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Volume 23 No. 13
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Whitney Wagoner, University of Oregon

Photo: Jon Sharpy
Photo: Jon Sharpy
Photo: Jon Sharpy

Whitney Wagoner remembers the double-take that often came when she arrived to pitch sponsor prospects while managing corporate sales at the NFL.

“I could see them process it when I walked in,” said Wagoner, who worked at the NFL from 1996 to 2003 before leaving to teach sports business at the University of Oregon, where she now heads the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. “They’re thinking: ‘That’s a woman. She doesn’t have a plate of bagels in her hand. OK, this is my person.’ It took a couple of ticks. It doesn’t change the outcome of anything. But let’s please acknowledge that it is different. That experience is still prevalent for women in this industry,”

Whitney Wagoner

Director, Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, University of Oregon

Born: Salem, Mass.
Education: University of Oregon, B.S., marketing and management; New York University, MBA, marketing and economics

Many female students in the highly regarded sports business MBA program will tell you that they chose the program in part because it offered the chance to learn from a woman who worked in corporate sales at the NFL.

“They certainly ask me very directly if I ever felt like I was held back or looked over or treated improperly or unfairly,” Wagoner said. “And I say categorically, absolutely not, never once. But women still battle an issue of perception.

“There’s still a straight up imbalance in the numbers. So there are still a lot of experiences women have where they are the only woman in a meeting or they are one of a few females in a room. Even though that experience is not necessarily abusive, it’s something we should talk about and prepare them for.” — Bill King

Getting to know...

Favorite day-off activity: I like to plan things. I like to do housework. I like to be organized.

Guilty pleasure: I love to read magazines that are not of the highly intellectual variety, like In Style, Oprah and People.

Something your friends would consider “so you”: Authenticity. Sass. Boldness. Taking control and making shit happen.

Woman in sports business you’d like to meet: Michele Roberts. That particular role — representing professional male athletes — was an important, new first. 

Role of sports in social issues: It should continue to play the leadership role that it has played for nearly 100 years. The arc of sport leading social change goes back to Jesse Owens. It is part of our DNA. We just have to keep doing what we’ve always done.