Having a Black woman in your corner is a sure shot for success. Although they make up only a small percentage in the business of sports, the underrepresented group is often a saving grace behind the scenes within the space.
During AfroTech Executive Los Angeles in September 2022, a few powerhouses who make up the underrepresented group gathered for a panel titled The Changing Face Of Sports And Fitness Leadership.
During the conversation — moderated by the CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, Nichol Whiteman — the women not only touched on making it into the industry but also on surviving as Black women.
“You can’t come into this industry with thin skin. Whether you’re a male or female, you have to be thick skin. You’re going to have to go through a lot. You’re going to have to work harder,” Kiesha Nix said during AfroTech Executive Los Angeles. “At this point in our careers, people joke with us sometimes that we should be working smarter and not harder. That is a joke because, for us, we do still have to work hard. Is it fair? Is it right? [No], but it’s life — it’s reality.”
While it is the reality, that doesn’t mean these women don’t deserve their flowers for making it in the industry and paving a way for more who look like them to come.
With that said, take a look at our list of powerful Black women in sports and their accomplishments below.
Sandra Douglass Morgan
History was made when Sandra Douglass Morgan was appointed to lead the Las Vegas Raiders back in July 2022. Stepping into her role as the team’s president marked her as the first Black woman president in NFL history.
Right off the bat of her appointment, Morgan shared she was in gear to take action on addressing the organization’s issues at hand, as previously reported by AfroTech.
Shelly Cayette came in swinging at the start of the year.
After being promoted to both executive vice president and chief operating officer (COO) of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the former college basketball player became the first Black woman to serve as COO of an NBA team. What’s more, Cayette was listed on Sports Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 for 2021.
Nichol Whiteman wasn’t a professional player in baseball, but she’s been a key player in the sport.
According to Sports Illustrated, in high school, she even received a scholarship from the Jackie Robinson Foundation to attend her HBCU, Spelman College.
Fast forward to today, and she’s become the CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. Her mission as CEO is to keep the legacy of the legendary Jackie Robinson alive by keeping the Los Angeles community thriving.
Shetellia Riley Irving
Kyrie Irving made a big move earlier in 2022. In March, the Brooklyn Nets star hired Shetellia Riley Irving, his stepmother, to be his agent. It was reported that she is the only Black woman representing an active NBA player. The former vice president of ad sales at BET is honing in on her business acumen and bringing it to the world of sports.
Kiesha Nix’s pivot into sports is not only a win for her but for the space as well. With the importance of community at her core, she was basically a shoo-in for the position of vice president of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2021. She is the organization’s first Black woman to lead in the role.
During AfroTech Executive Los Angeles, the women who spoke during The Changing Face Of Sports And Fitness Leadership panel spoke about how they got their foot in the door of sports. For Kim Davis, it was through finance like many other Black women in the industry.
Davis went from former managing director of global corporate social responsibility at JPMorgan Chase to the current senior executive vice president of the National Hockey League.
In December 2021, Gbemisola Abudu was named as NBA Africa’s Vice President & Country Head of Nigeria — which is a newly-created role. According to Sports Illustrated, she is the youngest and only woman of color to lead an office in the league.
Before NBA Africa, Abudu worked with the likes of Louis Vuitton, The Walt Disney Company, and The Clorox Company.