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Physical Culture Supply Co. and the Black Fives Foundation

Have you heard of the Physical Culture Supply Co.? Neither had we until we stumbled into a Lids store in Connecticut (yes, Connecticut) and encountered an assortment of black-positive and beautifully-made baseball hats all repping a different African American basketball team from a time (sadly, in the not too distant past) when the NBA was racially segregated. The NBA was of course not alone in this since we have also emerged (blessedly) from histories of racial segregation in other sports like track and field and boxing and other leagues like the MLB and NFL. In some cases the work is obviously not yet done (think golf, tennis, and the black men within Canada’s Colored Hockey League). The work is certainly still ahead to level the playing field (so to speak) in terms of coaching and ownership opportunities.

As it turns out, Physical Culture is the official vintage private label of the Black Fives Foundation, inspired by the historical physical culture movement which first brought basketball to black audiences in the USA. What era are we talking about? Well, it was not until the NBA gave contracts to Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, Chuck Cooper, and Earl Llyod that their decades-long policy of racial segregation was finally dismantled in 1950. So, what is the Black Fives Foundation you ask? It’s an organization that works to “research, preserve, showcase, teach, and honor the pre-NBA history of African Americans in basketball”. Amongst their powerful and transformative outcomes are an online museum featuring an insightful and history-packed documentary and exhibitions showcasing early basketball clothing, footwear, promotional materials, and sport equipment like basketball hoops, knee pads, and even timekeepers. Other exhibitions dive into the histories of black women in American basketball and tournament histories. In partnership with Puma, the site also features a collection of athletic apparel that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the New York Rens (formed in 1923), the first black-owned, all-black, fully-professional basketball team in history.

Powerfully, the Black Fives Foundation is also committed to social and academic outreach through programs that leverage exhibitions, presentations, and community partnerships to advance the recognition, preservation, and appreciation of Black Fives Era teams and players. Want to wear gear that sends a message and makes a difference? Black Fives might be just your style.