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Volume 20 No. 42
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Game Changers: Influencers

We asked this year’s Game Changers:

Who has had the biggest impact or influence on your career in sports?

  • Jean Afterman // Don Nomura because as we worked together, he taught me about courage and perseverance in baseball; and, of course, Brian Cashman, because I have had the honor and privilege of working for the best GM in sports for a lot of years.

  • Christina Alejandre // My boss at WB Games, Jim Drewry, was the one who asked me to “investigate and run esports” for the game we were working on, “Infinite Crisis.” This literally changed the trajectory of my career and it’s why I am in the position that I’m in today. As far as being in sports, Craig Barry (my current boss) is the one who believes in me, esports, and its place in traditional sports.

  • Kenyatta Bynoe // My grandmother. She raised me to take calculated risks and to not just dream but to pursue fulfillment of those dreams, and it is those ideals that have propelled my career.

  • Katie Bynum // I am fortunate and very grateful to have a few people who have supported me throughout my career. However, if I had to pick one, it would be my mom, who has given me great perspective, independence, and confidence over the years.

  • Danielle Cantor // David Falk, of course. He is the ultimate teacher and mentor, and he happens to be the most successful negotiator (for players) in the history of the NBA.

  • Jennifer Cohen // Judi Henry, senior associate AD at Texas Tech. My dream was to work in Division I athletics but it was hard to break through coming from a D-III background. Judi hired me as an intern in my late 20s after I spent several years working in Division III. She was the first person to give me a real shot at my dreams, and she also taught me about work ethic, humility, the student-athlete experience and service. She changed my life forever.

  • Kirsten Corio // Scott O’Neil, Chris Granger, Amy Brooks, and Lew Sherr have been the most incredible bosses that imparted wisdom, demonstrated what great culture looked like, challenged the heck out of me and continue to support me in countless ways. But the list of hugely influential others is long: Donna Daniels, Liliahn Majeed, Stacey Allaster, Adam Kanner, John Abbamondi, Larry Martin, Valerie Camillo, Melissa Brenner, Steve Hellmuth, Bill Sutton, Bernie Mullin … too many to list.

  • Sarah Cummins // Pierce O’Neil, former chief business officer, USTA. He gave me a line of business and let me run with it. During the height of my career at the USTA, I had three children in four years. He provided me with many advancement opportunities and more flexibility at home simultaneously. My career growth was never hindered by my growing and young family. That was a progressive approach 15 years ago.

  • Ayala Deutsch // David Stern and Adam Silver. David was commissioner when I joined the NBA and he had an interest in intellectual property, which is what I was focused on at the time. Engaging with him on intellectual property issues made me realize how effective and rewarding it was for each of us at the league to bring our particular experience and passion to the business of sports — even if it was something as “geeky” as IP law. Adam also began his career practicing law, and he has given me the opportunity as a lawyer to expand my role at the NBA, to become involved in new things, and to continue to grow even after 20 years with the league.

  • Kimberly Fields // God. He has opened doors and provided opportunities that I did not even dream would be possible.

  • Laura Froelich // To single out one person would unfairly omit myriad others. So many have influenced me by giving me opportunities, or by showing me the kind of leader I want to be.

  • Libby Geist // Either Patrick Ewing for teaching me about true love and heartbreak, or Connor Schell, who I’ve been lucky enough to work for for nine years. He has pushed me to be creative and to lead our team into uncharted, sometimes uncomfortable territory.

  • Hannah Gordon // I cannot pick just one person: There have been so many people who have influenced and impacted my career.

  • Shauna Griffiths // Felicia Hall Allen (Nike) was a tremendous example of a strong, inspirational female leader. Alfred White (Asheville Altitude) taught me the value of creating truly mutually beneficial partnerships. Matt Pazaras and Fred Mangione (Nets Basketball) supported my growth and taught me so much about the business. Pam Harris (Blue Man Productions, Madison Square Garden, SCP Worldwide) has been an amazing example of conscious leadership. Dan Mannix (LeadDog Marketing Group) has continued to believe in me and support my desire to chart new territories.

  • Catie Griggs // John Shea, president of marketing and events at Octagon. When I was trying to break into the industry, John took a chance on me and offered me my first role in sports. Over the subsequent nine years, whether we were working together directly or not, he has been an adviser and supporter who has helped me get to where I am today.

  • Amy Howe // The sports person I am most inspired by is John Wooden. The profound and compelling way he lived his life, coached his team and raised his family will live on for decades to come, and has been a true source of inspiration for our entire family.

  • Allison Keller // Former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem. He has always been an important mentor who became a dear friend. When I was a 37-year-old lawyer in the legal team with no anti-doping experience, he tapped me to design and launch our player anti-doping program, working directly with our athletes on a big change. After that, Tim asked me to lead other departments and join the executive committee as the youngest member and its only female member in 2009. Today, current Commissioner Jay Monahan is already having a huge impact on my professional development on a daily basis. He challenges me to up my game, continue to grow and lead.

  • Morane Kerek // Stephanie Tolleson. She was my boss for several years at IMG and she had a wonderful method of mentoring and teaching by talking about big and small strategic decisions out loud so I could learn how she thought about things.

  • Gina Lehe // It is very difficult to acknowledge just one person. Arguably, my career started with my love of sports, which was cultivated by my father. Throughout my journey, people have stepped up to the plate and served invaluable roles to help shape and guide my ultimate successes. It all started with the Fiesta Bowl giving me my first “break” with a full-time job right out of college. The foundation of knowledge built there from day one has carried throughout my career.

  • Lauren Cooks Levitan // My parents — from them I learned the importance of hard work and the joy of building connections through sports.

  • Adrienne Lofton // Kevin Plank. Kevin gave me an opportunity when I walked into this industry eight years ago to create a women’s marketing department. Kevin was humble enough to say I know we need this space, but I don’t know how to build it, help me. I came from Target and built it from nothing to a division. He showed me how he thinks. He is an absolute visionary.

  • Jodi Logsdon // Bill Lyon is a legendary sports writer who was the lead columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer while I was growing up. The earliest I can remember having a desire to enter into sports media came while reading his writing as a young sports fan in Philly. I lived every up and down of those sports teams through Bill Lyon’s words in the Inquirer, and that is what led me to pursue an education and then career in sports journalism. There have been others who have had more direct impact on my career development over the years, but I would not have embarked on this path if it had not been for the inspiration of Bill Lyon.

  • Samita Mannapperuma // My current boss, Dave Pietrycha (CFO of NBC Sports) has been tremendous in supporting my career development and presenting me with opportunities that constantly challenge and excite me.

  • Beth McClinton // CAA Sports co-heads Howie Nuchow and Mike Levine have had the most remarkable influence on my career to date. From day one, they have invested in me, providing mentorship and guidance every step of the way, and creating new opportunities that further my professional growth. They are my biggest champions, and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

  • Stephanie McMahon // Vince McMahon, chairman and CEO of WWE (who is also my father), because he has taught me to listen, challenge the status quo, be pragmatic, and respect everyone.

  • Marisabel Muñoz // Dan Courtemanche, who leads the MLS communications team and truly leads by example.

  • Erika Nardini // Dave Portnoy. If it weren’t for Dave, I wouldn’t be in sports.

  • Elizabeth O’Brien // My father worked at ABC most of his career — he loved the people, the events and was a huge sports fan. Growing up, we used to play football in the yard during halftime every Sunday and I still have that football today.

  • Nzinga Shaw // Neil Glat, president of the New York Jets. He is a mentor and friend. Over 10 years ago, I supported Neil as his HR adviser at the National Football League when he ran the corporate development division. He always took my counsel seriously, and he also gave me candid feedback from time to time so that I could continue to excel in my sports career. It isn’t often that a white male executive takes a genuine interest in mentoring a black woman in the sports industry, but Neil always went over and beyond to help me.

  • Renata Simril // Peter Ueberroth. He embodies the bridge between sport and civic responsibility with a focus on the impact sport can and does have on communities in need.

  • Shauna Smith // Nancy Altenburg, now retired but formerly led FedEx’s sponsorship marketing efforts. I was a 19-year-old intern and Nancy was my first client and she had very high expectations, which helped to show me what was achievable with effort.

  • Keisha Taylor // Andy Rawlings and Roger Gardner at Learfield. Andy is a visionary who ultimately decided to hire an industry outsider, versus an industry veteran, to build and grow a marketing division for the company. He has been my biggest champion and refuses to let me do anything other than win. Roger is the heartbeat of Learfield and he reminds our company that while we certainly love when we win, we ultimately win when we love others.

  • Renée Tirado // My mother because she always supported my numerous professional moves without judgment and pushed me to take more risk.

  • Renee Washington // Max Siegel, USATF CEO. He gave me the opportunity. I learn from him the history of the organization, how other sport industries work and nuances related to the athlete experience.

  • Lynn White // Ken Yaffe hired me as an assistant at the NHL in 1995. Over the next 15 years he served as my supervisor, mentor and friend, allowing me to take on new challenges including a significant role in the NHL’s international business.