The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, better known as the CIAA, is the oldest African American athletic conference in the United States, and its premiere event, their annual basketball tournament, is one of the largest college hoops events in the nation.
Every year at the end of February, 100,000 alumni, fans and friends gather for what is a family reunion of sorts. 100,000 people come together to watch basketball, see old friends, laugh, drink and party in an atmosphere that is safe and fun. 100,000 black people.
This is an image and event CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams told Q City Metro she would like to expand.
“We’ve got to change our market strategy in the city. We market a lot to the urban community. But I think there is a better opportunity to collaborate with the city on marketing to the larger public…”
While implementing a marketing strategy sounds good, the question is will those outside of the African American community be interested in attending?
“I don’t know. We can only try and see what that looks like. I would hope so. Now that I live in Charlotte, it’s interesting the conversations I have with folks who are not in the urban community wanting to know more about what we do in the CIAA and how they can get involved. Even my neighbor… So that’s just a reminder that, when we talk about diversity and inclusion, how do we diversify our marketing efforts to get more people engage in the community? …If you’re talking about basketball and you’re talking about family, why wouldn’t we engage the whole community? So we can try it and see what happens.”
It’s no secret that whites who live, work and play uptown have CIAA circled on their calendars, not because they’re excited the city will be jumping, but because they know it’s time for their mass exodus. They want no parts of participating in a predominately black event, featuring predoiminately black schools. Knowing this, why would marketing to this crowd be important? Other ethnicities have their celebrations and events like St Patrick’s Day or Cinco De Mayo. I don’t see those communities clamouring to cater to us.
The bottom line is, this is about money. Cold, hard, cash. While the tournament has a $55 million impact on Charlotte’s economy, the CIAA only sees a fraction of that money. Tournament attendees just aren’t going to the games and ticket sales is where the conference benefits. I’m all for inclusion, but only where it’s wanted. If whites and latinos want to hang out during the Tourney, cool, but we shouldn’t go out creating marketing campaigns for their participation.
If we want CIAA to remain the annual college basketball family reunion it is, we have to support it more by going to the games. Trust me, you can party and catch some good college hoops all in the same day.
Make sure to check out the CIAA Commissioner’s full interview were she talks about whether the tournament will remain in Charlotte and more on Q City Metro.