To celebrate Black History Month, NBC Sports Washington is highlighting 10 African-Americans in Washington DC who have made their mark on the DMV sports landscape.
"The Washington, D.C., region is one of the most diverse in the nation. We wanted to recognize the achievements and impact African-American business leaders have on the sports landscape here in the nation’s capital,” said Damon Phillips, Senior Vice President and General Manager of NBC Sports Washington.
The list highlights executives from across the impressive range of DMV teams and sports organizations and shares their advice for the next generation of power players.
Sashi Brown, Chief Planning & Operations Officer, Monumental Basketball
Bachelor's Degree - Hampton University
Juris Doctorate - Harvard University
Responsibilities: Mr. Brown is in his first season as Monumental Basketball's chief planning and operations officer. The Boston native is a seasoned NFL executive, who has over 15 years of experience in both football and business operations. In his current role, Brown is responsible for directing and managing all efforts relating to technology, finance, communications, security, player engagement and development and the long-term term visions of all Monumental Basketball’s entities (Wizards, Mystics, Go-Go and Wizards District Gaming).
Before joining Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Brown spent four seasons with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns – originally hired by the team in 2013 as executive vice president and general counsel, working in both football and business capacities. In 2016, he was promoted to executive vice president of football operations, where he was responsible for drafting several of Cleveland’s current cornerstone players such as Myles Garret, Baker Mayfield, Denzel Ward and Nick Chubb. He also acquired draft picks and assets during his tenure that would later lead to the trade acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr.
Brown started his career as an attorney at Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr here in Washington, D.C. He would later join the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2005, where he served as senior vice president and general counsel.
Best career advice he's received: “Early in my career a colleague told me to ‘aim higher.’ I took that advice and applied it and continue to apply it. Excellence and greatness are not simply a result – they are initiative, they are energy. Commit to doing more than what you may believe is possible; don’t place limits on yourself. Take risks, push yourself, but always be prepared.”
Damon Evans, Athletic Director, University of Maryland
Bachelor’s Degree - University of Georgia, 1992
Master’s Degree of Education in Sports Management - University of Georgia, 1994
Responsibilities: Oversees the University of Maryland Athletics Department, which is comprised of 20 varsity sports, 500 student-athletes, a full-time staff of over 200 employees and an annual budget of $95 million.
Career advice he'd give students planning a career in sports: "I always encourage students to gain as much experience as possible while in school. Work and volunteer with as many teams and departments as you can. While in those roles, be attentive, ask questions and that will help you find your true passion."
Patrick Ewing, Head Men's Basketball Coach, Georgetown University
Education: Bachelor's Degree - Georgetown University, 1985
Responsibilities: Serves as the head men's basketball coach at his alma mater, Georgetown University, and is currently in his third season. He is recognized as the greatest men’s basketball player in school history and following a 17-year professional career, he was selected as one of the top 50 players in the history of the NBA and has twice been enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Best career advice received: "Give it 110 percent or don't do it at all." - mother and father
Sheila C. Johnson, Vice Chairman and Managing Partner, Washington Mystics
Education: Bachelor's Degree - University of Illinois, 1970
Responsibilities: Johnson is an entrepreneur and philanthropist whose accomplishments span the arenas of hospitality, sports, TV/film, the arts and humanitarian causes. She is CEO of Salamander Hospitality, LLC, overseeing a growing portfolio of luxury properties and lifestyle businesses. Ms. Johnson is the only African-American woman to have a principal shareholder stake in three professional sports teams: Wizards, Capitals and Mystics, for which she serves as governor. She also serves on the board of the Greater Washington Partnership focused on strengthening the region’s commerce and innovation. Ms. Johnson is known as a TV pioneer, having been a founding partner of Black Entertainment Television.
Career advice she'd give for students planning a career in sports: "Surround yourself with people who share your vision and don’t have their own agenda."
Michael Locksley, Head Football Coach, University of Maryland
Education: Bachelor's Degree - Towson University, 1992
Responsibilities: Oversees all aspects of the Maryland football program.
Career advice he’d give students planning a career in sports: "Eliminate all Plan B’s as Plan B’s allow you to have a fallback, which doesn’t allow you to maximize Plan A!! Don’t give yourself an out. If you have a Plan B then you're already admitting that you don’t believe in your Plan A!"
Erik Moses, Team President, DC Defenders
Bachelor's Degree - UNC
Juris Doctorate- Duke
Responsibilities: Responsible for building and leading a team that will conduct all fan engagement and business operations, including ticket sales, corporate partnerships, marketing and communications, content, community relations and game day experience.
Career advice he’d give for students planning a career in sports: “I've had the opportunity to serve as an adjunct professor in the Sports Industry Management program at Georgetown University for a number of years and to be a guest speaker at Howard University, George Washington University and Bowie State University and I always advise aspiring sports industry professionals to do a few things to prepare:
1. Be more than a fan. Sports teams, leagues, agencies, venues, are entities that function like most other businesses in that they need to produce more revenue than the costs of operating the entity. Study these entities and learn as much about the underlying business as possible, so that you know what skills, capabilities and experience you will need to be an attractive candidate for employment. Being a "big sports fan" is neither a prerequisite nor a notable qualification for working in sports.
2. Do your homework. In the age of smartphones, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, the Sports Business Journal and the like, there are so many resources that allow an aspiring sports professional to learn so much about the organizations, people, trends and issues of the day affecting the sports industry. Your career journey starts with being well informed.
3. Network, network, network. Sports, even more than most industries, can be quite provincial and difficult to penetrate. The demand for jobs far outpaces the supply, especially for well-paying more senior positions. As you are educating yourself about the various facets of the industry, make sure you are reaching out to as many industry professionals as you can and looking for every opportunity to gain experience and develop relationships with people doing the kind of work you aspire to do.”
Greg O'Dell, President and Chief Executive Officer, Events DC
Education: Bachelor's Degree - Wofford College, 1992
Responsibilities: Events DC is the official convention and sports authority for Washington, DC. As president and CEO, O’Dell oversees Events DC’s three lines of business: conventions and meetings, sports and entertainment and creative services. Events DC owns and operates some of the most iconic venues in the nation’s capital, including the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Carnegie Library at. Mt. Vernon Square, the 190-acre RFK Stadium-Armory Campus, Nationals Park, the Gateway DC events pavilion, R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center and the Entertainment and Sports Arena. His primary responsibilities include oversight of the development and promotion of hospitality, athletic, entertainment and cultural events that generate economic and community benefits for the residents and businesses of the District of Columbia.
Career advice he'd give students planning a career in sports: "1. Teamwork! What you are learning on the court is transferrable to the boardroom. 2. Love what you do, do what you love."
Lee Reed, Francis X. Rienzo Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Georgetown University
Bachelor’s Degree - University of New Mexico, 1992
Master’s Degree - University of New Mexico, 1994
Responsibilities: Oversees all 30 intercollegiate teams at Georgetown University having been in this role since 2010 with the philosophy "Georgetown Athletics is STUDENT-ATHLETE centered, COACH driven, and ADMINISTRATOR assisted."
Career advice he’d give students planning a career in sports: "I would tell someone looking to start a career in sports to first know that loving sports and working in sports are two very different things. Sports is not a 9-5 career, you have to be willing to work extremely long hours. You should also know your WHY and be strategic in what your postgraduate degree is in since the focus today is much more on business and law. I recommend you get involved in athletics as early as possible via internships or volunteering when you are an undergraduate. Overall, you must exhibit integrity in all that you do, have fun and be patient as you work your way up the career ladder."
John Thompson III, Vice President of Player Development and Engagement, Monumental Basketball
Gonzaga College HS, 1984
Bachelor's Degree - Princeton University, 1988
Responsibilities: Thompson is in his first season as Monumental Basketball's vice president of player development and engagement. Thompson brings a vast array of experience to DC, including 13 years (2004-2017) as head coach at iconic Georgetown University.
Thompson arrived at Georgetown with a unique pedigree as the son of one Hall of Fame coach and the student of another, having played basketball for the legendary coach Pete Carril as an undergraduate at Princeton University. He achieved several coaching milestones, including an NCAA Final Four appearance, two NCAA Sweet-16 appearances, three Big East regular-season championships and one Big East tournament championship. In his four years as head coach at Princeton, Thompson won three Ivy League championships. Overall, he owns a stellar 346-193 (.641) all-time record and was named Big East Coach of the Year (2013), NABC Coach of the Year (2007) and was a two-time recipient of the Black Coaches Association (BCA) Male Coach of the Year.
Following his tenure at Georgetown, Thompson continued his path as a stalwart in basketball, serving as an analyst for ESPN and an assistant coach for the USA Men’s National Team (where he assisted head coach Jeff Van Gundy as the team qualified for the 2019 FIBA World Cup). He also served on the Commission on College Basketball (established by the NCAA Board of Governors, Division I Board of Directors and the NCAA president and chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to fully examine critical aspects of Division I men’s basketball) and was the recipient of the 2019 Guardians of the Game Award for Service, presented by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC).
Off the court, Thompson has been an active member of his community. His greatest contribution was establishing the John Thompson III Foundation in 2007 to create a positive and lasting impact on the city he cherishes, Washington, DC. He currently he serves on the boards of his alma mater, Gonzaga College High School, the NABC and the non-profit, Men Against Breast Cancer.
Best career advice he's received: "Follow your passion and completely dedicate yourself to who you are working with and who you are working for, success will then follow."
Doug Williams, Senior Vice President of Player Development, Washington Redskins
Education: Bachelor’s Degree - Grambling State University
Responsibilities: Providing Redskins players the guidance and resources needed to be successful, working with Coach Rivera in making sure players are prepared for life on and off the field.
Best career advice he's received: "The absolute best advice was number one was to get a degree! And everything after that would be gravy!"