Updated: Apr 19
Last week, I had the privilege of attending the 2nd annual Black Sports Business Symposium, an exclusive and groundbreaking event powered by ESPN, held at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The event promotes itself as a “disruptive, invitation-only, annual event that unites, cultivates, illuminates, and celebrates Black professionals and students in the sports business industry.”
With almost 2,000 participants and a remarkable 70 workshops with 230 speakers, the symposium exceeded its objectives. As someone who has managed and participated in numerous special events, I found this one to be particularly remarkable. Men and women were stylish in their business attire with a purposeful shoe game of the latest sneakers.
As Brand Manager tweeted,
“Literally everyone was at @BlackSportsBiz this weekend?"
The symposium featured a diverse group of presenters and attendees from various sports backgrounds. Among them were Rich Paul, the Founder, and CEO of Klutch Sports Group, Maria Taylor of NBC, Dawn Staley, the Women's Basketball Head Coach at the University of South Carolina, Michele Roberts, the retired executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), Basketball mom, Dr. Zanthia Reddish (Cam Reddish-Portland Trailblazers), Luke Fedlham, Esq. from Advance NIL, and even media personality Daren "Big Tigger" Morgan, who spoke on the panel titled "Sports and Hip Hop: I Put On For My City."
Bubba Wallis, who at age 29 is already the highest-finishing African-American in the Daytona 500, encouraged attendees to attend his annual block party. He also felt it was important to note that NASCAR has become more inclusive and noted he would love to see more diversity at races. He noted, "Everyone is welcomed in those seats."
The symposium provided a unique perspective on the achievements of Black professionals in sports who have reached C-level positions. The event provided safe spaces for authentic discussions. Many shared their experiences of climbing the corporate sports ladder, breaking down barriers, and their commitment to mentoring the next generation to fill their seats.
“When you get an opportunity [in sports], you have to bring others up.” remarked Staley.
Alexandria Hill, football operations coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams shared,
“For all the tables that refuse to seat us, we’ll build new tables and pull up a seat for everyone who arrived after us.”
The atmosphere was electrifying, and I felt compelled to connect students with professionals I had met at the event or had previously known. Additionally, the astute coordinators also arranged a career expo, which was well-attended by both students and young professionals.
Kudos must be given to the event’s major sponsors: ESPN, the Arthur Blank Foundation (who hosted 100 students), AMB Sports+Entertainment, the NFL, and Prime Video, among others for their unwavering support of Black sports professionals. Their dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion serves as a true model for business success.
Additionally, it's worth acknowledging that attendees were able to participate in the event at absolutely no cost. Furthermore, the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center gave a generous group rate. Attendees also were provided with a catered hot breakfast and lunch buffet for both days on the stadium’s main field.
Stadium employees were also incredibly accommodating and helped as attendees made their way around the enormous field and into the various club and locker rooms where the sessions were held. It was my first visit to the impressive 62,350-square-foot venue that was reserved exclusively for the event.
The entire experience was top-notch, from the seamless registration process to the user-friendly event app, as well as the event leaders making personal connections with attendees. Even days later, participants are still sharing on social media how impactful the event was for them. Without a doubt, I am sure many will remember the event for years to come.
The organizers of the Symposium have exemplified the power of uniting collective unity with Black excellence.
If that is something you would like to experience, I highly recommend applying for an invitation next year or becoming a sponsor to witness the magic for yourself.