue's 2019-20 salary and created the JLH Impact Fund to support Black-owned businesses and Black-led nonprofits in communities closest to their hearts. Listen as they share their story and the crossroads that transformed their purpose and influence for good.
00:00 - 00:39
Obviously, not going into the bubble would have made a huge impact. Also, I think, but going into the bubbles, I mean, they were the only sports playing at the time. Their voices could be heard. They could make any kind of, you know, social movement that they wanted. And I remember talking to Jrue and asking him like, Well, what would make you feel comfortable? Like, what makes you say, OK, this is OK for me to go into the bubble? He was like, I don't know. And I was like, Well, what if we just gave away your salary for whatever you make while you're in the bubble? Let's just give it away to what matters. And that's how we came up with the JLH fund and we give to lack owned businesses and Black nonprofits.
00:45 - 01:45
This is Changing the Trajectory, and I'm your host, James Seth Thompson Bernstein's Head of diverse market strategy. Last year amid racial unrest in America and COVID-19 disproportionately affecting Black and brown communities and businesses, NBA All-Star Jrue Holiday and his wife, two time Olympic gold medalist Lauren Holiday, chose to dedicate Jrue's $5.3 million NBA bubble salary to starting a social impact fund. My colleagues and I consulted with Jrue and Lauren about how the JLH fund could best help change the trajectory of Black owned businesses. Theirs is a story of intentionality and a long view. Today, I'm sharing a conversation between my colleague and senior managing director at Bernstein, Brian Haloossim, and Jrue and Lauren about how through the JLH Fund, this dynamic couple aims to get money into the hands of frequently overlooked people, most in need of a boost.
01:48 - 02:04
Just looking at your story, it seems to me that from an early period, you guys had bigger dreams, bigger goals, and that sports were just basically really important but weren't the end game. And I'd like you to talk about that a little bit, if you don't mind.
02:05 - 02:30
I think for me, it was like a progression. So I think sports were always the end game for me. Growing up like everything I wanted to do was to be the best at whatever I played, I'm so competitive still to this day. You don't want to play UNO with me or a card game, I might call you a name. Not me. I can't help it. I just.. it takes over. I always want to win.
02:30 - 03:21
So I think sports were very important to me. And the older I got and the more experience I got and the higher platform I was on, playing in the Olympics wasn't good enough. I wanted to start in the Olympics. Starting in the Olympics wasn't good enough. I wanted to be the best player in the Olympics. And I feel like that kept going. But at some point it's like that wasn't enough either. And I realized that like, the things that really fulfilled me and really were driving me were how I can make an impact off the field, the relationships I was building with my teammates, the relationships I was building with fans or people that I came in contact with. The platform that I was given was just a place to start. When I realized I don't want to play soccer just to play soccer. like this is why I play. And Jrue,
03:21 - 03:22
what about you?
03:23 - 03:56
I'm competitive, I'm very competitive and I love being really good at stuff and being the best. I'm not as competitive as herr. I can't tell you why. Maybe this is why: growing up with an older brother and we're 14 months apart. I always wanted the best for him too. And there's always this competition element between you and your older brother, big Brother, little brother. But when you play on the same teams and people judge both of you and one of you guys is better, depending on your personality, you kind of like, wow. No, he's just as good, like we're equal.
03:56 - 04:39
So I feel like I kind of took that everywhere I went, I really just wanted to win and I wanted to be like a together thing. So it was just like I wanted to be with my friends and there's a story. Ma cher, should we be telling this? But Coach Kelly Campbell, her coach, I think, told my mom that I wasn't going to be on the varsity team as a freshman and my mom's like, That's OK. He wants to play JV with his friends anyway. But like, I really didn't want to play varsity. I really wanted to play JV with my friends because it was fun. Yeah, you always dream of playing in the NBA and you see Kobe do a move or Michael Jordan jump from the free throw line and you just go outside and you try it.
04:40 - 05:09
But to actually get to the NBA and things like that, and now that I have three brothers there, it's really cool, but it really isn't like what I'm here for. Like, I'm really here because of my wife and our two kids and my family and even my family's… my both, my brothers playing in the league. I love playing them. I want to beat them, but I also want them to, like, do very well. So seeing them happy and being fulfilled with whatever they want to do makes me happy.
05:09 - 05:59
I’ll tell you a cool story about Jrue or something that really attracted me to him. I remember, like when we first started dating, he would ask me or I would ask him, you know, like, what are your dreams? What are your goals? And I'm always like, I'm going to win the Olympics and I'm going to win as many Olympics as I can. I'm going to win a World Cup. I'm going to be the best player that I can be. And then I would ask him, like, Jrue, like, what's your goal? Like, what do you want to do? And he's like, I want to be a dad. I really want to be a dad, and I really want to have a family. And like that was, that was what he wanted. And I feel like that's just who Jrue is. People are drawn to him and they… And he would literally give you the shirt off his back, and my teammates would joke with me, like, if I'm ever in a bind, if I'm ever in trouble, I'm calling your husband.
05:59 - 06:41
Well, it's clear that you both complement each other. And actually, this is what I wanted to get to next, which is you now have gone from being known as two incredible athletes to people who have made a real social impact. And it started with, I'm sure it started earlier, and you guys can talk about that a little bit. But from what most people now know about is that you both decided to donate Jrue, the remaining amount of your salary last year for social causes, and you started your foundation, and that foundation together. And I'd like for maybe you to talk about like what inspired that? Can you tell me how you you all ended up there together and maybe begin there?
06:42 - 07:24
Yeah. Jrue was having a really hard time deciding about going back to the bubble or not. I was pregnant with our second child. He was all in the social injustice that was happening in the world. He just felt like basketball wasn't important. And every night we would talk and he just like, I just don't see the point. Like, Why are we doing this? Why are we playing? Like, what's happening? And I remember nobody could really come to a conclusion. The NBA, there were so many calls about, are we going to go into the bubble? Are we not? What matters to us? What, you know, what's happening, and obviously not going into the bubble would have made a huge impact.
07:24 - 08:19
Also, I think, but going into the bubble? I mean, they were the only sports playing at the time. Their voices could be heard. They could make any kind of, you know, social movement that they wanted. And I remember talking to Jrue and asking him like, Well, what would make you feel comfortable? Like, what makes you say, OK, this is OK for me to go into the bubble? And he, he was like, I don't know. And I was like, Well, what if we just gave away your salary? I told him I was like, for whatever you make while you're in the bubble. Let's just give it away to what matters. And that's how we came up with the JLH fund and we give to Black owned businesses and Black nonprofits and it's been quite an eye opening adventure, but we've been exposed to so many different people and businesses and nonprofits that we had no clue even existed that are doing some really, really cool things in the community.
08:19 - 08:42
The ones that we've come in contact with and even some of them that didn't make the cut the first, the first round. A lot of them had some great ideas and cities that are very, very close to our heart. So it's really cool to see like we're putting them back into the community. But at the same time, we actually love investing in people, and this is kind of an opportunity for us to do that too.
08:43 - 08:43
08:43 - 08:53
So tell us a little bit more about that process. How are you making the decisions of who to invest in? How are they finding out about you and what are you learning as you go through it?
08:54 - 09:46
Yeah, there's there's a team that we put together. There's a team that helps us make decisions on certain things and even just how to navigate through who to choose and we talked to a couple of people like we talked to the owner of Starbucks, a couple of people. But I think we've done a pretty good job putting the team together and them kind of directing us and in that. But at the same time, we look at all applicants like me and Lauren ourselves. So any application that comes in and make a decision, it goes through us and it's a lot of work. It's quite a bit of work. I didn't know I'd be that... I didn't know it'd be that hard, but it's really fun to see. I feel like it's just ours because we're an interracial relationship, like it's made us so much closer, just being able to build in that way. But it's been… it's been really interesting and really fun.
09:46 - 10:23
Yeah, I think how we started out was, OK, how are we going to give away, you know, the five million dollars that Jrue made in the bubble and we decided we would start an application process. We narrowed it down to, you know, the cities that meant the most to us at the time, New Orleans, L.A., where Jrue is from. Indianapolis, where I'm from. And we had an application system, JLHfund.org. And people came and I think we had over a thousand applications and Jrue and I went through each one. We had, you know, a system of going through them and we had a team that went through all of them.
10:23 - 10:55
But it was really cool to just hear these people’s stories and see where we could help with a pandemic happening and what's happening to small businesses closing all the time and nonprofits not getting funding like they could and should. I felt like it was just really important to us to invest into the Black and brown community. We know that they're less likely to get grants, they're less likely to get loans. So I think that that was really, really important to us to be intentional.
10:55 - 11:15
Do you mind giving an example? I mean, look, as investors ourselves, social impact investing is a big part of what we're doing as a firm. It's actually… it shows itself and manifest itself in a lot of different ways. You're actually doing it yourselves. Talk a little bit about what you're learning as you go through it. Maybe a little also about the types of people that you've been investing in.
11:15 - 11:58
Yeah, absolutely. There are two really cool ones that I just thought of when you were talking. So there was a business called Compton Vegan and he was a food truck, and he was all about bringing good food to his community. And he is… He is a food truck and he wants a brick and mortar in Compton, in that area to be able to teach people and educate people on nutrition and have good food served to his community. And just seeing how he built it from the ground up and how successful he has been on his own and just being able to help him go toward that goal of getting his brick and mortar, I think that was huge for us.
11:58 - 12:46
We also met a woman. She was in Compton area also, and she had a lemonade stand, and Jrue and I went to the lemonade stand. It was so good, her lemonade. And I remember asking her, like, How did you come up with the idea of like a lemonade stand, you know, an actual business that just sells lemonade? And she said her dad would say, Here's a bag of lemons. You guys figure out, you know, if you want something other than water to drink, figure out how to make lemonade. And so their family had come up, growing up. They've just made all different types of lemonade, and that was the only thing they got. You know, they were from a lower income family and so was their family recipe that she created into this business.
12:46 - 13:09
And what she wanted was a food truck to be able to serve weddings. And, you know, she already did that, but it would be easier for her to get around and be mobile and meeting her and her family was just… they are just hard workers who had a dream and they were already successful. Well, you know, they were already had a brick and mortar, and being able to assist them, I thought was so cool.
13:10 - 13:16
So Lauren, Jrue, what's the next step? Are their future plans that are maybe different than the way that you thought about starting it off?
13:16 - 13:23
I think for us now, it's all about longevity. Like, how can we continue this? How can we keep it going?
13:23 - 13:26
Obviously past the three-year process that we have.
13:26 - 14:15
Yeah, we thought we were going to give away $5 million over three years. So the next round of funding and applications will happen probably around April, give away another million dollars roughly to the next round. And then we'll do that for three years. So really, for us, we just want it to continue not after, you know, after three years. We want people to be able to say, Hey, we love what they're doing, come beside us and they can be as involved as they want. For Jrue and I, we want to meet the people that we give money to. We want to be a resource for them and we want to talk to them. We want to hear their stories and we want people to join us. So we think that that's so cool. And I think that really investing in people changes, changes you just as much as it, it helps them.
14:15 - 14:16
14:16 - 14:49
I want to sort of reverse course just a little bit and go back to Jrue talking a little bit about the bubble. From a business perspective, looking at the way the bubble was built and the way that it was run, it was really an example for everybody through the pandemic on how to actually operate a major sports event on a mass scale, the way that Adam Silver and the NBA were able to accomplish that. Do you mind talking a little bit about your experience in the bubble and what that was really like and what your observations were as you lived through it?
14:49 - 15:22
Yeah. And just to add to what you said and be successful, I tell everybody that that was the safest place on Earth. It was the safest place on Earth and the happiest place on Earth. We had the test once a day. We had wristbands that we had to check in every door. So if you walk out the hotel door to the corridor to walk into the testing room, when you walk out the hotel door you had to, you had the big band to go into the other door through the corridor oo the door to the testing room, you had the big band. They kind of had to know where you were at all times. Outside world was nonexistent.
15:23 - 16:17
There was one day where there was a controlled way of us going to bowling, but it was just our team, like nobody else was there. And we bowled one time. They had different things, like golfing where we'd go early in the morning. But like nobody else is at the hotel and we didn't see any other, any other guests. We saw, I mean, people that were working there. So we ordered food room service, they would drop it off and just you really wouldn't even see them; they would knock on the door and you'd look at your window, pick up your food or at the door and you wouldn't see anybody there. It was amazing. But it was literally the safest place on Earth. And I do want to thank the NBA and Adam Silver for providing something like that, because even though it was miserable, being out your family, not getting COVID is very, very important to me, especially having a wife at home with at the time, a three-year-old.
16:17 - 16:39
So the bubble was an experience. Hopefully, I never have to do it again just because my family couldn't be there. But I think for what it was and for guys to go back and play and actually make money and not only that, but be able to brighten people's lives because so many people needed basketball. I felt like at that time, I really do want to thank the NBA for doing it.
16:39 - 16:42
Yeah, and Lauren, for you. How was that?
16:42 - 17:13
It was tough, obviously, being away from your spouse for two months. I think it's hard being away from your spouse for two months when you're pregnant and have a three-year-old might be a little bit harder. Thankfully, we have family that is awesome. His family, my family, they're super supportive of us and I always have help. You know, we were in California at the time and his family was nearby. So I think that as hard as it is to be away from each other, Jrue was in really good spirits and happy and it was OK.
17:13 - 17:28
Lauren, I want to stay on you for a minute because you are investing in women. There are a lot of things that you're doing outside of what just JLH is doing. You have an interest in different businesses as well. Can you talk a little bit about that also?
17:29 - 18:18
Obviously, you know, the Black and brown owned businesses are huge to us, and raising a Black daughter has just opened my eyes to so many injustices that not only Black people face, but Black women in particular face. And so I think when we came to Milwaukee, it was really important to us to get them involved in everything that we were doing. And we partnered with Wyvick. We invested in a lot of female owned businesses that were struggling during the pandemic, and I not only think it's important because women are the backbone of our communities. I just think it's also important to show my daughter that she can do or be anything that she wants to be.
18:18 - 18:58
Also investing in a professional soccer team, Angel City, that is coming to L.A. in 2022, I think has been huge for me, and when I got the chance to invest in them, I was overjoyed and to be working with so many amazing women's, Angel City decided to make it women run and mostly female owned. And so it's a really, really cool way that they've done things and we just can't… We can't wait for the for the team to be together and for 2022 to come. That's when they launch.
18:58 - 19:05
Yeah, it's really exciting. And the more I read about it, the more I learn just how active you actually are.
19:05 - 19:46
I think what drew my attention to you, Lauren was when I read the piece that you wrote, I've stayed silent for way too long, and it was sent to me by one of Jrue's high school teammates that I coached years ago, and he said, You should read this. And then Dane Crist sent it to me about 15 minutes later. So at that time, it was going viral and it was one of the more powerful pieces that I read. And I would love for you to talk a little bit about what inspired you to finally do that because I know that it made a difference for a lot of people.
19:47 - 20:22
I'll be honest, I think that being with Jrue, sometimes he's so relaxed and nonchalant in a good way, like he's just very easy to be around. Sometimes I think like, OK, it might not be that big of a deal. Or maybe I'm overthinking it because I get so riled up and Jrue is very much so like, yeah, this is life for me, and this is how it's been. But like, it is what it is kind of thing. And I know that that is a way that he copes with a lot of stuff also.
20:22 - 20:49
But when we had the incident happened to us in New Orleans, when I got pulled over by a police officer coming home from the gym and he had me get out of the car, I'm deaf in one ear from my brain surgery. I couldn't hear what he was saying, but when I got out of the car and I told him my name and who owned the car, I told him my husband could come. I have my license, but he has it. I forgot my license.
20:50 - 21:35
And when Jrue arrived at the scene and was immediately handcuffed, his sister was terrified. And I remember thinking like, this is really happening, like I'm witnessing every day what my husband has always told me, I can't drive without my license, Lauren. Like Mark, I can't leave the house without my license. We could be going somewhere in 10 minutes down the road and he realizes he forgot his license and we'll turn around and as frustrated as I would get with that, like, Oh, it's not that big of a deal. I feel like it all came to that moment for me to realize like, no, it really is that big of a deal because I'm a White woman driving without my license and my Black husband got arrested, right?
21:35 - 21:56
Yeah. And Jrue, as you are now dealing with creating social change, you've become a real leader. Being that you and Lauren have been examples and creating the social change that you're trying to create, do you feel that you've been able to influence other athletes to maybe follow in your footsteps in any way?
21:57 - 22:47
I do think that I've influenced some people, and that was kind of the point of us just coming out in general with this story because my wife did ask, like, if this is OK and whatever, because we are super private. And I feel like everything with our family or in our personal life, we really keep close to the chest. But I think other people and not even just players, but in the bubble, refs, people on Twitter and Instagram telling me like the same situations happen to me, or I never realized that this happens to NBA players. So I do think that was us kind of speaking out, again. My wife, she did the whole story and being able to just speak her mind and speak by experience. I think that she did a great job with that article, but I think us coming out with this fund.
22:47 - 23:45
A lot of people have stepped up. I have a really good friend and ex-teammate, JJ Redick, who kind of does a similar thing to Lauren, where he speaks from his perspective as a White male and growing up kind of like in this Black world, playing basketball and traveling and playing travel ball where it's predominantly Black and him going through that and seeing the same things happen. But as a younger kid, and then he's in high school, and then he's in college. So even I think him speaking up and showing his experience, just because I feel like and I don't know if this sounds right or wrong, but people with the same color as me, a lot of the times we have the same experiences and we can have this, like that connection. But I do think that my wife and somebody like JJ speaking up, they can get a different perspective, or White people can understand more because of how they explain it or, or even maybe that trust factor, whatever it is.
23:45 - 24:13
So I think it's been huge for people to step up and really, just be honest, be honest, which is the hardest thing because it is, and we talk about all the time, it's just so much easier to sweep it under the rug and be like, Oh, this is my life. Like, this isn't the first time that this has happened to me. This is not the second time it's happened to me. And nobody would know that. But because I have this way of coping with it, it is what it is.
24:13 - 24:31
And in terms of the fund that you set up, the precedents that you set, the example that you've set. Do you see other NBA players or other athletes who are wondering if they can make the change that you're making in Black and brown communities?
24:32 - 25:23
I think that with this Milwaukee Bucks team, they do a phenomenal job of trying to reach out in the community and not just the community in Milwaukee, but wherever they came from, we have guys from South Carolina, we have guys from Greece, we have guys from Delaware. So this Milwaukee Bucks team who is more of a veteran team, we have conversations all the time about what we can do not only in Milwaukee but in our own backyards, like where we grew up and the places that like literally raised us, things that, things that we can do. So just bouncing ideas off of each other. And then you kind of have that locker room talk where it's like, All right, well, if you're going to do this out there, I’m going to come out there with you, or if you have a fund, I'm going to donate to your fund. I love the cause that you're doing. Let me know more about it.
25:23 - 25:53
So I just think in that way and being teammates and then becoming friends, you start to support each other even more, which is something that I feel like is really big in our community in the first place. As a Black person and growing up that way, sometimes it's hard for us to support each other. But I do think that one of the biggest things I've gotten out of this fund is that I've seen more and more Black and brown people supporting each other.
25:53 - 26:10
Well, based on that story, Lauren of Compton Vegan or the Lemonade Company, once you start to see these businesses flourish and people start to recognize the impact that you're making and they actually get to see the aftermath of that, that itself, I think, is going to inspire a lot.
26:10 - 26:52
Yeah, I think also for Jrue and I, we're not very good at asking for help or for money or for anything like that because our goal is really to help others. And I think being more comfortable in the fund and seeing how much impact it has on the businesses of the first round and the nonprofits of the first round, really just getting our story out there and talking to people. And if people want to come alongside us and partner with us, we are more than than happy to. And we want we want people to experience what we're experiencing. It's just really fulfilling to invest in people that are doing wonderful things.
26:52 - 27:21
And not only that, I’d also just add, if you don't want to partner with us, that's OK, too. We just feel like, give what you can give and give to the people who you feel that you can help and you'll make a difference. Each person kind of feels like they have a hand in it or just to be able to give whatever it is. And it doesn't have to be money because in my opinion, time is the most important thing. To be able to give that is really the one of the main focuses of this fund.
27:22 - 27:33
So at some point, sports comes to an end. Right, we move on to the next stage of life and the next chapter. What does that look like for Jrue and Lauren Holiday?
27:33 - 28:04
If you ask him, he'll tell you he's going to be a stay-at-home dad. I'm going to be right there at the house. But I think that's the crazy thing. And the greatest thing about sport is it never goes away. For us. That's what has brought us together, brought us closer together. Our community is so involved, so life after sport, I think, will look different, but our community will be the same.
28:05 - 28:32
I feel like we kind of started off where somebody was pouring into us as little kids and as little athletes, and even to this day where my coaches and teammates are pouring into me and I felt like once my professional career is over and then we'll have a chance to be in one place. We'll get to pour into other people and be able to kind of just give our knowledge and hopefully to the younger community about whatever it is.
28:32 - 29:05
Yes, sport. But I think everybody here knows that sports teaches you more than just about the sport that you're playing. Teaches you so much more about life and relationships and how to deal with certain situations. So to have somebody here who is a two-time Olympic champion and a gold medal winner and Gold World Cup, her experiences and her knowledge is priceless. So maybe just something that we can give back to the younger generation.
29:05 - 29:59
First of all, you are already pouring in other people. It's obvious. Secondly, you are affecting the younger generation. So I have four kids, three boys, just like you, Jrue, three brothers, back to back to back. You'll be very happy to hear this, both of you, that as much as they follow you and they watch you, you'll probably be most pleased with the fact that my middle son came to me and said, Do you know about the fund that he started? Do you know that him and his wife are giving their money away to charity? This is a 12-year-old, so just as an aside, it's getting around, and it's probably more profound than you both think. I think it's a great place to end, it’s just to let you know that the impact is trickling down even the kids that normally focus on basketball cards and the Eurostep. So it's a whole different ballgame right now.
29:59 - 30:00
All right. That's awesome.
30:00 - 30:06
If you want to support the JLH fund, you can donate today at JLHFund.org.
30:08 - 30:09
I hope you enjoyed today's episode.
30:10 - 30:25
We love to hear from you, so please e-mail your thoughts, questions and any feedback to diverse markets@Bernstein.com. Please be sure to share, subscribe, and rate us on Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and check us out on Twitter at BernsteinPWM.
- James Thompson
- SVP—Head of Diverse Markets Strategy