Bubble Economy: How NBA Athletes Are Supporting Minority-Owned Restaurants - TheStreet

Bubble Economy: How NBA Athletes Are Supporting Minority-Owned Restaurants

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COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry, but the NBA 'Bubble' -- filled with hungry athletes -- is doing its best to support local, Black- and Latino-owned restaurants in Orlando, Florida.

When the Bubble first started, photos on social media circulated showing meals that didn't look particularly appetizing. That's no longer the case. 

Sports Illustrated's Ben Pickman reports on the minority-owned businesses helping NBA players keep their stamina up with generous portions of oxtail, jerk salmon, plantains, yellow rice, and much more.

According to Pickman, Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson was getting hungry when he messaged Joshua Johnson, the 31-year-old owner of Seana’s Caribbean Soul Food, a local Orlando restaurant, about delivery. The Heats player, alongside fellow players Andre Iguodala, Solomon Hill and Kelly Olynyk, enjoyed a feast that garnered the following feedback: “Fire as always."

Restaurants Sofrito Latin Café, Justins Caribbean Fusion Restaurant and 1,000 Degrees Pizza are other minority-owned establishments that are delivering to the Bubble.

Many players and leagues see food delivery as an effective and meaningful way to support a struggling industry, with an emphasis on buying from small businesses owned and operated by people of color.

The pandemic has torn apart a normally bustling industry, with sales down 47% nationwide between March 1 and March 22, according to the National Restaurant Association. In July, directory and review site Yelp said that 60% of restaurants that closed down completely during the pandemic had marked those closures as permanent. Also in July, a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 41% of Black-owned businesses had been shuttered by the pandemic, compared to just 17% of white-owned businesses.

Jim Cramer told TheStreet's Katherine Ross that soon, all the diversity of restaurant, and all the choices, will be considered a luxury of a pre-pandemic era.

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