Celtics star Jayson Tatum gets $1 million gift from SoFi to help people buy homes in St. Louis


Jayson Tatum remembers how it felt when he first bought a home.

“It didn’t seem real,” said the Boston Celtics power forward, a five-time NBA All-Star set to start for the Eastern Conference in this year’s All-Star Game on Sunday.

Tatum told The Associated Press in an interview how he wants to help others in his hometown of St. Louis get that feeling themselves and buy their own homes. He said financial services company SoFi has given the Jayson Tatum Foundation $1 million to help do that.

The gift announced Tuesday will establish the SoFi Generational Wealth Fund at the foundation, which will grant funds to homebuyers to help with a down payment.

“I can’t stress enough how excited I am just knowing how many lives and the families that we can impact,” Tatum said. “And I can only imagine how much this would have impacted myself and my mom growing up.”

Tatum, 25, was raised by his mother, Brandy Cole-Barnes, who was 19 when he was born.

“Me and my mom, we didn’t know about investments or savings accounts when we were growing up. But obviously when I got to the NBA and started to make money, we had to ask questions and learn about things,” Tatum said. “And it was always important for me, even when I was younger. I just knew I wanted to give back and help people that looked like me and grew up like me.”

Established in 2017, the same year he was drafted by the Celtics, Tatum’s nonprofit hosts toy drives, back-to-school giveaways and basketball camps in St. Louis. It also offers scholarships to St. Louis high school students along with mentoring. The new fund is part of a program that will support single parents, an idea Tatum said he had for a long time and was waiting to find the right moment to launch.

“It’s about making sure you’re with the right people,” Tatum said of his philanthropic work, which he sees as being about a lot more than donating money.

“I always go back to St. Louis as much as I can, as often as I can, especially in the summertime,” Tatum said. “Just knowing the impact that I can have on my community by being there, by being present.”

SoFi will contribute the funds over three to five years and the foundation will determine how to select participants, who are not required to take out a mortgage through SoFi. However, SoFi will offer all participants access to financial advisory services and tools.

With his team leading the Eastern Conference and the All-Star Game on Sunday, Tatum said it seemed like the perfect time to draw attention to financial literacy and generational wealth.

“Buying a home is a significant milestone – representing stability, security, and investment – these are things we believe everyone deserves a chance at achieving on their financial journey,” said Anthony Noto, CEO of SoFi, in a statement. The company also announced a partnership with the NBA to be its official banking partner and is sponsoring the SoFi NBA Play-in Tournament in April.

Jason Belinkie, CEO of the nonprofit Athletes for Hope, which advises athletes who want to give back, said they suggest athletes start out by working with existing organizations to deepen their knowledge of community needs.

“Similar to visualizing their journey in their sport and going through these different steps to achieve their goals, they should think about their philanthropy in the same way,” Belinkie said.

Starting a new nonprofit has pitfalls that many athletes don’t anticipate, said Andrew Morton, an attorney and partner at Handler Thayer, who leads their sports and entertainment philanthropy practice. He advises athletes to work through a fiscal sponsor and said that even athletes without a huge platform or millions to donate can make a big difference if they align their goals with their reach.

“If you’re super well-known and have a huge platform, you should be addressing macro issues like social justice or homelessness or hunger,” Morton said. “If you’re a back-up left tackle, you should be raising money to put books in your hometown library or buy sports equipment for your high school.”

Tatum said part of his goal with this initiative is to change the narrative around his hometown.

“There are some really good people in St. Louis — people who are really trying to help change their life and their situation. And it’s tough,” Tatum said. “And nobody was ever successful on their own. We all somewhere along the way needed help or assistance by somebody that we knew or didn’t know.”


Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.

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