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