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Volume 20 No. 42
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Game Changers: Women in Sports Business

Talented people are the driving force behind all successful industries. The sports business is no different. But far too often, the stories in SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily focus on the stories of successful men. This week, we tell the stories of women in the sports business — women with broad, deep, and varied responsibilities and oversight who contribute to the success of the industry in multiple ways.


Women today are clearly having an impact in sports through positions of leadership, but challenges remain.

The following are results of the Turnkey Sports Poll taken in September. The survey covered more than 1,100 senior-level sports industry executives spanning professional and college sports.

Have you, during your professional career in sports, had a female executive as your direct supervisor?

Yes 49%
No 50%
No response 1%

Compared to other industries (e.g.: financial services, telecommunications), do women in sports face more challenges achieving success in the business of sports?

More 54%
Same 37%
Fewer 5%
Not sure / No response 4%

Source: Turnkey Sports & Entertainment in conjunction with SportsBusiness Journal. Turnkey Intelligence specializes in research, measurement and lead generation for brands and properties. Visit

They may be the force behind significant projects or driving operational change. They may be the ones developing new approaches in marketing and media, or spearheading initiatives getting noticed and worth watching. As a group, they are executives whom people are talking about and looking up to as agents of change, as well as key decision-makers who are shaping sports investments and programs at their respective organizations. Some have been doing it for years; others are relative newcomers to the industry.

They are our inaugural class of “Game Changers: Women in Sports Business.”

In addition to telling their stories, which appear on the pages that follow, each Game Changer completed a survey aimed at getting to know more about her. Select answers appear with each story. Each woman also was asked to provide us with a photograph that showed her holding, or pictured with, something of significance to her. Some women selected elements from their work environment. Others looked to family or other outside interests. Each selection was unique.

Of course, the collection of names here is by no means a complete list of notable women working in sports. There’s no doubt that the sports business is rife with talented women taking the lead across all areas of the industry, and many of these women have had their stories told in our pages previously. The talents of Katie Blackburn, Rita Benson LeBlanc, Jacqueline Parkes, Bea Perez, Jennifer Storms and others have been documented through our annual Forty Under 40 award list. The accomplishments of Val Ackerman and Donna Lopiano have been recognized in our Champions program, and pioneer Billie Jean King was honored with our Lifetime Achievement Award last year. There’s ISC’s Lesa France Kennedy, who was profiled in a front-page story, and there’s Heidi Ueberroth with the NBA and Kathy Carter at MLS/SUM, who have been regularly featured in both SBJ and SBD.

Our goal here, with Game Changers, is to shine a light on a group of women — some you might know, others you might be reading about for the first time — who follow in the progressive and innovative heritage of these colleagues. They offer new solutions, ideas and perspectives that will change the sports business in the years to come.

Stacey Allaster, WTA
Lisa Baird, U.S. Olympic Committee
Kathy Behrens, NBA
Ann Wells Crandall, N.Y. Road Runners
Jane Geddes, WWE
Jill Gregory, NASCAR
Ilana Kloss, World TeamTennis
Julie Roe Lach, NCAA
Danette Leighton, Pac-12 Conference
Sheila McLenaghan, PGA Tour
Marla Miller, MLB
Kathryn Olson, Women’s Sports Foundation
Michelle Wilson, WWE
Anne Worcester, New Haven Open
Jeanne Bonk, San Diego Chargers
Karen Bryant, Seattle Storm
Jeanie Buss, Los Angeles Lakers
Casey Coffman, MSG
Pam Gardner, Houston Astros
Tery Howard, Miami Dolphins
Amy Latimer, Boston Bruins/TD Garden
Cheryl Levick, Georgia State University
Sarah Mensah, Portland Trail Blazers
Chris Plonsky, University of Texas
Janet Marie Smith, Baltimore Orioles
Amy Trask, Oakland Raiders

Karen Brodkin, Fox Cable Networks
Amy Cohen, Comcast Sports Group
Rosalyn Durant, ESPNU
Laura Gentile, ESPNW
Christina Miller, NBA Digital/Turner Sports
Rebecca Schulte, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic
Susan Stone, MLB Network
Melinda Witmer, Time Warner Cable

Michelle Berg, Team Epic
Amy Erschen, The Marketing Arm
Kit Geis, Genesco Sports Enterprises
Tamera Green, GMR Marketing
Hillary Mandel, IMG Media
Lisa Murray, Octagon Worldwide
Sue Rodin, WISE/Stars & Strategies
Jill Smoller, William Morris Endeavor
Circe Wallace, Wasserman Media Group
Paula Yancey, PC Sports
Cindy Davis, Nike Golf
Tina Davis, Citigroup
Lauren Hobart, Dick’s Sporting Goods
Jane Kleinberger, Paciolan
Jackie Woodward, MillerCoors