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Power Players: Five Spelman Women Changing the Game in the Male-Dominated Sports Industry



Women have been fighting for equal rights in sports stemming back to their exclusion from the first modern day Olympics in 1896. While today, many female athletes are celebrated and continue to make strides on the playing field, it’s at the executive round-table where women often face hurdles and need to fill more seats. Sexism is still prevalent even in 2012, as shown earlier this year when the male-only Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, home of The Masters, refused to extend its traditional membership invitation to corporate sponsor IBM’s new female CEO, Virginia Rometty.

At a traditional Thursday morning convocation during Spelman’s 2011 Homecoming, students filed into Sisters Chapel to discuss nontraditional career opportunities in the sports industry. “Innovation and The New Economy: Where Do Black Women Fit? Sports Management: The New Frontier? A Conversation with Mary Brock, Kimberly Haynes, C’96, and Ellen Hill Zerinque, C’89” was hosted by Spelman trustee Lovette Twyman Russell, C’83, and facilitated by President Beverly Daniel Tatum. The event gave students a candid glimpse into the lives of three sports industry executives, the challenges they face as women in the industry and the paths they took to the top. “We don’t normally think of the sports arena as a place where Spelman women might naturally find themselves, so I’m excited to have this conversation,” said Dr. Tatum, who also invited Germaine McAuley, director of physical education and athletics at Spelman, to address students’ opportunities on campus and with the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Women’s National Basketball Association Atlanta Dream team owner and Spelman trustee Mary Brock brought one of her star players, Lindsey Harding, who spoke about her rise in a male-dominated sport and the pride she feels as a role model for young girls who now have professional women to look up to – instead of idolizing only the men.

Engaging in discussions like the homecoming convocation and encouraging students to embrace the challenges facing women in the sports industry will help to further the fight to break down barriers for female executives. The College has been producing groundbreaking leaders since its inception, so it’s no coincidence that several of the ladies trailblazing in this field are Spelman women. Here are five alumnae who are changing the face of the game in the sports industry.

RAYMONE K. BAIN, C’76  

“There were tremendous challenges for women in sports   and there still are,” says entertainment and sports industry   veteran Raymone Bain, who has represented celebrities   as a media strategist, manager and international   branding specialist for more than 25 years. “When   women go into management or a role when they have   control or power there’s a resistance and a resentment   toward that.” Despite the odds, Ms. Bain has built a stellar   career overcoming that resistance, shattering stereotypes,   redefining roles, tackling challenges head-on and   swiftly becoming one of the most sought-after and   respected media strategists in the business.  

“My specialty is damage control and crisis management,”   said Ms. Bain. She has worked with some of the   most recognizable names in entertainment, sports and   politics including Grammy recording artist Kenneth   “Babyface” Edmonds, tennis champion Serena Williams,   boxing great Mike Tyson and, most notably, the late   “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson. She was general manager   and spokesperson, as well as president and chief   operating officer of The Michael Jackson Company,   LLC. for several years.  

“I started out in the business representing professional   fighters,” said Ms. Bain, who was one of the first   women in the United States to own a sports management   firm, The Bain Group. What made her groundbreaking   firm unique is that she represented marquis boxers in the primarily male-dominated sport. She had athletes and sports organizations in program development,    charitable estate planning, board development,    foundation management and event planning.

Ms. Nance unexpectedly backed into sports while using the law degree she earned from Case Western    Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, Ohio,    to do charitable estate planned giving. After receiving    a call from the president of the Cleveland Browns, a    National Football League team, she took on the role of    running the team’s foundation and was instrumental in    saving the fall football program for the Cleveland public    schools. “I was raised to give back to the community,”    said Ms. Nance, who’s passionate about keeping    kids motivated in school and believes that sports is a    natural way to do that.   

Recruited to restructure The LeBron James Foundation,  Ms. Nance continued her philanthropic work    in the community by leading James’ foundation for several    years. “It’s important for our Spelman sisters to    know that wherever you are and whatever you’re doing    people are always watching you,” she explained. “Be    mindful that you are always trying to represent yourself    and your organization to the best of your ability. All    of these incredible opportunities came to me, not    because I sought them out, but because someone saw    the work that I was doing somewhere else.”   

Currently, Ms. Nance spends her days and often    nights, functioning as the chief operating officer of    Swin Cash Enterprises. When Ms. Nance was consulting    for the WNBA, she offered to help Swin Cash with    her philanthropic interests. Initially brought on board    to restructure Ms. Cash’s charity, Cash for Kids, Nance    spearheaded several events for the program in Seattle    and has since moved into her current leadership role.    “Although I still have my company, my time is totally    devoted to Swin and all of her endeavors,” said Ms.    Nance, who also stays active in her own local community.    She is chair emeritus of the Ohio Arts Council and serves on the boards of The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, Laurel School and the Ohio Judicial Commission & Foundation. She is also serving as co-chair of the 2012 Cleveland Classic, featuring Morehouse College and Winston-Salem State University on September 15, 2012, at Cleveland Browns Stadium. This is the second year of this HBCU event and Ms. Nance is the only female co-chair.

She’s worked in various leagues, and says she sees far fewer women in football, but she remains positive. “I don’t look at anything as a challenge. I assume that everyone is going to take you at face value until they don’t. As long as you come in and you’re prepared, I think people will be open to what you say and what you do. You have to be organized and ready to go. The key is to respect that it’s business and approach it as business.”

ELLEN HILL ZERINGUE, C’89

Every day Ellen Hill Zeringue faithfully reads the front page of the paper and the sports section, a habit drilled home by her former Spelman professor and author Pearl Cleage, C’71. “I believe that women should know what’s going on,” explained Ms. Zeringue. “You really have to understand the game, whether its baseball, basketball or football, because they’re expecting women not to know. You can bridge that gap at the conference room table if you have a good understanding of the sport. It can help people take you more seriously as a woman.”

Ms. Zeringue has proven she’s serious after entering her 13th season with the Detroit Tigers, at 112 years old, one of Major League Baseball’s original and historic franchises. For the past four years she’s served as vice president of marketing for the organization and is currently the first woman and African American to hold that position for the Tigers. In her role, she oversees all functions of the marketing and promotions departments, including print and broadcast advertising, ingame entertainment and promotional giveaways. She’s also responsible for the club’s branding strategy and led  the launch of the “Who’s Your Tiger” campaign, the  official marketing slogan from 2005–2008 and in  2011. She was instrumental in bringing the MLB All-Star Game to Detroit in 2005 and served as the official  team liaison for All-Star FanFest at Cobo Center in  downtown Detroit. 

“Being responsible for the way that people consume  our brand is a tremendous responsibility, and I  think collectively my department has done a wonderful  job of making sure that we present things to the  Tigers fans that are important to each particular demographic  or segment of our fan base,” said Ms. Zeringue.  “I believe our most successful accomplishment since  I’ve been in this position is developing our Sunday Kids  Day programming and our Kids Club, making sure  that young people are getting engaged in our brand. I’m  really proud of that.” 

Before parlaying her marketing skills into the sports  industry, Ms. Zeringue served as the director of marketing  for the radio station WMXD and worked as a  senior account executive at Vaughn Marketing Consultants,  Inc. in Detroit. 

Ms. Zeringue recognizes and embraces the impact  and influence she holds as an African American woman  in her position and says it’s important for her to remember  her voice. “When there are sensitive conversations about race, it’s part of my responsibility to speak on  behalf of African Americans. It’s part of the legacy I  inherited from Spelman – making sure I’m speaking out  on behalf of African Americans, African American  women and people of color in an industry that sometimes  doesn’t want to hear what we have to say.”    

MARGARET OTTLEY, C’92 

“Sports has been my life,” said Dr. Margaret Ottley, one  of the industry’s most sought-after sport and performance  psychologists. An athlete herself, it’s no surprise she  works with the world’s most elite athletes, including the  United States track and field team; she’s currently preparing  them for the London 2012 Olympics.  Dr. Ottley, a Trinidad native, played competitive  field hockey in high school and as a national player representing  Trinidad and Tobago at the U-17, U-21 and  senior levels for more than 13 years. She graduated  from Valsayn Teacher’s College in Trinidad and worked  as an elementary school  teacher. Dr. Ottley later left  Trinidad – becoming a  Spelmanite at the mature  age of 26 – and studied  child development. It was  her own questions that  sparked her interest in  sports psychology. “I  always felt that I never  really played my best game  and that I had trouble with  coaches – a communication  problem,” she explained. I wanted to understand  the mental aspect of sports.” She earned her M.Ed  from Spelman and a Ph.D. in sports psychology at  Temple University and completed her post-doctoral  studies at Purdue University. 

Still searching for answers, Dr. Ottley said, “I felt that  the information wasn’t addressing me as a Black woman  in sports.” She started playing Capoeira Angola, an  African Brazilian martial art with elements of music  and dance, and looking at African aesthetics and movement.  “Playing a sport at a certain level is a highly cognitive  process and I wanted to explore it from that  prospective.” Dr. Ottley created a niche which she calls  SSI – Sports Skills Improvisations – and has since garnered  interest from around the globe. 

In 2004, she accompanied the Trinidad and Tobago  elite teams to the Olympic Games in Greece. She worked  with U.S.A. Track and Field teams at the Internation  Association of Athletics Federation World Youth Championship  (Morocco Africa), the World Junior Championship  (Beijing) and the Pan American Junior Games   (São Paulo, Brazil). In August 2008, she was one of two  sports psychology consultants working with the USATF  team in Beijing and graced the cover of the July/August  2008 issue of The Monitor on Psychology, a publication of  the American Psychological Association. 

Currently, she’s an associate professor at West Chester  University in Pennsylvania, where she teaches graduate and  undergraduate classes in sports psychology, motor learning  and development. She is the founder of SANKO-FA HP  (HyPower Performance) LLC, which conducts sports psychology  workshops and presentations throughout the  Caribbean, and which recently held the Caribbean First  Sport Psychology Conference in Trinidad and Tobago.  She travels all over the world, consulting and working  with athletes, coaches and administrators. In addition to  working with the U.S. team, Dr. Ottley is also preparing  the Trinidad and Tobago track and field team for the  2012 Olympic games. She does team-building exercises,  group work and one-on-one consulting. “These are the  world’s best, most elite athletes,” explained Dr. Ottley.  “To get to them you have to impress them.” 

Recognizing she’s in a field that is grossly underrepresented  by African Americans and women she explains, “For  us as a people of African descent we have to be very diverse  and we have to be very good at what we do. We almost  have to be better.” There aren’t a lot of African American  sports psychologists, so Dr. Ottley says her mentors were  Caucasian mentors. “I spent time mentoring them on how  to mentor me. I knew what I wanted out of it.” 

Determined to implement change and increase the  number of women of color in her field, she actively mentors  Black sports psychology students and shares her story  constantly, so they won’t have to face the same challenges she did.

KIMBERLY HAYNES, C’96 

Kimberly Haynes knew she wanted to become an attorney,  and she set her sights on a career in sports. After receiving  her law degree from Tulane University School of Law, she  decided to include her philanthropic passion in her career  plans, combining her interests and forming the Ombi  Group, a company designed to provide nonprofit services to  athletes, entertainers and executives. “I knew a lot of athletes  wanted to give back to their communities but didn’t have the  time or thought to put into it,” explained Ms. Haynes. 

Ms. Haynes launched the company in 2003 and has  worked with several professional athletes in the NFL,  MLB, NBA and WNBA, including Jimmy Williams,  Keisha Brown, Lou Williams, Bryan Scott, Chauncey  Davis and Issac Keys. She provides personalized program  development plans, creates marketing and public relations  campaigns and secures corporate sponsorships and  support for her clients. 

As a woman working in a power position, Ms. Haynes  often faces adversity from doubters. “I make it my motivation,”  she said. “I’ve embraced the adversity and raised my  game. Whenever I see people that don’t take me seriously,  whether they are players, wives or mothers, I take it a notch  higher and show them my true skills.” She said that her  experience working in the sports industry and has taught  her to have tough skin. 

“It’s hard getting in,” Ms. Haynes admits, but says key  elements are being persistent, following up and knowing  your skill set. She’s making an impact and clearing a trail  by mentoring and providing a positive image for those  who want to follow in her footsteps. She attributes her success  to believing in herself, doing her best work and staying  in her lane. She also said it’s important for women in  the sports world to, “never let them see you sweat.”


Original article appears in the Spelman Messenger - The Alumnae Magazine of Spelman College
(Volume 122, Number 2, Spring 2012).  Past issues are available at www.spelman.edu/publications

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