By Mike Patton
NASHVILLE, The inaugural Black Sports Symposium in Atlanta, Georgia earlier in June was billed as a disruptive event that unites, cultivates, illuminates, and celebrates Black professionals and students in the sports industry.
Eric Wilson, the CMO of the Sideline Sports Network and Executive Producer of The Sports Arena Digital Media Show, was very impressed with the three-day event.“The Black Sports Business Symposium opened doors and provided us an opportunity to network and meet those in the industry that are sitting at the table, ” Wilson said.
Wilson and others met with ESPN decision-makers and recruiters at the event, creating opportunities to add Black faces to the industry. And there needs to be more.
Trinity Woodson, an intern with the Finney Family First Foundations of the Dallas Mavericks’ Dorian Finney-Smith, said she gained a great deal by attending the symposium.
“I was given an opportunity to create relationships with sports professionals of the present and future. Also, the insight and information I gained from the sessions were invaluable. With hopes of a career in Community Relations and/or D & I, the experiences I had at this symposium really confirmed my path.”
Both Wilson and Woodson highlighted what this symposium was all about. It was about creating opportunities for professionals to be full participants in the sports industry at more than just at an athletic level. It also provided information that many may not be privy to with the breakout sessions and litany of speakers like Jemele Hill, former WNBA player and now part-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream; Renee Montgomery, Coach Deion Sanders of Jackson State and others.
There was also a real feeling of community. There were many students and professionals there that have known each other through social media and some that did not know each other at all before the event that connected and came together like family. And those relationships and connections helped to build a camaraderie among the attendees. Everyone wanted to win but everyone realized that there is room for all of us at the table as well. In essence, there was a feeling of a learning, listening and helpful version of a family reunion with food and special guests.
Los Angeles Rams Jacques McClendon, who works in Football Affairs for the Los Angeles Rams, was a part of the staff that helped put the vision of symposium’s co-founders: HBCU Battle of the Brains founder and executive director Gregory Gibson Jr., NFL Network reporter Steve Wyche and Los Angeles Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff. And in his words, the event was powerful.
“It was a powerful scene to see us all come together under one venue at Mercedes Benz Stadium to uplift the Black collective in sports. The future is bright and we are all excited to continue the work to make this event bigger and even more impactful for all in attendance.”