UNINTERRUPTED’s Maverick Carter
Dylan Byers: Hey, it's Dylan Byers, senior media reporter for NBC News. You're listening to Byers Market.
Byers: If you follow the NBA, you know that we're living in the era of player empowerment. The best players in the game, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, they're so powerful that they basically dictate the terms of their contracts and often have more leverage than coaches and general managers. Now LeBron is the epitome of player empowerment in the game. But he's also taken things one step further.
He's become a cultural force beyond the game through business, film and television production, and maybe most importantly, his willingness to speak his mind on issues ranging from politics to culture to the NBA itself. Now Maverick Carter is in part responsible for this off-court career. Maverick and LeBron are lifelong friends and business partners.
Together they've launched Uninterrupted, an athlete empowerment brand, SpringHill Entertainment, a Hollywood production company, and Robot, a creative marketing agency. And what's coming next for them is just as exciting. So I sat down with Maverick a few weeks ago in Hollywood, well before the coronavirus pandemic took over our lives and the news cycle, to talk about his history with LeBron and the future of their business. Here's that conversation.
Byers: Okay, so this is gonna sound a little more stalker-y than I want it to. But back in January, I was at a Lakers Knicks game at the Garden. Don't ask me, I had seats I did not deserve to have. I ended up sitting behind your boy, Adam Mendelsohn.
Maverick Carter: Well, how'd you get 'em?
Byers: See, I can't say. 'Cause then I'm gonna out someone who took me to the game. And he's not gonna like that.
Carter: They're not supposed to take you to the game?
Byers: No, he can take me to the game. I just don't know if he wants it being public that he had seats that are that good.
Carter: So, but he goes to the game and people see him.
Byers: Yeah, that's right.
Carter: People are strange, man. Never mind. (LAUGH)
Byers: People are strange. People are strange.
Carter: It's, like, I go to the game. I sit there.
Byers: But if--
Carter: But I don't want anyone to know I have seats.
Byers: Yeah. But you know, it was, like, you could--
Carter: But I get it. People do it.
Byers: --LeBron. It was great. If I never make it in life, I got a taste of what making it feels like. Anyway, I'm looking across the court. And you know, like, there's the celebrity row at the Garden and people are talking to each other, sort of half paying attention to the game. And you're there. And you were, like, watching LeBron like a hawk. You were watching him as, like, intensely as I watch my son at soccer practice. Do you go to all the games?
Carter: That doesn't sound right, but--
Carter: No. But--
Byers: I feel like you were invested. I feel like you were invested in the game.
Carter: I love basketball. I mean, I watch basketball pretty intensely. I'm a real--
Byers: How many of his games do you go to?
Carter: I have no idea. I'm a season ticket holder at the Lakers. I was a season ticket holder when he played in Miami. So I'm a season ticket holder. I do not make every game. But I love watching basketball. I love the game of basketball. I consider myself a basketball aficionado and really understand and know the nuance. I'm a fan of the game. But more than an everyday fan. I love the nuance of the game.
Byers: What do you mean the nuance?
Carter: The nuance of how the game is played, how the game is thought, why coaches do certain things, why players do certain things, the kind of in between the lines of it. When I say in between the lines, not literally in between the lines of the court, but in between the highlight plays and the score that everybody else cares about. I like the, like, in between of, like, how are they defending the pick and roll, how is the team reacting. So I kind of pay attention to it intensely a little bit.
Byers: Do you feel like you can see players' brains working? Like you tell that moment when they decide they're gonna change their approach to the game?
Carter: Yeah, 1000% I can see that, absolutely.
Byers: Yeah. All right.
Carter: I'm also like that with football though. I love football. I mean, I've gotten a chance to spend a couple of moments with Peyton Manning and have just deeply intense great football nuance conversation with him.
Byers: Yeah. I think where I want to start is just take me back to the beginning and tell people how this media empire, this media enterprise that you and LeBron have started sort of came together and what the facets of that business are.
Carter: Yeah. I would say our company has really come together in a very organic way. It didn't come together in a way of, you know, let's build a product or let's build a service that serves a large group of people, or let's go out and hire engineers to build a very specific thing. It came together in the most authentic way actually and in a way that was just about A, LeBron using his platform, which is basketball, him then creating a platform that I was able to use, which is literally him.
And then how do we actually, in the most authentic way, tell stories about and for and from the community that we come from, the people that we care about, the people that we get to know and really tell stories about those people and that community and really tell stories in a way that resonates with them, that they care about, that touch them, that empower them, that move them.
And it goes back to us growing up as kids and seeing characters and learning characters, seeing oppression, seeing wanting to have progress, wanting to do more, wanting to be more than, you know, what's thought you could do from communities like us all the way up until him becoming a professional basketball player and me working at Nike, being an intern, actually learning that marketing is really storytelling and a company like Nike is really a storytelling company.
And then transferring and manifesting all that into an idea of creating a company that really story told to the people that we knew, cared about, and wanted to empower in the most authentic and real way. And that led to shows and TV shows. And started off doing it with commercials that he was in for brands, which led to TV shows, which led us to really build a company with a real mission and a vision, and then build content, products, events that serve that mission and that vision.
Byers: To date, you've got Uninterrupted, you've got SpringHill Entertainment, and you've got Robot.
Byers: What are those three things now? How are they distinguished from each other? And then what do you see them being? And how do you see them interacting going forward?
Carter: Yeah. SpringHill was always conceived and started as a production company that LeBron and I started back to '08 when we first did More Than a Game, which was a documentary that we did with Jimmy Iovine and Interscope Records and then Lionsgate was the distributor. And then we, since from then, did our first scripted show in 2013. And we have since built SpringHill into a production company out here in LA to really tell stories that are about characters, about places, about the community that we know, as a company that LeBron and I know, and really empower talent and creators who don't always get the chance to tell the stories that matter to them the most.
And we've done that through shows like Top Boy that we were fortunate enough to do and produce Drake and Future and their company. We have, as I said, Self Made. We're doing Space Jam of course, which we're gonna do--
Byers: How's that going by the way?
Carter: It's going fantastic. It's really going well. Long way to go, lots more work to be done, but really going well. We're getting a chance to produce that with Proximity, Ryan Coogler's company. So we really built SpringHill into this production company that did TV shows, movies, and really story tell and really empower talent. And then along the way, we started Uninterrupted. And raised money from Warner Brothers and really built that.
Started with the idea of how do we build a platform or a place for athletes to tell stories that were about more than just how many points or rebounds or goals or matches they won. And, you know, were fortunate enough our creative team and our creative director came up with our tagline, I am more than an athlete. And when we landed on that, we realized that Uninterrupted is truly an athlete empowerment brand. And our Just Do It is I Am More Than An Athlete. And, you know, we landed on that from the Laura Ingraham interview that--
Byers: The shut up and dribble.
Carter: The shut up and dribble that she said about one of the pieces of content we created with LeBron and Kevin Durant.
Byers: I don't know if any statement in history will go down as being more on the wrong side of history.
Carter: Yeah. But good for us.
Byers: It's not a good look in retrospect.
Carter: It's actually what pushed our creative team to start thinking about what was our response to that. And our response was our tagline, kind of our call to action but also our feeling of I am more than an athlete. So we realized we're an athlete empowerment brand. Then Robot has always been our consultancy slash agency that worked with big brands and big companies to help them figure out how to build strategy that really makes them a part of the community that we know the very best, that we serve, that we create content for and help them be a part of that community and really help and empower that community and not just borrow community, which a lot of marketers do.
So now we're pulling those three together to really create the SpringHill Company with multiple brands.
Byers: You're basically bringing it all into one thing.
Carter: We're bringing it into one thing. Yeah.
Byers: So to me, if you look back at what we're living in now, the player empowerment era, which you and LeBron are a huge part of, it seems to me like a really significant moment in that trajectory was The Decision. And all of the sort of basically turning his decision to go to Miami in basically a media event in a way that it's hard to think about sporting events that are not the actual game themselves that had so much fanfare and so much hype.
And that to me, correct me if I'm wrong, that seemed to me to be the moment when it was, like, oh my God, LeBron is actually bigger than the game of basketball.
Carter: I don't think he's bigger than the game of basketball, for sure. Maybe. That's for other people to decide. I don't think he would either. But I think that was the moment for us that our company, Uninterrupted, our athlete empowerment brand, was born, was realized, without us even knowing it or even starting it. And I think, you know, The Decision, as a TV event was highly successful.
I was just reading something the other day where it talked about the only non-live sporting event on cable TV to come close to the numbers of the Breaking Bad finale still to this day 10 years later. So I think that was Uninterrupted before we even knew we wanted to do this. That was just us doing what felt right, what felt authentic, and also pushing the envelope and taking a chance. It wasn't about player empowerment or the player empowerment era. I don't even know what that is.
It was just us leaning into what was authentic and really pushing the envelope and taking a chance and going for something. And most importantly, using our platform to change something. Really, you know, take the media from ESPN. Sell it. And then give all that money away, the $3.5 million. Like, we have this platform. We have the ability to do this. We can actually do this. Let's do it and then use the money for something great.
So I think that's what that was about. And, you know, it led to us really thinking about, you know, after we got over the getting killed by every single, you know-- (LAUGH)
Byers: It felt like a controversial decision at the time.
Carter: And I understand the fans in Cleveland. I understood the organization in Cleveland, the way they learned about it. But, you know, bad news, you're gonna learn about it in some kind of way.
Byers: That's right. There's no good way.
Carter: I understand them being upset that that was the wrong way. But I don't know if there's a right way. But I understood that. And I also understood the criticism of the execution of it. But if I could go back, I still would vote for it and do it again.
Byers: We'll be back with Maverick Carter right after this.
Byers: I talked to Jimmy Pitaro, the head of ESPN, for this series as well. And fundamentally, like, the business is you've got the actual game. You've got the live sports. Right? And if you got that, as a media company or whatever, you're good. But there's all this space between when you've got fans out there who want more from their athletes. They want the story to keep going. They want action in the offseason. Like, they want some access to these players' lives.
They want access to what these players think about. And it seems to me like you guys, whatever was going on in Akron when you started dreaming this up and identified that you could turn this into a business, coincided with the time at which, thanks to social media, thanks to the changing nature of media, whatever, there was increasing demand for more access to the players themselves.
Carter: Yeah. I would say, you know, our tagline at Uninterrupted, our sports and athlete empowerment brand is I am more than an athlete. I think not only was there demand from the consumers to not just have access but also to be empowered, there was also demand from the athlete to be able to showcase how they are more than an athlete and for them to be empowered. I think it actually was probably pent up.
I think it had existed. You know, athletes in the past, it existed with them. But to your point, the technology allowed it to meet. It allowed that demand from the consumer and the fan. And that demand from the athlete to tell their more than an athlete story, to really meet and be in one place. And now as we know, it's everywhere. And it's ubiquitous. And it's not just athletes now. It's storytelling all day every day 24/7 in a lot of different places.
You know, at SpringHill, we story tell through we have a series on Netflix called Self Made. And telling the story of Madame CJ Walker, played by Octavia Spencer, which is a story that existed going back, you know, the early 1900s. So there's also all these pent-up stories that need to be told that really empower people and empower artists to tell stories, empower people. And for us, we have a mission at our company to empower greatness through all individuals. So we look for stories that really lean into that mission and empower that community.
Byers: So you've had to fight for that along the way. Because there was a moment when, like, the shut up and dribble moment. Right? There was, like, a moment when speaking out as an athlete, being more than an athlete as your tagline suggests was not well received by sort of, like, the most sort of conservative, archaic quarters of the culture. And do you feel like we're past that? Like, the frustration with LeBron speaking out, the frustration with Colin Kaepernick, you know, not standing for the national anthem.
Like, are we past that? Have we moved to a place now where we accept that athletes are gonna speak out and weigh in on politics? Or do you still feel that pushback?
Carter: I think what you're talking about specifically, you're talking about a very specific thing, which is athletes or talent speaking up on social or political issues. What I'm talking about doesn't have to be social or political. Us as a company, we story tell and help athletes tell their more than an athlete story no matter what it is. If it's about fashion, if it's about culinary, if it's about whatever it is that they care about, the businesses that they're investing in. If politics and social happen to be one, then we're here.
We tell those stories also. And I think the idea that an athlete's just gonna focus on being an athlete is, I think we're past that. But I think athletes and talent have to be careful also. And even as a company we have to be careful to make sure you stay focused and you keep the main thing the main thing. And for an athlete, again, I always go back to all of us, you, me, people who work at this company. If you work at Apple, Nike, Microsoft, Amazon, if you play basketball, football whatever, we need a platform.
And I think, you know, you can only be as good and pivot as big as your platform is. And I think for athletes specifically, their sport is their platform. So being as great as you can be at that sport just gives you a wider breadth and a bigger platform. So I think they have to be focused on that. But I think we are at a point where people, now we've crossed over, people expect athletes to be more than an athlete.
Byers: And then tell me about basically who you're working with and who's sort of helping you run this company. Because you've got, like, one of the most diverse C-suites in Hollywood from what I understand.
Carter: You know, obviously, as being LeBron and myself starting this company and being African American guys, we still consider ourselves young. (LAUGH) Though my back doesn't say the same.
Byers: That's 'cause you're a dad now.
Carter: Yeah. I have to bend my knees now when I pick my son. No more bending from the waist. It's bad for you, all the listeners out there. (LAUGH) We didn't look at it as, like, a social responsibility thing. Though, you know, a lot of companies have so much history, you know, going way back. They're now looking at it going, oh, sh--, we have to react to this thing that's social responsibility. And a lot of them, especially the people I know running some of them going it's just the right thing to do.
But we also have to do it so we don't get in trouble. We look at it as it's what makes our business great, really having multiple streams of thought, multiple ideas, people with multiple backgrounds at the table coming up with these ideas. 'Cause we're only as great as our ideas. We're a company that's led by creative and ideation that transforms into empowerment. So when you talk about, you know, our chief creative officer coming, being from New Mexico, and growing up as a kid to play in the NBA till he had a teacher from Brooklyn come tell him, "I've seen people who go to the NBA. And this ain't it. (LAUGH) So you better think about something else."
So that type of thought. Our CFO being a woman who has, as you think about coming up in the ranks as a CFO as a woman, been through all the things and told what she could or couldn't do and wanting to be empowered and being that. And we bring that to the table as a company when you watch The Shop or when you watching Kneading Dough or when you watch More Than An Athlete or you come to one of our live events or buy our products.
That diversity of thought is great for our business. It leads us to amazing ideas. And you can feel it when you're watching something that we do or you're interacting with anything that we produce or make or serve to our community and our consumers.
Byers: I think that's one thing that's hard to impress upon a lot of the tech and media companies I cover, which is, like, this isn't just about social responsibility. You're not--
Carter: It's good business.
Byers: You're not filling a quota. If you don't have that diversity of representation in the room making decisions, you are just going to miss certain things. You're just not going to see certain things that you might otherwise see if you just diversified the board, the C-suite, whatever.
Carter: Yeah. I think, you know, some companies have to be careful. 'Cause the board can be a head fake. Meaning I'm on the board of Live Nation. So it's a big deal. It is. I go to all the four meetings a year. But I'm not hiring people at Live Nation. I'm not actually there identifying a person in middle management that should get an opportunity to come up to the C-suite or be pulled up or going, "Hey, there's a young kid who looks like me, who I know has great ideas, who's put the work in. Let me go grab them on the shoulder and pull them up."
That's really what you need, is you need people in the company providing pathways. And on the pathways, people below them, below the C-suite or wherever they are looking up and going oh, if she did or he did, then they look like me, they are me. I can do it. I'm empowered also. So I think you have to be careful. You know, a lot of companies check the box with the board, I always say. The other easy ones, you can check it with HR.
A lot of people hire, you know, a diverse person to be their head of HR. Those are two checking the box. You need people, you know, running P&Ls, running parts of the business.
Byers: Right. Decision makers.
Carter: Decision makers that are very diverse that A, help the business, but also help the younger people or the people below them in the business get a pathway to see a part that goes up. 'Cause if you talk to a lot of diverse people, black people in big companies, they'll tell you. Everyone gets stuck in middle management. I've been an entrepreneur for most of my career, you know, 95% of my career. So I don't know exactly what that feels like. But I've seen it.
And I've talked to enough people to know they get stuck there. And they see people blowing past them. Because it's natural. Sometimes it's deliberate, a lot. But sometimes it's not. It's just, like, this person and I went to the same school, we come from the same type of neighborhood, so I know they're gonna adapt like I will. They're not gonna go to the person who went to a different school than them, grew up in a different neighborhood or looked different than them.
Byers: Yeah. That's gotta be happening. I feel like there's some change that happens on screen in Hollywood that really isn't happening off screen that needs to start.
Carter: Yeah. The on-screen thing is also another bit of a pump fake. Because, you know, we've known for a long time that diverse people are super talented. Right? Everybody's talented. And as a black person, you know, as it relates to music and performing arts and sports, we've been at the top of that food chain for a while. And we've now learned that diverse movies and music performs. Hip-hop's the biggest genre of music in the world.
Black Panther does $2 billion. So now you have the business KPIs to justify putting a black lead in a movie. So that's easier than saying, no, a black person runs the company or a black person's in charge of this production, or a woman is in charge of this, or a Mexican person's in. It's just easier 'cause we now have the business metrics. And we've had those for a while. I mean, hip-hop music has been global and selling a lot of records and selling out concerts for a long time now.
Like, a really long time. And it's took a while. But it's, like, we know. That works. We're good there. But what about a black person running a music company?
Byers: Do you feel, just in your experience running a company or running a business, do you feel hopeful about change? I mean, if you're betting on that change, are you bullish? Are you bearish?
Carter: I'm hopeful. And hope is, like, the best thing you could have. So I am hopeful because people are talking about it. You're asking me about it. Right? So it's a conversation. And that's the first step. You know, unfortunately, it had to get drastic for people to start talking about. But f-- it, whatever it took it to start it. It is what it is. But at least it's starting. I think now, what you're seeing is a lot of people are going okay, well, what do I do.
I run this company. I understand we need to do this. Even people are going it's good for business. But now people are going, but where do I find women or black people or whatever. So I'm hopeful. But what I'm nervous about it is you have to deal with it on the flipside too of, like, how do you actually empower and lift people up so that the people running these companies, in charge of these divisions, get new candidates, see them.
Because if you're at the top of it, again, on the board, it's hard to see the person who's applying or who's super talented who just needs a feeling of hey, there's a pathway through. So I am hopeful. But now we have to deal with it from the other side. 'Cause the people are the top are saying they want candidates. They want people. But growing up in Akron, you're a kid like me, you don't even know 95% of these f--ing jobs exist.
So why would you even? You know a rapper exists. You know a director. You could be a director, an actor, an athlete. But you don't know about, you know, production consultant or engineering or whatever these other jobs are that even affect the thing that you care about. So I think we have to deal with that exposure, experience, and education on the other side now, too. Start to put some focus on it.
Byers: Yeah. For sure. We'll be right back with Maverick Carter.
Byers: So my favorite part of what you guys do is The Shop. And that is, like--
Carter: You should come on.
Byers: I'd love to. That would be better than courtside at the Knicks game.
Carter: The next--
Byers: Yeah, that would--
Carter: Your courtside seats with your mystery person?
Byers: That would go one up. I'd bring the mystery person. That'd be my payback for the tickets.
Carter: I'm gonna go back to the tape. Let's pull. I'm gonna pull the tape to see who's sitting there. The person who has courtside seats but doesn't--
Byers: And now we've built this--
Carter: --want anyone to know they have seats.
Byers: I feel like we've built this person up too much. But no, I think what's incredible about The Shop is LeBron now is a known quantity. And he speaks out whenever he feels like he wants to speak out on anything. And when he does, it moves the needle and people pay attention. But you guys have folks on the show who don't. They're great athletes. They might be great actors. They might be great musicians, whatever.
You know, you're not used to seeing them actually weigh in on issues like race and culture and whatever as they have a chance to do on The Shop. And it seems to me like that has been a very unique and significant platform for a lot of people to come on show a different side of themselves. Do you feel like that show is a success? 'Cause it feels like you guys are charting new territory with that show.
Carter: Yeah. I mean, listen, I don't know how you would define success other than, like, HBO keeps it on the air. Right? So it's successful.
Byers: That's good. Yeah, they need content. No. (LAUGH)
Carter: And our company, it's successful for us. The Shop has become a brand that stands for something, that is about conversation that is empowering. So I think for us, it's been a success in that realm. And I think, you know, people feel comfortable coming on that show and being in a group of people from all different walks of lives, all different sectors. You know, we have athletes. We've had politicians. We've had lots of comedians. And really having an open and honest conversation that truly is not about agreeing with each other but about understanding, being insightful, and being empowered about different topics.
And I think that show is what we set it out to do. That's what we wanted it to be. And we keep figuring out ways to make it better and want to keep making it better. And, you know, the beauty of The Shop is The Shop is not reliant upon any one type of person or any one person or any characters. It's the group that makes the conversation great. And I think that's what people tune in to see is who is the group, who is the cast of characters and what topics.
How do we string together topics that allow Malcolm Jenkins, Sue Bird, Megan Rapinoe and Stacy Abrams to have one conversation, Tiffany Haddish, Patrick Mahomes, and Roddy Ricch to have one conversation.
Byers: But that's the big question. And I'm gonna get a little meta for a sec, because I'm just getting started doing these podcasts. And I'm, like, it's different with a group than it is one on one, but the question is fundamentally how do you set the stage to facilitate organic, genuine, real, honest, frank conversation where people feel like they can speak their minds. What do you do? Like, the fact that sometimes people are actually getting their haircut on The Shop. Like, what do you do to facilitate, to put people at ease and get people to weigh in on things that I think honestly they probably didn't think they were gonna weigh in on when they walked onto the show?
Carter: No one ever knows what we're gonna talk about coming onto the show except for our director and our producer. And I know. So we really naturally let the conversation flow. The key is always we try and make everyone forget the cameras are there. And the thing is, our director, Rob Alexander, spends a lot of time with our producer on the topics. And our company spends a lot of time putting people in the room that will make the conversation very interesting and just unexpected for the viewer, which becomes even more insightful and empowering.
And I think we've been able to do that with every single episode. And I think the keys is really taking topics that are next to each other and related but still different. That's the key is, like, how do you transition football practice, a conversation about football practice that Tiffany Haddish doesn't know. You know, she didn't know what an OC was. We had to explain to her what an offensive coordinator was. But then transition that to a conversation about what does it mean to prepare an hour of comedy. Those topics are very different. But they're adjacent.
Byers: Right. They can bring 'em together. Yeah.
Carter: You're adjacent if you think about the hours of preparation and time and work it puts in to play a football game versus how hard it is to get to an hour, or 20 minutes even, of great comedy.
Byers: Can you tell when, like, you've got gold? Like, when the shows vibe. Like when Drake is offering a side of himself that he doesn't usually offer or when, like, Gronk is weighing on something that feels a little private?
Carter: I sometimes can. But the truth is, the brand of The Shop and the actual show is I'm so in it that I'm in it. The only way I can tell there's gold is when I actually go whoa. I got caught just listening for a second.
Byers: Yeah. You were stimulated. Yeah.
Carter: I forgot. I was so stimulated. I was so, like, looking at the person talking and listening so hard 'cause I was so interested. And that's, like, 95% of the show I'm doing that. So I know we have gold when I'm that focused and interested. But, yes, I guess to answer your question, yes, when I'm that focused or interested. You know, on our last episode that aired, Stacy Abrams, it was just so much insight and conversation. And Whoopi was so good. I didn't want them to stop talking.
Byers: Yeah. Not to get too philosophical here. But do you ever stop and think, like, why do so many people just want to hear us talk? Like, why is there so much demand now to hear, I mean, usually known quantities like a Whoopi Goldberg, a Tiffany Haddish, a LeBron James, whatever, like, why do people want to tune in and just hear us talk? And, like, the rise of the podcast business itself, the whole reason I have a podcast is just, you know, I'm basically asking people to listen to me talk to someone for an hour.
Carter: Yeah, that's true.
Byers: Why is that? But it's a growing business.
Carter: Whether it's one person for you or hopefully it's, you know, a lot of people, ultimately the best way humans connect is sharing our brains with each other. Right? Like, physical love that you have with your partner is a great way to connect. But really sharing what's on my brain, you listen to it and then I listen to what's on your brain, and how do we find a connection. That's kind of the ultimate, it's very stimulating. It's as stimulating as, like, your partner, your lover's touch can be when they put their flesh on your flesh.
You really connect even with your partner brain wise first before you guys even physically touch. So I think watching people, or listening to people that you know have something awesome on their brain or have been through experiences that you want to go through or whatever. And then you watch them connect with another person you know has something on their brain. And you get to see their brains kind of lock up almost like two hands touching is very stimulating and awesome for another human being.
Because sharing conversation, I mean, since I was a kid, I grew up at my grandmother's house with lots of people in an afterhours joint, watching people just share wits and crack jokes. And, you know, they always talk about iron sharpens iron. That's what you're kind of seeing when you see two people share wits or share conversation or crack jokes. You know, in my neighborhood growing up, that's a big thing, like, cracking jokes on each other is a big then when you're a kid.
And like, it was a defense mechanism. But it was also a way to be seen as cool and interesting. Like, the kids growing up who didn't have a lot of money, who didn't have a lot of clothes or didn't have a lot of shoes or were not good at basketball were always the ones who were the best at cracking the jokes. Because that was their way of being cool and people (BLEEP) with them. Because you wanted them around 'cause they were quick witted.
And I could sit and watch that. If you match two people who were really good, like great comedians obviously. Right? Who can just, like, crack jokes back and forth. That's, like, one of the most amazing things.
Byers: That's the best.
Carter: I think that's what people get really interested by. And then when you could have these two people that you admire but they're from different walks of life. You know, Patrick Mahomes and Tiffany Haddish, that becomes really interesting. 'Cause it opens up these conversations that you otherwise never would see Patrick Mahomes have in an interview after a Chiefs game.
Byers: Right. I feel like that develops empathy. And also I just feel, to your point about your experience growing up, it just feels more genuine. And I don't know, from where I'm sitting, so much, you know, in the news media, there's, like, you got cable news, you got Twitter. And that sh-- is not genuine. That's is, like, that is you are at a distance from people. You are removed from people. Everything gets taken out of context. And I'm sure there's stuff that all of your guests have said on the shop that if you put it in a tweet, they get in a hell of a lot of trouble.
But when you give them the context of a safe space and conversation that they can, like, draw out some things, you just create empathy among the viewer.
Carter: Yeah. Absolutely. And it's also they're more comfortable with saying it, and they get it because they're amongst people who aren't necessarily agreeing with everything they say but also having a conversation about the same topic. So therefore, it's shaped in context.
Byers: Right. And so for, like, all of the folks who've come on your show, getting back to this notion of, like, athlete empowerment, you're getting a side. Let's just talk about the athletes for now. You're getting a side of these athletes that historically you never got in sports. And I mean oftentimes, like, basketball at least you can see the players. I mean, oftentimes in football you can't even see the players' face 'cause they're behind a helmet.
Carter: Yeah, we came up with a creative idea. 'Cause people often say that. Right? They're, like, football players, you can't even see them. We created what's called the glass helmet which has been a huge success for us.
Byers: Is that like a physical thing?
Carter: Yeah. We have a physical version of it in the office. We can get it so you can see it. But we created a physical glass helmet that NFL guys put on. And we built the tagline they will be seen or I will be seen. We did a live event at Super Bowl around I will be seen, a live storytelling event. We had Nate Burleson host it. And Cam came, and Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Ramsey, and Tobe Nwigwe (PH) performed, who was a former football player. Just with Oakley was our partner. Around this idea that our creative team, around that insight that oh, once you put on the helmet, I disappear.
But up under that helmet there is still a human being who is a brother, a father, a friend, a cousin, a more than just their number and their position. It's more than number 54, the middle linebacker for the Giants. And that's what athletes care about. And that's what athletes really, you know, when they work with us at Uninterrupted, that's what they come for is those ideas, those things. And they really bought into it. And we literally built the glass helmet.
Byers: Yeah. I mean, and like honestly just as a fan, beyond even the empowerment thing, beyond just, like, moving the game forward, it just makes the whole thing more interesting. Like, I'm a Seattle Seahawks fan. When Richard Sherman, like, started speaking up and speaking out, that was, like, a game changing moment. Whatever Seahawks coverage The Seattle Times was doing, like, I'm sure the audience blossomed by, like, you know, four X.
Carter: Yeah. Did you see our piece we did on Bobby Wagner?
Carter: You should see it. 'Cause he represented himself. So we did kind of a Gemini Man-esque version of a piece of content with Bobby Wagner with Boggy Wagner the agent talking to Bobby Wagner the player. It's actually turned--
Byers: That's good.
Carter: --out really good. We'll get it to you for you to watch.
Byers: Okay. So now let's talk about the future of the business now. Where can you take this and where can you take the player empowerment thing? Like, what do the next five, 10 years look like for the company? Or the companies, I should say.
Carter: Yeah, for us--
Byers: 'Cause you've got Uninterrupted, SpringHill, and then you've got Robot, your creative agency.
Carter: Yeah, for us and what we're gonna do at SpringHill Company is really keep leaning into our mission and the vision of the company, which is to keep going deeper with the community that love the things that we do, that care about the things that we do, want to be empowered to create more content, more events, more products that super serve and dive deeper in with that community and really become a part of their lives. And in a way that we become the company that ultimately empowers talent, writers, producers, directors, athletes, actors, and empowers consumers and fans that are from our community and that care about what we care about.
That's what we have to do. That's our mission. That's our vision. And as a business, that's what we have to do.
Byers: So what does that just mean? More projects? Does that mean bringing on other athletes? What is it?
Carter: What that means is creating more opportunity and more space for people like Octavia Spencer other play a role like Madame CJ Walker, which she has always wanted to do. What that means is working with Serena Williams to create more docs like the one we're gonna do with her. What that means is creating more ideas like glass helmet that allows NFL players to break past the notion of that I disappear when I put my helmet on.
That means creating more production that allows an athlete like Bobby Wagner to tell his story, why he thought it was the right thing to do to represent himself. That means creating events like Uninterrupted Live, our live storytelling event, that we've done at the ESPYs and we've done with Oakley at the Super Bowl. That means creating more products like our More Than An Athlete Air Force Ones and our Uninterrupted varsity jackets.
It just means creating more things that truly empower talent and empowers consumers and really speaks to the community that we care about and that cares about the things that we create.
Byers: So you been doing this in one way or another for more than a decade. If you go back and tell yourself when you guys were getting this started, like, offer a piece of advice, something you've learned along the way that you didn't foresee, some hurdle you ran into that you didn't foresee, what would it be?
Carter: It would have been to do what we're doing now which is just continue to really focus on and get to our mission and focus on that and build a business that serves that mission. And let everything else fall into place as it should. Because when you have a mission and you build a business to serve that mission, that's when you're on the track to really building something amazing, something that people care about and something that has staying power instead of building a product and then building a mission that serves the product.
Byers: Thank you for taking the time to do this, man.
Carter: Only time will tell. Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Byers: Really appreciate it.
Carter: Appreciate it.
Byers: That was Maverick Carter, CEO of Uninterrupted and SpringHill Entertainment. Byers Market is a production of NBC News and is produced by Jonaki Mehta of Neon Hum Media. We had production help from Tanner Robbins of Neon Hum and Allison Bailey of NBC News. The show was engineered by Scott Somerville. Steve Lickteig is the executive producer of podcasts for NBC News. And I'm Dylan Byers.