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Boston pizzeria selected for ESPN’s Champion Black Businesses program

Rock City Pizza, with locations in Allston and Randolph, is being highlighted by an ESPN initiative for small businesses.Bobby Shakes/Rock City Pizza

A Boston pizzeria has been selected to participate in ESPN’s Champion Black Businesses initiative, which aims to elevate Black-owned businesses across ESPN platforms during the NBA Finals.

Rock City Pizza in Allston and Randolph is one of four businesses, along with Oldvine Florals in Los Angeles, NiLu Gift Store in New York, and Straw & Wool in Phoenix, to be highlighted for ESPN’s fourth annual program.

“To get that type of recognition or to even get nominated, I’m honored,” said owner Joseph Charles, who opened the pizzeria in 2013. “I’m just honored to even be in the conversation.”


The program, which launched in 2020, is in collaboration with the NBA, sports and culture site Andscape, and ABC. This year, ESPN is also working with the Black-owned and women-led cultural marketing agency Seven Elements Group on the initiative.

In collaboration with ABC’s “Shark Tank,” each owner of the selected businesses will have the chance to meet with “Sharks” Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Robert Herjavec, and Barbara Corcoran for a one-on-one mentorship session on how to grow their businesses.

The businesses will each have 30-second videos highlighting their stories, which will broadcast across ESPN’s digital and social media platforms, in addition to Andscape, during the NBA Finals.

The mentorship and exposure will help develop the businesses long term, said Emeka Ofodile, vice president of sports marketing for ESPN.

“We’re really here to create impact over a long period of time,” Ofodile said.

In 2022, Rock City Pizza received $25,000 through the Power Forward Small Business program, an initiative led by the Boston Celtics, Vistaprint, and the NAACP to support Black-owned small businesses across New England.

With the Celtics having been in the playoffs, ESPN wanted to highlight a business in Boston. “This is a great moment where we can all come together and elevate this business,” Ofodile said.


Hannah Nguyen can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @hannahcnguyen.