We are well into the era of #Metoo and #Timesup, but in the workplace women still face plenty of challenges, including the expectation that they manage to balance a career and family. One of this year’s Women in the Game honorees, Monica Fee of CAA Sports, was working from home and had to schedule her interview around her children’s nap time; another, Wasserman sports agent Circe Wallace, had to postpone her interview for a day because one of her children was home sick.
Yet all of these 10 honorees continue to find that balance and to succeed — and to find ways to help other women up the ladder. “I’ve always known I have a voice and I am able to use it to help other women of color and to mentor them,” ESPN coordinating producer Amina Hussein said. “The #MeToo movement has created more awareness of a lot of issues and has given women more of a platform to speak up,” Tracy Cameron, VP of distribution and marketing at Pac-12 Networks, said. “Workplace problems can be recognized and talked about if women feel like they can finally speak up and not get shot down.”
Still, these women all say that despite much support, in their corners of the sports and television industries, progress in terms of women gaining power remains slow at best. But they remain determined and try to look on the bright side.
“As my grandpa used to say, you can’t fall off the floor, so we have no place to go but up,” Portia Archer, VP of direct-to-consumer services at NBC Sports Group, said.
Here’s a closer look at this year’s group of women in sports worth keeping an eye on.
Senior VP, General Manager, Fox Sports West, Prime Ticket and Fox Sports San Diego
KEY STATS: As general manager for three Fox Sports regional networks, Lindsay Amstutz helps oversee day-to-day operations for networks covering Southern California, San Diego, Nevada and Hawaii. She also helps lead the “Women of Fox Sports” initiative, which she helped found in 2015.
VARSITY STATUS: Amstutz has a master’s degree in communication from Stanford University and a law degree from Georgetown University Law School; she worked in athletic marketing at both Stanford University and Santa Clara University and in sports and entertainment law as an associate at a law firm. She joined the NBA’s Team Marketing & Business Operations group and later was vice president and chief marketing officer of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.
At Fox Sports, she was director of marketing and on-air presentation for Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket in Los Angeles and then, prior to her current role, she was promoted to VP of marketing for Fox Sports Regional Networks, overseeing marketing efforts across the Fox family of 22 RSNs.
IN HER OWN WORDS: “As a child I was a ballerina; I hated sports and was obnoxious about it. But a family friend persuaded me to try out for the high school basketball team and I fell in love. I went to the local park and there was no girls’ league so I organized one and it is still there today. At Stanford I was not good enough to play, so I became the manager and worked in the athletic department. I went to law school to open additional doors but I didn’t love being a lawyer. After 364 days I jumped to the NBA. I wasn’t focused on TV then, it was just on the next opportunity.
“When I made the jump to Fox, it was so much fun to have all the tools and resources to tell these stories. Then [Fox Sports Regional Networks president] Jeff Krolik, who provided great mentorship, said to think about if I was all in on marketing or if I had an interest in management. I thought about it and realized I wanted to be a general manager more than the next CMO, so I took a chance. It helped that I knew everybody and understood the internal workings of the company, which is why it’s important to promote from within.
“We sketched out the idea for Women of Fox Sports on napkins at lunch. Fox and Fox Sports didn’t have any affinity groups then but Jeff and [Fox Sports president, chief operating officer and executive producer] Eric Shanks just said, ‘Tell us what you need.’ We’ve had speakers and we’ve learned about topics like negotiations. It’s not just lunch, it is affording women additional leadership opportunities and exposure to senior executives.”
VP, Direct-to-Consumer Services, NBC Sports Group
KEY STATS: Portia Archer is responsible for the launch, development and management of NBC Sports Group’s direct-to-consumer business and live streaming product, NBC Sports Gold. Under her guidance, NBC Sports Group launched Pro Motocross Pass, its first international live streaming subscription-based direct-to-consumer product, and Premier League Pass, the company’s first direct-to-consumer product for a major sports league.
She is also the founder of NBC Sports Group’s “Huddle Up” mentorship program, dedicated to fostering strong connections and growth opportunities for NBC Sports employees. And she just became a trustee of the Women’s Sports Foundation.
VARSITY STATUS: Archer was a technology consultant at Anderson Consulting, senior associate in media & entertainment at Booz Allen Hamilton, worked as an executive director at America Online and worked in production and programming at the BBC in London. In 2007 she joined HBO, where she rose to become vice president of international distribution. She joined NBC Sports Group in 2016.
IN HER OWN WORDS: “I grew up playing sports — I played basketball in college and now I coach girls’ youth basketball, so sports is part of the fabric of my family’s lives. I was looking for an opportunity to pivot in my career, to leverage my skills and mix it with my interests.
“I worked in media and entertainment digital distribution and technology, and worked as a technology consultant and then for a software company, and then I went to business school to round out my skills by learning strategy and management and business skills. So now at NBC Sports Group, there’s certainly a learning curve about the nature of working on live sports exhibitions but not in terms of the functional aspects of the job.
“When I worked in London I paid attention to cycling and Premier League (I’m an Arsenal fan) while some sports like rugby and motocross are less in my wheelhouse. But motocross is fascinating on business side — there are so many rich opportunities there. We just set a lower price for full event replays and it brought in new fans. We think we can apply that elsewhere and are trying it with the Premier League.
“I don’t think a lot has changed for women in the sports industry. There’s still a lot of work to do. Hopefully I can be accessible and an example to women and to girls.”
President of Team Marketing & Business Operations (TMBO) and Chief Innovation Officer, National Basketball Association
KEY STATS: Amy Brooks guides growth across the league’s business through the development of new ideas and initiatives, and collaborates with the NBA’s senior leadership on setting the league’s global strategic priorities. She is responsible for growing NBA, WNBA, NBA G League and NBA 2K League team profitability through strategic consulting on all aspects of business operations. Under Brooks, TMBO devises sales and marketing strategies and industry-leading analytics on behalf of 85 teams in four leagues. She advises teams and oversees the league’s marketing relationships with strategic team partners, such as Ticketmaster.
VARSITY STATS: Brooks played basketball for Stanford University on a team that went to the NCAA Final Four. She began her career at a software startup and worked as a product manager at Sun Microsystems before working in consulting at Bain & Co. She joined the NBA in 2005 and was senior director of marketing partnerships before joining TMBO in 2007.
IN HER OWN WORDS: “It was my dream to play basketball at Stanford and I made the team as a walk-on. It was a huge challenge and a transformative experience. Beyond the typical clichés about learning about leadership and the value of hard work, being on that team also showed me the power sports has to inspire people and the importance of paying attention to detail.
“I enjoyed working in technology during the dotcom boom but the main reason I got an MBA was I wanted to work in an area I was passionate about, which was sports, and I knew I needed skills to differentiate myself. I went to Bain for the same reason. I appreciate that the NBA recognized the value from both my playing and business experience.
“After three years in sponsorship I wanted a broader experience and TMBO intrigued me. Helping teams from the outside came naturally to me with my consulting background — we don’t control the teams, they don’t work for us so I need to influence them and to inspire them to try our ideas.
“As Chief Innovation Officer, I get the opportunity to work with all our departments on strategies for current projects and to help the entire organization develop a mindset to push for innovation.
VP, Distribution and Partner Marketing, Pac-12 Networks
KEY STATS: Tracy Cameron is the primary contact for all MVPD marketing activity. She is involved in the development and execution of tailored and integrated campaigns across the country and is also on the senior leadership team at Pac-12 Networks, where she is active in overall strategy planning for both the networks and the Pac-12 Conference.
She served on the board of directors of the Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) Northern California chapter and is now a director at large/adviser to the WICT Southern California chapter.
VARSITY STATUS: Cameron worked for Fox Networks Group for more than 15 years, most recently as director of distribution & marketing, leading distribution efforts and contract negotiations for Fox owned-and-operated stations, Fox Sports Regional Networks, FS1 and other networks across the West Region.
IN HER OWN WORDS: “I had no idea what I was going to do when I grew up, but I figured if I could work in a field I was passionate about then I’d shine through. I was passionate about sports.
“I got an internship at NFL Sunday on Fox, learning about production. Then I got a job at Fox in affiliate sales Monday to Friday; that gig seemed like a better fit for me than production. I’ve been doing this ever since. At Fox, I networked and went beyond my job position in my work. I was always given equal opportunities and I moved up five positions.
“I accumulated knowledge at every level and was exposed to all different aspects of the industry. But people don’t leave Fox, and consolidation meant there was less opportunity regionally, so I felt I had maxed out my growth there. The Pac-12 Networks job was a big challenge — I had less leverage than at Fox and that meant tapping into my creative side more.
“It’s easier for women coming up now because there are more opportunities and there are more women at the top. I’m involved in boards at places like [WICT] and the women there used to be managers and coordinators, and now you see vice presidents and senior vice presidents there.”
VP of Broadcast Services, Altitude Sports
KEY STATS: Billi Capra oversees production and post-production of in-arena video and motion graphic content for the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, the National Lacrosse League’s Colorado Mammoth and MLS’s Colorado Rapids at both the Pepsi Center and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. She manages the game night video control room crew for the Kroenke Sports & Entertainment teams’ games and other sports events in each venue. Additionally, Capra works directly with KSE’s game presentation, marketing, community relations and sponsorship sales teams, overseeing production of their video or animation projects.
VARSITY STATUS: Capra started out at Liberty Sports in Houston in 1990, working in production before becoming a production coordinator. She left sports to work in Houston for a film and post-production house management, and then as a freelance producer in Denver. She joined Altitude Sports & Entertainment at the regional sports network’s launch in 2004.
IN HER OWN WORDS: “I stumbled into sports. I wanted to be in production and to be an animator and I took a job at Liberty Sports in Houston as an executive assistant so I could get a chance to work in production. I had a lot of support and possibilities for training there, but I learned I had more natural management skills and became a production coordinator. Then, I was out of sports for a while, but when I was in Denver I read that Kroenke was starting a regional sports network and I heard from many of my former co-workers that they were going to be working there. So I thought maybe this was meant to be — and I came back and I’m still here 14 years later.
“There are more females at the table now when I come into meetings but we are still definitely in the minority. Companies and leagues provide support, but they are not really digging in. Our company is now trying to step up and offer training and leadership training for more young people, but not just women. Most of the women that apply here want to be on camera, but I’d like to see females behind the camera learning everything.”
VP, Original Programming, CBS Sports
KEY STATS: Emilie Deutsch oversees production for all features, original programming and documentaries that air on CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network. She has earned six Emmy Awards and produced or overseen network feature and documentary content for events such as the Olympic games, Super Bowl, NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Kentucky Derby and Indy 500.
VARSITY STATUS: Deutsch previously spent 18 years at ABC Sports, serving as coordinating producer, working on programs such as Monday Night Football, Monday Night Baseball and many of the events featured on anthology series ABC’s Wide World of Sports, such as the Ironman Triathlon and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
After coming to CBS, Deutsch originated NCAA Confidential, the exclusive all-access initiative of the NCAA Tournament, and helped develop the first-ever all-female national sports talk show, We Need to Talk, on CBS Sports Network.
IN HER OWN WORDS: “I really thought I wanted to be Barbara Walters and do interviews and do news. But I spent two years at a small CBS affiliate on camera at 6 and 11 and I didn’t love it. I liked storytelling and writing, but there are fewer constraints behind the camera.
“At ABC I was learning new things all the time — I was working on different shows and completely involved with each event, but then I got married and had children so I took four years off. I’m glad that I did. When I came back I worked my way into a position of managing other producers. I know what it’s like, how hard it is to be on the road planning everything.
“This is an important moment to have a show like We Need to Talk. It’s not just women talking women’s sports, it’s talking all sports — being fans and having opinions and bringing a different perspective. We started right after the Ray Rice incident [in 2014, when video showed the Baltimore Ravens running back beating his fiancée in an elevator in an Atlantic City, N.J., casino] and clearly a woman’s point of view was necessary. Now, #Me Too and #TimesUp dovetails nicely with our show — not just for [issues about abuse and harrassment] but because it’s about bringing women to the fore. It’s about giving women a chance to speak up on any topic and be critical and be credible.”
Managing Director of Operations, National Women’s Soccer League
KEY STATS: Amanda Duffy joined the National Women’s Soccer League in January 2017 and oversees all aspects of its day-to-day operations. She was crucial to the development of NWSL Media — the league’s marketing, broadcast and commercial arm — and the launch of its partnership with Lifetime. She recently oversaw a new deal for ESPNews to televise games in primetime.
VARSITY STATUS: Duffy graduated from East Carolina University, where she played soccer and set single-season and career records for goals. She was inducted into ECU’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. She competed in the USL W-League for three seasons and won a league championship in 2003 as a member of the Hampton Roads Pirahanas before playing for Danmarks IF in the Swedish First Division in 2006.
After her playing career, Duffy was the director of operations for United Soccer League PRO and senior director for the W-League; she later became president of Louisville City FC in the USL.
IN HER OWN WORDS: “I knew in college that I wanted to work in sports, whether it was business or coaching or college administration. I had a internship at the USL, which introduced me to many different aspects of league administration and which was an eye-opening experience even before I went to play in Sweden.
“I knew after seeing soccer in Sweden I wanted to be part of the growth of the game n America for soccer, especially women’s soccer. At the USL, I worked on and learned about youth, men’s and women’s, pro and amateur — and about all aspects from scheduling to events to referee administration to game operations. I went to Louisville to have the learning experience of being part of a startup and being on the team side. I thought that would be important.
“Now, at the NWSL I have the chance to be part of developing a women’s professional league, which is important to me personally — I came out of college when the WUSA folded. The deal with Lifetime gives the league a level of stability and confidence.
“When I came on in 2017, we had just two months to implement and execute everything before we launched the season: the Lifetime deal, but also plans for more robust digital game production and an app and the relaunch of the website. We never had an app or a national TV deal. That was is a significant step forward and it changes the perception of the league. The opportunity with ESPN developed quickly. ESPN will cross-promote the games and the later kickoff will positively impact attendance and the players’ health in the summer when the heat is extreme. It is a valuable opportunity.”
Property Sales Executive, CAA Sports
KEY STATS: Monica Fee is the seniormost female executive in CAA Sports’ Property Sales group and contributes to the strategy behind the agency’s pitch to new retainer clients and for building the brand rationale behind naming rights deals.
Since signing last year’s deal to represent Formula One’s commercial rights globally, Fee and the team are currently working to secure Official Global Partnerships. She recently brokered an eight-figure, four-year sponsorship deal with ExxonMobil on behalf of Red Bull Racing.
As a member of CAA’s Forward and Evolve committees, she often speaks to colleagues about work-life balance and her ability to juggle motherhood with a sales career.
VARSITY STATUS: In 2007, Fee was brought to CAA Sports from William Morris Endeavour for the launch of the Property Sales division. She was the first woman accepted to and promoted from CAA Sports’s storied Agent Trainee Program. She has been crucial to such agreements as the deal for the new Yankee Stadium, StubHub’s partnership with Major League Baseball, the naming rights for Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, and for Chase Center, the future home of the Golden State Warriors.
IN HER OWN WORDS: “I grew up in Boston so I had no choice but to be a sports fan. But my dad was a hockey agent who partnered with Bobby Orr, so I got to see the business behind the sports and so I’ve always comfortable in the industry.
“I was at William Morris but they didn’t then have any proper sports department; Michael Levine brought me in after forming CAA Sports and Paul Danforth taught me everything he knew and I fell in love with the sales side. Now we have the luxury of representing the best in class which are easy conversations to have but we started with no clients — the Yankees were our first. and you have to check all allegiances, but when the team gave us Yankees caps Paul, who is a Mets fan, saw my face and said, ‘You don’t have to wear it.’ It’s in a closet collecting dust somewhere.
“I never felt any limitations coming up, and it never felt like a boys’ club, but I still sit in rooms and I’m the only woman at the table. I was the first female executive at CAA Sports to have a baby and I had to sit the men in the sports group down and say, ‘We have to come up with a maternity policy.’
“Family is important and we can afford a life of balances. We have a CAA parenthood group; I have conversations internally about these issues with women and with men. I will be away for two weekends — in Montreal for F1 and then the U.S. Open — so I am taking days to work from home.
“I do a lot of talking internally and externally about getting women into sales. Women are great at relationship-building. The easiest way to get a CEO to open up is to start talking about my kids.”
Coordinating Producer, ESPN
KEY STATS: Amina Hussein won a Sports Emmy for her work on the 2016 College Football National Championship Megacast; since 2012, she has overseen NBA Countdown and produced several of the franchise’s first on-location shows, including at the site of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans in 2013. She also managed Magic Johnson when he was an NBA Countdown analyst. She has been a member of the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) since 2005 and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) since 2003.
VARSITY STATUS: Hussein spent more than three years as a radio producer in San Francisco before joining ESPN in 2003. Once there, she became a talent producer, working on such shows as SportsCenter, NFL Live and Sunday NFL Countdown. In 2007, she was promoted to manager and the following year she became coordinating producer for SportsCenter and NFL Live. During that period, she helped launch the weekday morning SportsCenter. She then led production efforts on NFL Sunday Countdown.
IN HER OWN WORDS: “A couple of years ago I was at my mom’s house and she’d saved these newspaper clippings from back in the day — in 11th grade I was in the Oakland Tribune as player of the week for basketball and it said I had ‘an eye on a career in sports broadcasting.’ I don’t remember that, but I guess I was subconsciously thinking about it even then, but I never would have guessed I’d be producing the pre-game show of the sport that I love.
“My senior year of college I had an internship that led to a full-time radio job and in 2003 I was at the Super Bowl because the Raiders were playing. I met people from ESPN and soon someone from HR called me and I got a job at ESPN Radio.
“I had a two-year plan — I thought ESPN Radio would look great on my resume. I was ready for the job but moving to Bristol was a challenge. But early on, I realized ESPN was looking to advance women and people of color and I was growing and learning from best in business. I met people in leadership on the TV side and I knew I could make a career here and I looked to maximize opportunities.
“I had a chance to sit next to the top producers and learn so when I became coordinating producer in 2008, I was not intimidated. Being captain of my basketball team I knew communication is crucial, and I know how to deliver messages differently to motivate different people. I also learned how to handle challenges and stressful moments.
“I love working on the NBA and I think I’ve shown enough leadership that at some point I could be overseeing more when it comes to NBA properties.”
Executive VP, Action Sports and Olympics, Wasserman
KEY STATS: Circe Wallace today represents more than a dozen action sports and Olympic sports stars, including gold medal-winning snowboarders Torah Bright and Iouri Podladtchikov; superstar skateboarder Paul Rodriguez; and snowboarder Travis Rice, with whom she has produced some of the most successful and widely distributed films in all of action sports. Wallace has developed and produced shows for MTV, BET, Red Bull Media House, RBTV, ESPN and Nickelodeon.
VARSITY STATS: Wallace was a professional snowboarder who successfully transitioned into athlete representation and became a pioneer in the action sports field. She also has had her own line of clothing, Circe Snow.
IN HER OWN WORDS: “When my kids were babies, I took them everywhere. It was unusual then, but action sports has kind of an unorthodox approach to business and rebellious roots, so it was OK. I didn’t want to give up on my career —I didn’t go to college and worried that if I stopped I might not have the same opportunities when I came back. So I would nurse my kids during meetings.
“Snowboarding is better than skateboarding and surfing for women; those are inherently misogynistic. Very little has changed, there are few, if any women executives and a lack of executive development at companies and organizational bodies. Vans specifically has not done a good job. #MeToo and #TimesUp have not reached these places — they have a power structure they are comfortable with, even if it is to the detriment of their businesses and it is hurting our sports.
“I can rage about this. I have two daughters and I think about what kind of impact do I make in this space. I advocate for women and I do tons of pro bono work for girls. Rage isn’t productive, so I’m contemplating how I can help more. If no one else will shine the light on this, then it’s my responsibility.”
We are well into the era of #Metoo and #Timesup, but in the workplace women still face plenty of challenges, including the expectation that they manage to balance a career and family. One of this year’s Women in the Game honorees, Monica Fee of CAA Sports, was working from home and had to schedule her interview around her children’s nap time; another, Wasserman sports agent Circe Wallace, had to postpone her interview for a day because one of her children was home sick.Subscribe for full article
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