Two of the most influential figures in the sports social media (#smsports) community are here in Portland.
And they are using social media as a powerful tool to dispel the narrative that fan bases of men’s sports are just for men.
Meet Amara Baptist, the digital content manager of the Portland Trail Blazers, and Kayla Knapp, the senior manager of social content and strategy for the Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns.
In honor of Women’s History Month, NBC Sports Northwest is highlighting Baptist and Knapp, two powerful women’s figures who have lifted one another up, helped each other succeed in a male-dominated industry, and are now in charge of the voices and public-facing personas of the Trail Blazers, Timbers and Thorns.
But their journey in the SMS industry didn’t begin in the Rose City.
How they met
“When I talk about my journey as a woman in sports, it’s so intertwined with Amara,” Kayla said. “We met in 2015 in Los Angeles working at FOX Sports, became friends, bonded.”
“I’ve known Kayla now for about six or seven years,” Amara added. “We created a bond right away. We may or may not have gone to a Justin Bieber concert together. It’s just been so fun watching her grow in this industry.”
But not long after their friendship formed, Amara accepted her “dream job” as social media producer with the Memphis Grizzlies where she documented players like Marc Gasol and Mike Conley interacting with fans and created unique content on a four-person team called Grind City Media.
In 2017, while Amara was working with the Grizz, she caught wind of an opportunity in Portland working with the Timbers. She immediately called Kayla.
“My boss in Memphis asked me if I had any recommendations,” Amara said. “I thought of her right away. Obviously, she crushed the interview because she’s amazing, got the job.”
About one year later, Amara found herself in Rip City interviewing for a job with the Portland Trail Blazers. She, too, nailed the interview.
“It’s kind of amazing, serendipitous, I’m just really grateful that we’re both here in this city,” Kayla said. “We talk every single day, good days, bad days. She’s my support system here. She knows what I’m going through every day and I really don’t think I could be here and be this confident in what I do without her. I’m just really, really thankful for our friendship, and for her mentorship, and having someone else in this city that knows exactly what I’m going through, because she’s pretty much the same exact position but with a different team.”
Building something special in Portland
Amara has now been in Portland for nearly 3 years working as digital content manager for the Trail Blazers. She says her favorite part of the job is getting to showcase athletes on “a human level,” whether that’s their personalities, the things they do in their community or them as parents.
She also believes it’s important to advocate for women in sports too.
“I can’t tell you how special it is for me to say that I work in the NBA,” Amara said. “It’s been a dream of mine to say that. I’m just so grateful that there were women before me that paved the way and showed me that this is a job that’s attainable.
“I just love looking at my timeline and seeing all the incredible women in this space that are absolutely crushing it and thriving. There’s literally nothing I love more.”
Kayla has been with the Timbers and Thorns for the past four years. She prides herself on building the team’s community engagement, whether that’s liking, retweeting or replying to fans’ tweets.
As someone who is active on social media, Kayla believes it’s important to use her platform to build connections with other women in the SMS field, including those facing unique challenges that men don’t necessarily deal with.
“It means the world to me to be a woman in this industry,” Knapp said. “Growing up, I didn’t really have any role models that were women in the sports industry, which is why I didn’t think it was a career path I’d ever be taking. So, to be able to be a role model for younger girls and women who want to work in sports is something that is so important to me. I always try to make myself really available to whether it’s advice, tips, lending a hand, anything I can do to help more women get into sports, I absolutely want to be doing that.”
Amara and Kayla are just two of the women in the sports social media industry that have formed a bond beyond the court or field, but it’s a friendship that will last a lifetime.
“I’m very grateful that Amara and I get to do this together and celebrate Women’s History Month together because we’re really intertwined,” Kayla said. “We even have matching tattoos, hashtags.”
“It’s just so cool to see now she’s working for a professional soccer team and I’m working for a professional NBA team,” Amara added. “Being in a city with one of your best friends, working in this space, doing what we always wanted to do. I am so proud of her.”