The Undefeated’s Martenzie Johnson @martenzie shares, U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has a lot of enemies. From billionaires to Republicans to even members of her own party, Warren has ruffled a lot of feathers throughout her career as a public servant.
But what the senator from Massachusetts may not know is that there is an NBA executive who has a bone to pick with her as well.
When Sashi Brown, the chief planning and operations officer for Monumental Basketball, part of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Washington Wizards, Washington Mystics and Washington Capitals, was a first-year law student at Harvard University, Warren was his contract law professor. Brown, 43, said that while Warren promoted stimulating discussions in the classroom and was one of the top professors he had before graduating in 2002, there’s still one nagging thing that sticks out to him about the then-future presidential candidate.
“All I saw of her was giving me a grade that I didn’t want at the time,” Brown said with a slight grin. “Fortunately I got a grade that was decent.”
Brown was hired by Monumental Sports in July after spending 12 years in the NFL as both general counsel and a front-office executive for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns. In 2016, Brown took over player personnel decisions for the Browns as the team’s executive vice president of football operations, freeing up tens of millions of dollars in cap space and either making draft picks (pass rusher Myles Garrett) or stockpiling picks that eventually became centerpieces of the current roster (cornerback Denzel Ward, running back Nick Chubb and quarterback Baker Mayfield). But at the same time, Brown passed on drafting quarterbacks Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, and the team was a dreadful 1-27 during his two seasons at the helm.
The Hampton University alum recently sat down with The Undefeated at the Wizards’ practice facility in Washington to discuss his historically black college roots, the Wizards, and what the future holds for stars Bradley Beal and John Wall.
Growing up in Boston, what drew you to Hampton?
Family legacy. For my family, which comes from Kentucky and Ohio, there was a long legacy of success for folks going to HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities.
. I think just the quality of [Hampton’s] program. They had a great broadcast journalism program and that’s what I thought I wanted to do, is be on air at ESPN. So I got to go down there and study and get a little bit out of the Northeast, which was a good thing, see a different part of the country.
As an 18-year-old, what did it mean to go to the HBCU?
I think there’s stigmas attached to HBCUs, but I think for a large swath of the community there’s a lot of pride in the institutions that have been built and really been the catalyst for a lot of success within the black community. I think people underestimate them still to this day. So pride drove some of it, pride and what those institutions represent, what Hampton represented.
There are financial hardships facing many HBCUs right now. As an alum of one, how does that precarious situation make you feel?
Some are in precarious situations. I think there’s a lot of pressure and a lot more competition across the industry in terms of the colleges and universities across the country. My mom’s college that she taught at for a long time, Wheelock College in Boston, just was acquired by [Boston University]. When you look at what the history of a lot of these schools have been, it’s a shame to see them wrap up.
But it’s also a call. I think it’s a call to the nation [and] in particular, alumni of those schools. I sit on the board of trustees at Hampton and we spend a lot of time focused on how we’re going to forge forward. There are some schools that are really in a great financial state. Hampton’s fortunate to be one of those. I do think there’s a consciousness that’s awakening, but there’s a lot more to be done.
What do these schools need to do to get more students to want to attend and make it more affordable for those who can’t afford to go?
First, one thing you will see is that HBCUs have had a greater consciousness about making sure that college remains affordable. And I think they’ve been a champion on that. This is obviously a big issue for the country, but a lot of colleges have priced the vast majority of students out. In particular, HBCUs had been … thoughtful about how they price themselves.
I think the other thing is continue — and I emphasize the word continue — providing high quality education. There is an assumption that the education is lesser, but if you really look at the leadership across this country coming out of the African American community, a significant, significant percentage of it is coming from HBCUs. And I think that there’s a lot of reasons for that. If you look at Xavier in New Orleans, for instance, where my sister went, on a per capita basis, there’s probably not a school in the country that’s more successful at preparing doctors, doesn’t matter the ethnicity, gender or what have you.
I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I have to ask: Which is the real HU?
You can look at the schools, the rankings, all the things you need to do. But I don’t need to bother with that. I’m always between Harvard and Hampton, I’m not quite sure, but it’s one of them, it’s one of them, for sure.
What was that like for you to go from an HBCU to Harvard, which is kind of the antithesis of HBCUs?
In some ways, right? Harvard has got a tremendous legacy. Part of the reason HBCUs proliferated in the South and you didn’t see so many North is because a lot of the schools up North had begun to open their doors to African Americans far earlier than what you saw in the South. My dad couldn’t go to the University of Kentucky, period. My grandfather was a coach at Kentucky State across town from Kentucky when [basketball coach] Adolph Rupp was championing that he would never have black players. I think when you put everything in context there’s great opportunity for these schools to bring people together and provide a great education. Read the rest of the article.