In Honor of 03/08 and Women’s History Month: 10 Women Who are Making a Difference in the Sports Indu
This article was originally written by Carolina Agurcia
We celebrated International Women’s Day this past Tuesday, March 8th and March is Women’s History Month. In honor of this special month, let’s take a look at the women who made and are making a difference in the sports industry: owners, reporters, analysts, insiders, coaches, agents, directors, etc. It’s important to acknowledge the hard work that these women are doing in an industry that is predominantly male. Acknowledgment of their work not only puts them on the radar, but it inspires young girls and future generations of women.
Michele A. Roberts
Michele is the former Executive Director of the NBA Players Association. She retired at the end of 2021 at the age of 66. Before retiring, she had been in that position for 7 and a half years. She worked for the protection of NBA players and fought hard for their rights both as players and humans. Roberts had a lot to do with the creation of the NBA Bubble in 2020 and was at the forefront of negotiations promoting racial justice and the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Formerly a trial lawyer, Roberts’ career as the Executive Director of the NBAPA will forever be remembered. Not only was she the first woman to take on that role in the NBA, but the first woman ever to lead a major sports union in North America.
2. Gayle Benson
Mrs. Gayle Benson is a businesswoman and owner of two of the biggest sports franchises in Louisiana: the New Orleans Saints (NFL) and the New Orleans Pelicans (NBA). Before inheriting the two teams from her late husband Tom Benson, Mrs. Benson was the owner of her own interior design business.
In her first year as the owner of these two teams, she had to deal with the famous “no-call” in the NFC Championship against the Rams, as well as the Pelicans' star player Anthony Davis requesting a trade. She showed her power and strength as a businesswoman by dealing with these two situations really well. She has dedicated her life to the city of New Orleans and has made an eternal promise to help her community.
*Watch Mrs. Benson’s interview with NFL 360 here.
3. Cynthia Frelund
Frelund is NFL Media’s first analytics expert. She has been working at the NFL for 6 years now and previously worked for ESPN as a sports analyst. She has gone up the ranks in terms of sports analytics in the past years. She is co-host of the NFL Network shows NFL Fantasy Live and NFL Gameday Morning.
Cynthia created her own model and way of analyzing football games and constantly is giving her insights and analytics on how players or going to perform, results of the game, etc. She is held in high regard amongst her team at the NFL and is constantly rising to become one of the biggest analysts the NFL has seen.
4. Sheila Johnson
Sheila Johnson is a businesswoman and the owner of three different sports franchises. She is the owner of the Washington Mystics (WNBA), the Washington Capitals (NHL), and the Washington Wizards (NBA). Johnson is not only a top sports businesswoman, but she is also the owner of many hotels and resorts and was the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television.
Sheila is the first African American woman to have a net worth of at least 1 billion dollars and has been highlighted in Forbes Magazine for her achievements. Her skills as a businesswoman are clear and she continues to inspire the next generation of African American women.
5. Val Ackerman
Former basketball player, Val Ackerman, is now the current commissioner of the Big East Conference. The Big East Conference is an NCAA Division I conference consisting of 10 men's sports and 12 women's sports. Some of the schools in the conference consist of Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, and other top schools in the nation.
Ackerman was also the first female president of the WNBA and is clearly making an impact in the world of basketball. Her past jobs in the NBA and WNBA as well as her current work as the commissioner of the Big East have earned her many recognitions across the country.
6. Nicole Lynn
Nicole Lynn is one of the top agents in the sports industry. She represented Young Money APAA Sports Agency owned by Lil Wayne and now is the President of Football Operations of Klutch Sports Group. Lynn was the first African American woman to represent a top 3 draft pick in the NFL. She represents top athletes in the NFL like Jalen Hurts and Quinnen Williams, an ESPY nominated Softball star, among other players.
At 33 years of age, Nicole Lynn is only getting started with her career and the ceiling is definitely very high. Lynn just published her own autobiography named “Agent You: Show Up, Do the Work, and Succeed on Your Own Terms.” She has overcome many obstacles throughout her life and these obstacles have given her a fire mentality that she will continue to harvest.
7. Lesa France Kennedy
Lesa France Kennedy was named “The Most Powerful Woman in Sports” by Forbes magazine in 2009. Lesa is the Executive Vice President of NASCAR and the CEO of the International Speedway Corporation. France Kennedy has had a huge impact in the world of motorsport and it has led to all the well-deserved recognitions. She was highly involved in the creation of the Kansas and Chicagoland Speedway as well as other many influential projects in the world of motorsport.
She makes sure to give back to her community and uses her knowledge and experience to inspire everyone around her. So many magazines and newspapers have ranked her first in the sports business community and she makes sure to use this power wisely. France Kennedy is a role model and mentor to many other female executives in the world of sports.
8. Dawn Staley
Dawn Staley is one of the most well-known coaches and players in the world of College Basketball. Inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame as a player, Staley is currently the head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks women’s basketball team for the University of South Carolina, who participate in the well-known SEC Conference. As a player, she won 3 Olympic gold medals and has won 1 as a coach.
Before joining USC she was the coach for Temple University and led them to 3 regular-season conference championships. As a USC coach, she has led her team to 5 regular season SEC championships, 6 SEC tournament championships, and led the team to their first-ever NCAA National Championship. Currently, USC is ranked first in their conference. Undoubtedly, Staley has changed the world of women’s basketball and continues to inspire her team as well as everyone who is witnessing her greatness.
9. Kay Adams
Kay Adams is a sportscaster and TV personality known for hosting the NFL Network show called Good Morning Football that airs from Monday to Friday every week. She is also a regular participant in another NFL Network show called NFL Gameday Morning. Adams’ enthusiastic and passionate energy has made her a well-known figure in the NFL community. She is extremely knowledgeable about the world of football and is not scared to give her hot takes on what is going on around the league. She gives insight around moves for Fantasy Football and has her own segments on different shows to share her knowledge.
Adams is also the host of PEOPLE, an entertainment TV Show where she interviews and updates the audience on the world of pop culture. At the age of 35, Adams still has a lot ahead for her career in the Sports and Entertainment industry, but what she has shown so far is that she is not afraid to make a statement.
10. Jeanie Buss
Jeanie Buss is the current owner and president of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. In 2020, the Los Angeles Lakers became NBA champions under Jeanie’s ownership, making her the first female controlling owner to win the NBA championship. Prior to owning the Lakers, Buss was the general manager of the professional tennis team, Los Angeles Strings. She then became the owner of a professional roller hockey team, the Los Angeles Blades.
She took over the Lakers after her father’s passing in 2013. The ownership of the Lakers was given to her and her 5 siblings, and she took over as team president. She has been featured in many influential magazines and was called “one of the most powerful women in the NBA” by ESPN. Buss continues to show her strong skills as a businesswoman in the sports world.
These are only 10 out of so many women who are making a difference in the sports industry. They continue to inspire and show future generations of women that a job in the world of sports is possible. They have shown the world that, as a woman, there are multiple obstacles to overcome, but with hard work and determination anything is possible. Let’s keep highlighting and celebrating the work of women in this male-dominated world to break barriers and make our world better.