SBJ/October 8-14, 2012/Game Changers

Game Changers: JoAnn Neale

Photo: GREG BARTRAM / MLS
“Of all our policies, I believe our diversity programs
have had the most impact.”
JoAnn Neale
MLS
EVP, Human Resources, Administration and Social Responsibility

JoAnn Neale has been with MLS since 1998, when she joined the league as general counsel. While she has a wide range of actions and involvements to her credit, it’s her efforts in diversity and with MLS W.O.R.K.S., the league’s social responsibility platform she created in 2007, that make her most proud. “Of all our policies, I believe our diversity programs have had the most impact,” Neale said. “We are committed to diversity on and off the field. Our programs address an important issue in this country.”

Neale leads the league’s administration department and manages the strategic and legal oversight of MLS’s human resources staff. As for MLS W.O.R.K.S. — which focuses on charitable giving, health and wellness, education, and environmental issues — Neale has developed the program into one of sports’ most effective community outreach initiatives.

The combined efforts have enabled Neale to have an effect both inside and outside the league office.

“JoAnn is smart, talented and possesses a strategic mindset that influences many key issues within our organization,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “I deeply value her counsel and appreciate her passion and dedication to our company.”

— Christopher Botta
  • Crowning professional achievement: Creating the strategic plan for the formation of MLS W.O.R.K.S.
  • Biggest professional disappointment: The United States not being chosen to host World Cup 2022.
  • What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?: That it is equally important to like and respect the people with whom you work as it is to enjoy what you do.
  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Don Garber. He has been a tremendous mentor and supporter of work-life balance.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Billie Jean King, for everything she accomplished on the court as well as for gender equality.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: Not being able to work with all of the worthy social causes that reach out to us for support.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

“JoAnn is a key member of MLS’s excellent leadership team that has so successfully stewarded the incredible growth of the league. She and her group provide us at the club level with terrific support. Her imprimatur on MLS W.O.R.K.S. has made it one of the most impactful community outreach initiatives in sports.”

  • Mike Golub, Portland Timbers COO
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