Variety’s Sports and Entertainment Summit explores opportunities surrounding the intersecting worlds of sports and multi-platform media. While athletes are extending their individual brands across film/TV/digital, the larger media industry is looking to advance its sports coverage and programming to best engage with massive fan bases. Also critical, the marketing and advertising community are eyeing ways to partner with the sports community to enhance their relationships with consumers. Variety’s Summit will explore strategies and trends in these intersecting worlds of sports and entertainment.
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8:00 a.m. to 8:50 a.m. Registration and Networking
8:50 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Opening Remarks
Introduced by: James Taylor, CRO, Karma Automotive
9:00 a.m. to 9:40 a.m. The Future of Sports Media Industry
As audiences splinter across media options, the sports broadcast industry is racing to evolve for this digital age. Fans now enjoy overwhelming choice to catch games – new TV services, digital apps, growing multiplatform live streaming options as more. How is the sports programming industry upping its game with viewers, while at the same time creating the right business models for their latest innovations? How are the leagues influencing how their channel partners cover their teams and athletes across platforms? Top sports network chiefs, league executives and their partners talk about how they are growing their business.
Andrew Wallenstein, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Variety
Alan Gold, Partner and Head of Sports Media, CAA’s Evolution Media Group
Melissa Brenner, SVP, Global Digital Strategy, NBA
Tim Katz, Head of Sports Partnerships, YouTube
Vishal Shah, SVP Digital Media Business Development, NFL
9:40 a.m. to 10:10 a.m. Keynote Conversation with Michael Strahan, Co-Host, Good Morning America and Erin Andrews, Analyst, Fox Sports and Constance Schwartz–Morini, Founder SMAC Entertainment
Andrew Wallenstein, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Variety
10:10 a.m. to 10:50 a.m. Ultimate Teammates: Brands and Sports
How are brands evolving their integration strategies with sports, as networks offer new multiplatform marketing opportunities across flagship TV channels, tied-in online sites, social media, mobile and more. What are opportunities for brands to tie into the growing world of fantasy sports plus multi-platform sports coverage? As stadiums and arenas innovate to attract fans, how can venue sponsors get a piece of the action? What is the best marketing storytelling strategies to break through to sports fans in particular? Brands, network and venue marketing partners will converge to talk about the future of sports marketing.
Gayle Fuguitt, Chief of Customer Insight, Foursquare
Jeremy Elbaum, Head of Strategic Ventures, DraftKings
Justin Toman, Head of Sports Marketing, PepsiCo
Ben Schwerin, VP Partnerships, Snap, Inc.
Guy Lake, Product Director, Fantasy, Yahoo Sports
Ed Horne is EVP Brand Strategy & Activation, WME | IMG
10:50 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Ensuring Future Athlete Success
A look at how athletes are being guided early on in their athletic pursuits in
making the best decisions for their future, spanning financial literacy, community engagement and more.
Andrew Wallenstein, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Variety
Todd Burach, VP, Senior Relationship Manager, Entertainment Division, City National Bank
Nastia Liukin, 5-Time Olympic Gold Medalist, USA Gymnastics
Kenny Anderson, NBA All-Star
11:15 a.m. to 11:25 a.m. Networking Break
11:25 a.m. to 11:55 a.m. Nike and Sports Storytelling
A behind the scenes look at Nike’s documentary, Breaking2, about the record-breaking quest to run a marathon in under 2 hours.
Chris Uettwiller, CEO, Dirty Robber (Nike’s Breaking2)
11:55 p.m. to 12:35 p.m. It’s Not Just About Winning – Athletes Engaging Fans Beyond the Game
Successful athletes have a broad range of interests – spanning community service, entertainment projects, fashion lines and other entrepreneurial activities. They realize the benefits in interacting with their fan base outside of the limited time they are playing on the field or court. What is the most strategic way for athletes to authentically extend their brands to other areas of interest? Athletes, brands and their partners will explain how they are approaching 360-degree fan engagement.
Amy Trask, CBS Sports Analyst & Former CEO, Oakland Raiders
Shawne Merriman, Three-Time Pro-Bowler (San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills) and Founder, Lights Out
Gabby Douglas, 3-Time Gold Medalist, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, USA Gymnastics
Debbie Spander, SVP, Broadcasting and Coaching, Wasserman
Dominick ‘The Dominator’ Cruz, Champion Bantamweight Fighter, UFC and MMA analyst, Fox Sports
12:35 p.m. to 1:35 p.m. Lunch
1:35 p.m. to 2:05 p.m. New Kids on the Block – Los Angeles Chargers
Joseph Assad, Co-CEO, Kovert Creative
Jeffrey Pollack, Special Advisor, Los Angeles Chargers
Tom Telesco, GM, Los Angeles Chargers
LaDainian Tomlinson, NFL Hall of Famer and Special Assistant to Chargers Owner Dean Spanos
2:05 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. LA Sports Town – Ready, Set, GO
In just about no time at all, Los Angeles has emerged as the hottest sports town going. Come this fall, both the Chargers and the Rams will be playing here – marking a huge change from the city’s years-long pro-football drought. LA appears close to securing the Olympics in 2024 – delivering an onslaught of opportunity for entertainment properties and consumer brands. The Clippers, Lakers, Kings and Galaxy also have strong fan bases. How are various stakes holders – teams, the media community, sports marketers – making the most out of this extreme sports activity? What are strategies in engaging LA sports fans – what is key in making sure there is excitement for all? LA sports, media and marketing chiefs will talk about keeping the city on a sports and entertainment roll.
Liz Habib, Fox 11 Sports Anchor
Stan Kasten, CEO, Los Angeles Dodgers
Rich Eisen, Host of The Rich Eisen Show and NFL GameDay Morning
Dan August, VP Strategy, Los Angeles Rams
2:45 to 3:15 Keynote Conversation
Jessica Holtz, Basketball Agent, CAA Sports
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Interviewed by Andrew Wallenstein, Co-Editor-in-Chief, Variety
3:15 p.m. to 3:55 p.m. Hot Button Action – Exploding World of Esports
The act of watching video games, aka esports, has emerged as a hot spectator sport, now filling stadiums worldwide. What are brand marketing opportunities around esports, especially as it attracts elusive generation Z and millennial audiences? How are esports leagues evolving to best capitalize on growing popularity worldwide? What content distributors are best engaging audiences with e-sports programming? Top esports leagues, distributors, brand marketers and their partners will share how they are taking this growing business to new heights.
Matt Chelap, VP, Octagon
Rodger Saffold, Los Angeles Rams Offensive Lineman and Founder, Rise Nation
Pete Vlastelica, CEO Major League Gaming, Activision Blizzard
Patrick Chapman, Gaming and eSports Partnerships, Facebook
Matt Wolf, VP Entertainment, Ventures and Strategic Alliances, Coca-Cola Company
Yvette Martinez-Rea, COO, ESL North America
3:55 to 4:05 p.m. Networking Break
4:05 p.m. p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Creating Immersive Fan Experiences
New technologies seem tailor made for the sports fan. Advancing live streaming platform are enabling fandom in more places than ever before. The growing 360-degree video, virtual reality and augmented reality categories are also the quintessential marriage of sports and entertainment – as audiences encounter a mix of mind-blowing interactivity, action and narrative experiences. What new technologies are poised to truly innovate the live fan experience? Sports leaders chat about the future of revolutionizing the fan experience.
David Nugent, Partner, Chief Commercial Officer, Omnigon
Laura Froelich, Head of Sports Partnerships, Twitter
Devin Poolman, SVP Digital Product Development, Fox Sports
David Lehanski, SVP Business Development & Global Partnerships, NHL
Michael Davis VP, Branded Content & Marketing, Whistle Sports
4:45 p.m. to 5:25 p.m. Trailblazers of Competition in Film and TV
Sports is known for attracting large audiences – but not all fans of one sport will necessarily like another. How is the entertainment community creating film and TV that will resonate broadly with audiences? What documentaries, scripted series, feature films and more are most compelling? Top TV and film writers, producers, directors and other creative talent converge to talk about translating sports for the screen.
Meredith Ahr, President, Universal Television Alternative Studios, NBC Universal
Billy Corben, Filmmaker (30 for 30, Dawg Fight)
Mike Tollin, Producer & Co-Chairman, Mandalay Sports Media
Akbar Gbajabiamila, Host of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior
Michael Luisi, President, WWE Studios
Will Staeger, SVP and Co-Head, of Programming and Content Strategy, IMG
Who Is Speaking?
- Michael StrahanGood Morning America
- Erin AndrewsFox Sports
- D'Angelo RussellBrooklyn Nets
- Karl-Anthony TownsMinnesota Timberwolves
- Devin BookerPheonix Suns
- Joel EmbiidPhiladelphia 76ers
Joel Embiid is the Starting Center for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers. Originally from Yaoundé, Cameroon, Embiid was selected #3 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. He played college basketball at the University of Kansas, where he was a second-team Associated Press All-American, second-team All-Big 12 pick, and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Considered one of the biggest personalities in the game, Embiid, whose endorsement partners include Adidas, NBA2K, Panini, and Jolly Rancher, is known for his savvy social media presence.
- Constance Schwartz-MoriniSMAC Entertainment
- Jessica HoltzCAA Sports
- Pete VlastelicaActivision Blizzard
- Alan GoldCAA's Evolution Media Group
Alan Gold is a Partner and Head of Sports Media at Creative Artists Agency’s Evolution Media (EM). He has negotiated more than $50 billion of deals during his career as a sports and media executive. During his tenure at EM, Mr. Gold has advised premier content owners, including professional sports leagues and teams, college conferences, and international federations on their media rights and business strategy. Clients have included the International Olympic Committee, National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, PGA of America, PGA Tour, Riot Games, Pac-12 Conference, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers, and Boston Celtics, among other leading teams/associations. Prior to joining EM, Gold was a Managing Director of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), where he led its corporate development expansion. In addition, he served on the Board of Directors of Tennis Channel, spearheading the launch of the US Open Series. Previously, Gold was an executive at the National Football League, overseeing television, new media, and corporate development activities for the league outside of the United States. He also served as Head of Business Affairs for NFL Enterprises. Gold graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Economics from the University of Vermont and received a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
- Todd BurachCity National Bank
Sports industry banker Todd Burach is a Vice President & Senior Relationship Manager for City National Bank’s Entertainment Division. Todd is focused on teaming up with sports industry business managers, agents, wealth planners and accountants to assist professional athletes and their families with achieving their financial goals.
Todd joined City National Bank in 2016 from Morgan Stanley’s Global Sports & Entertainment Division where he developed a nation-wide professional athlete financial literacy program. Todd has 10 years of experience in the financial services industry, primarily in wealth management. He received his MBA from New York University in 2012. Todd played collegiate basketball for Coach Jim Boeheim at Syracuse University and went on to captain the gold medal-winning Team USA at the 2011 Pan-American Maccabi Games in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
- Chris UettwillerDirty Robber (Nike's Breaking2)
Chris Uettwiller is CEO and Executive Producer at Dirty Robber, an Academy Award-nominated production and entertainment company recognized for its fearless storytelling and award-winning work in film, branded content, and advertising. The company was nominated for an Academy Award in 2013 for its short film, “Buzkashi Boys” and has received numerous other honors from The One Show, The Webbys, Cannes Lions and AICP for their work in partnership with Nike, Comcast, Showtime and others. Uettwiller is also partner at Coyote Post, an award-winning motion picture post-production company, specializing in editorial, motion graphics, VFX and Color for features, commercials and music videos. In 2016, Dirty Robber and Coyote Post produced 12 mini-films for Nike’s Unlimited campaign ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics. This year, the two companies are producing various cross-platform content, including a feature-length documentary film, for “Breaking2,” Nike’s attempt to break the 2-hour marathon barrier. Uettwiller and his wife, actress Erin Daniels, live in Toluca Lake with their two children.
- Yvette Martinez-ReaESL North America
Yvette Martinez-Rea is Chief Operating Officer at ESL North America where she oversees the operations of ESL’s largest region. ESL, a part of the international digital entertainment group MTG, is the world’s largest esports company.
Prior to ESL, Martinez-Rea served as Chief Operating Offer at Violet Grey, a venture-backed luxury beauty content and commerce company based in Los Angeles, where she oversaw the company’s growth, as well as business initiatives and the development of the company’s fulfillment and e-commerce systems.
Before joining Violet Grey, Martinez-Rea was a Vice President of Change Management for Yahoo!’s Global Products organization, responsible for leading the cross-functional change efforts to improve engineering quality and overall organizational effectiveness for a 6,000-person global division. Previous roles at Yahoo! include Senior Director of Strategy and Business Management, Global Products, and Senior Director of Strategy and Business Operations and Chief of Staff to EVP Yahoo! North America. She also acted as the executive sponsor for the Southern California chapter of Women in Technology.
Formerly, Martinez-Rea was the Vice President of Operations at United Online Inc., a publically traded internet services provider, responsible for business and sales operations for multiple brands including NetZero, Juno, Classmates, Photosite, and UOL Webservices.
Martinez-Rea also serves on the board of Young & Healthy, a non-profit dedicated to providing health care to underserved children. She holds dual undergraduate degrees in English Literature and Gender Studies from the University of Southern California.
- Patrick ChapmanFacebook
Patrick Chapman, Gaming and eSports Partnerships, Facebook
Patrick’s passion for rapid growth and dynamic industries have taken him on an exciting ride from deep in the emerging markets of Central Asia, through London, and finally to Silicon Valley. As part of Facebook’s games partnerships team, his latest passion is working with content creators to build vibrant communities of gamers that accelerate the emergence of esports as mainstream media.
- Guy LakeFantasy Sports Yahoo
- Gotham ChopraFilmmaker
Gotham Chopra is a filmmaker, author, and entrepreneur. Most recently, along with NFL icons Tom Brady and Michael Strahan, he created and launched the original documentary series The Religion of Sports, which was renewed for a second season and will air later this year. He’s also currently working on TV projects with both LeBron James and Ronda Rousey. Chopra’s past TV credits include multiple ESPN projects and his critically acclaimed documentary Kobe Bryant’s Muse, which was the highest performing sports documentary ever on the Showtime Network. Gotham is also behind the feature film Decoding Deepak about his father, spiritual guru Deepak Chopra. As a former journalist, Gotham reported from countless warzones and interviewed a wide range of global leaders – from President Clinton to the Dalai Lama giving him a unique worldview. Gotham’s varied experience in journalism, publishing, and entertainment had him identified by Newsweek Magazine as one of the “most powerful and influential” South Asians worth watching. Gotham currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son and is passionate about his hometown of Boston’s sports teams.
- Billy CorbenFilmmaker
Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Billy Corben made his feature documentary directorial debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001, making him one of the youngest directors in Sundance history. Following that success, he and his producing partners founded rakontur, a Miami Beach-based content creation company. Their filmography includes the feature documentaries Cocaine Cowboys, Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja, and Dawg Fight and the ESPN’s 30 for 30s The U, The U Part 2, and Broke. Their 2017-18 slate includes the 6-hour documentary miniseries Cocaine Cowboys: Los Muchachos, a sequel to last year’s hit Netflix documentary Dawg Fight, an all new ESPN 30 for 30, and a documentary series about Florida Fuckery called A Sunny Place For Shady People. A Florida native and lifelong Miamian, Corben was recently awarded the keys to the cities of both Miami and Miami Beach.
- Gayle FuguittFoursquare
- Liz HabibFOX 11 Sports
- Dominick CruzFOX Sports
Dominick Cruz (22-2-0) is one of the most recognizable names in all of MMA and is widely considered one of the toughest to ever compete in the UFC. Nicknamed “The Dominator,” Cruz became the UFC’s first ever bantamweight champion after defeating 3 of the top current flyweights in the world: Demetrious Johnson, Ian McCall, and Joseph Benavidez. The 32-year-old remains the #1 Bantamweight fighter in the world and the #9 pound-for-pound fighter across all UFC divisions. Cruz has overcome some incredible obstacles during his UFC career, including a series of near career-ending injuries that kept him sidelined from competition for almost three years. After being forced to vacate his title in 2014 due to injury, he went on to complete one of the greatest comebacks in history by defeating then-titleholder TJ Dillashaw to reclaim his championship belt. Today, Cruz is wasting no time in preparing for a career outside of the octagon. Having previous television experience under his belt, including appearances on The Ultimate Fighter and UFC 1 on 1, Cruz has developed into one of MMA’s most popular analysts on FOX Sports.
- Devin PoolmanFOX Sports
- Will StaegerIMG
Will Staeger is Senior Vice President of Programming and Content Strategy at IMG, where he co-heads and executive produces all programming for the IMG Original Content group. In this role, he has been responsible for the launch and oversight of IMG’s ever-growing content slate through the production of current series on HBO, Showtime, Netflix, E!, Fox, ABC, high end live awards specials on Fox, CBS, and an emerging set of feature films in both the documentary and scripted space. Projects include the Academy Award-shortlisted GLEASON documentary about former NFL player Steve Gleason’s battle with ALS, Michael Moore’s Academy Award-shortlisted documentary WHERE TO INVADE NEXT, HBO’s GONZAGA: MARCH TO MADNESS and its 2017 spinoff series, UCONN: MARCH TO MADNESS, as well as BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS on ABC. The IMG OC unit has also overseen the launch of IMG’s first digital OTT network, MADE 2 MEASURE; the E-LEAGUE — the e-sports league IMG launched in partnership with Turner; the company’s entry into podcasts with the TONY KORNHEISER SHOW, which debuted as the #1 podcast on iTunes in its first week; and a star-driven block of talk radio shows on Sirius XM called THE SOURCE.
Prior to joining IMG, Staeger served as Executive Vice President of Television Production at WWE, managed the 150+ person WWE TV Studio and oversaw all production during WWE’s launch of the WWE Network. Will served as executive producer of such newly launched WWE original series series as Total Divas on E! and Legends’ House on the WWE Network. Previously, he was Senior Vice President of Programming & Strategic Development at Dick Clark Productions, where he managed 7 departments including original programming, digital, and licensing, while launching and executive producing multiple seasons of Shaq Vs. on ABC. He joined Dick Clark Productions from ESPN, where he co-led its Original Entertainment unit as Executive Producer, functioning both as business affairs/programming leader and in-house executive producer of acclaimed drama series Playmakers, Tilt, nearly a dozen highly rated original TV movies, and continuing smash-hits Pardon the Interruption, The World Series of Poker, and 30 For 30.
- James TaylorKarma
- Joseph AssadKovert Creative
Joseph Assad is the Co-Chief Executive Officer of [K]overt Creative, an award-winning, bicoastal
entertainment and marketing agency. Launched in January 2016 in partnership with
WME|IMG, Kovert Creative brings together brands and talent in the core areas of digital
services, personal representation, brand marketing, communications, and events. As Co-CEO,
Assad’s primary area of focus is the agency’s marketing and digital practices with an emphasis
on overall creative direction.
Assad has been at the forefront of creating some of the most memorable branded content spots
over the past six years. Most recently, Assad wrote and directed the comedic video, “Howler
Soccer Ball Phone,” released in tandem with the announcement that Kovert Creative had taken
an equity stake in Howler Media, a multimedia company that covers global soccer from an
American perspective. The video starring Kovert Creative clients, Will Arnett, Jack Black, Paul
Downs, Adam Pally, Sarah Silverman and Guillermo from Jimmy Kimmel Live! as well as
American soccer legend Alexi Lalas, parodies the wildly successful premium marketing
campaign from the late 1980s and 1990s, the Sports Illustrated Football Phone. The video was
covered by 50+ media outlets, including Entrepreneur Magazine, who praised the short: “In
terms of marketing…Kovert Creative’s video shows the power of humor to raise awareness for
Assad is also credited for creating a number of Emmy’s promos for Audi of America with top
talent such as Melissa McCarthy, Joel McHale and Jeremy Piven. In 2013, he created “The
Challenge” for Audi with Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto, which was called “the single
greatest ad of all time” by Slate. In 2014, he created “Barely Legal Pawn” for Audi with Bryan
Cranston, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Aaron Paul. The six-minute video won a Silver Cannes Lions,
as well as a CLIO Award, amongst other prestigious industry awards. In 2015, Assad was named
to The Holmes Report “Innovator 25” list for being one of the individuals shaping what influence
and engagement will look like tomorrow.
Prior to founding Kovert Creative, Assad was with PMK•BNC for 11 years, where he held a
handful of roles, including overseeing the New York office from 2004 thru 2012. He then went
on to launch Vowel, PMK•BNC’s digital offering. Additionally, he led efforts on video content
development projects for clients including Audi, Samsung, Ted Baker and more. Prior to
PMK•BNC, Assad worked at The Golf Digest Companies, Sports Illustrated and The Buffalo
Bills of the NFL. He holds a Masters Degree in Journalism from Columbia University.
- Shawne MerrimanLights Out
Commanding and fearless NFL powerhouse Shawne Merriman never met a quarterback he couldn’t sack. Largely regarded as one of the greatest defensive players in the league’s history, this former first-round draft pick and three-time pro-Bowl and All-Pro linebacker is known as “Lights Out” to the world, a nickname originating from his unmatched power on the field and ability to ignite his teammates while intimidating the opposition. Merriman’s excellence and drive for success did not subside when he exited the stadium. His undeniable tenacity and dedication has led to international success in both business and entertainment.
Expanding his brand off the field with his innovative and thriving “Lights Out” (LightsOutbrand.com) athletic apparel collection, Merriman designed the line for both men and women, “Lights Out” is intended and designed to motivate the consumer toward maximum performance. While providing the best in athletic wear to inspire the warrior in everyone, Merriman is showing the world once again that he means business with the cutting-edge apparel collection.
Merriman was born and raised in Maryland. His football career began when he was young, and his exceptional talent was apparent immediately to his family, friends and coaches from a very early age. He grew up in a rough part of town, surrounded by dangerous circumstances. However, where others may have fallen victim to the negative influences of a tough neighborhood, Merriman’s strength and intuition allowed him to divert the negativity and channel his energy into a positive outlet; football. During his career at Frederick Douglass High School, Merriman earned the nickname “Lights Out” for his ability to strike his opponents with tremendous force. The alias stuck with him through a career as a top 15 draft pick out of the University of Maryland and then as a nationally recognized top tier defensive player in the NFL and an integral asset to the teams he played for during his eight seasons in the NFL.
A true entrepreneur with natural charisma, charm and drive, Merriman is expanding his footprint in various athletic arenas. He was named a celebrity ambassador for Bellator MMA and was made a prominent fixture in their hugely popular SPIKE TV programming. Merriman is also now tackling NASCAR as the new car owner for driver Jesse Iwuji. As a longtime NASCAR fan and with Iwuji sitting in the driver’s seat, Shawn Merriman and his “Light’s Out” car made their debut at the K&N Pro Series East opener at New Smyrna Speedway.
Merriman has made headlines throughout his storied career, and featured in publications including Maxim, Playboy, GQ, ESPN the Magazine, VIBE Magazine, and many more. Additionally, Merriman is well known on the small screen including on MTV, VH1, E!, FOX, The Biggest Loser, Cartoon Network, Funny or Die and more. Whether it’s on the red carpet, in front of a camera or on the radio, Merriman has that “it” factor. That is what attracts mainstream viewers, readers and listeners alike, and truly sets him apart from the pack.
It is not only Merriman’s strength and performance on the field that makes him so magnetic. His fervent desire to give back to his community and inherent entrepreneurial spirit are what make him a truly remarkable man. As a child, Merriman was the victim of two house fires, and he was left homeless as a result of these incidents. Now a father himself, he has worked tirelessly in an effort to give back to his community and assist homeless children and families in need. He has taken a special interest in contributing to the Salvation Army, Standing Up For Kids and Feeding America. Additionally, Merriman founded the “Lights On Foundation” in an effort to help children and families in need, and he hosts the annual “Lights On” Bowling event to raise money for the cause.
- Stan KastenLos Angeles Dodgers
Stan Kasten became president and CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 30, 2012. Under Kasten, the Dodgers have won three consecutive NL West titles for the first time in franchise history, led the Major Leagues in attendance each of those years, and revitalized their minor league system into what Baseball America declared No. 1 in baseball.
For more than three decades, Kasten has been a highly respected sports figure and has developed a reputation for creating winning sports franchises.
He was president of the Washington Nationals from 2006-10, where he worked to re-energize a dormant baseball fan base and simultaneously established a crown jewel franchise in Washington, D.C.
In 1999, Kasten became the first sports figure to hold the title of president of three different teams in three different major sports simultaneously. He accomplished this unique feat with Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves, the National Basketball Association’s Atlanta Hawks and the National Hockey League’s Atlanta Thrashers.
Highlighting Kasten’s professional career was the Braves’ 1995 World Championship. During his tenure, the Braves and Hawks made a combined 30 post-season appearances and claimed 15 division titles, including 12 in a row in the Braves’ unprecedented run from 1991-2003.
Kasten has been a member of numerous MLB, NBA and NHL ownership committees during his professional career, including NBA committees on marketing, player pensions and expansion and the NBA Board of Governors, MLB’s owners negotiating committee and chairman of the Player Personal Development Committee, and the NHL’s Board of Governors and its executive committee. He is also a former trustee of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Throughout his impressive sports career, Kasten has relied on three pillars – scouting and player development, enhancing the fan experience and community outreach – to establish franchises built for long-term success on and off the field.
In 1979, at age 27, Kasten became the youngest general manager in NBA history with the Hawks. He held the position until 1990. Kasten became the Hawks’ president in 1986. During his lengthy tenure in the Hawks’ front office, Kasten became the first — and only – NBA executive to win back-to-back Executive of the Year awards in 1986-87. With the help of future NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, Kasten was able to build Atlanta into a perennial playoff contender, posting four consecutive 50-win seasons from 1986-89, and set franchise attendance records. In the 1990s, Kasten guided Atlanta to a stretch of seven consecutive playoff appearances, including three 50-win seasons.
Kasten also became president of the Braves in 1986. From 1987-2003, the Braves won more games than any other team in MLB. As president of the Braves, Kasten helped assemble talented teams that consistently competed for a world championship. Led by manager Bobby Cox, the Braves teams of that era were built around a deep pitching staff that featured Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Steve Avery and John Smoltz. The cornerstone of the Braves’ lineup was All-Star third baseman Chipper Jones. From 1991-2005, the Braves won 14 consecutive division titles, five National League pennants and the 1995 World Series.
In 1999, when the NHL awarded Atlanta an expansion team, Kasten added the title of president of the Thrashers, as well as chairman of the newly constructed Philips Arena. He was also involved in the design and construction of Turner Field. Kasten held all three positions until 2003, when he stepped down.
Kasten was named to the board of directors of LA24 in 2015 to support the city’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic games. This came on the heels of Kasten being elected in 2014 to the LA84 Foundation’s board of directors. LA84 is the legacy of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and primary funder of youth athletics in Southern California.
The Los Angeles Sports Council named Kasten 2013 Sports Executive of the Year.
A native of Lakewood, N.J., Kasten is a graduate of New York University and Columbia University Law School. Kasten and his wife, Helen, have four children: Alana, Corey, Sherry and Jay.
- Tim HarrisLos Angeles Lakers & NBA Alternate Governor
Overseeing Los Angeles Lakers business-related endeavors and marketing efforts for 16 years, Tim Harris brings more than 27 years of combined experience to the organization, currently serving in a multifaceted role as Chief Operating Officer/SVP, Business Operations/Chief Marketing Officer. Responsible for the Lakers’ day-to-day business operations, Harris oversees the team’s broadcast, sponsorship, ticketing, community relations, game entertainment and digital media departments. Furthermore, Harris maintains relationships with broadcast and corporate partners while having a hand in all Lakers marketing efforts.
Adding to his extensive scope of responsibilities, Harris serves as a Lakers Alternate Governor, and he represents the club at team president meetings.
Beginning his career working for Dr. Jerry Buss in 1990, Harris was tasked with promoting and marketing the team’s arena at the time, The Great Western Forum. By 1995, after much success in his role, Harris would become Vice President of Marketing for the building. Following the sale of the Forum in 1997, Harris was responsible for managing the Lakers transition out of Inglewood to the state-of-the-art STAPLES Center as well as the new team training facility. At the conclusion of the club’s move, Harris was brought on board to focus his efforts strictly on the Lakers, originally serving as Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
A standout soccer player at UCLA, Harris played four seasons as goalkeeper (1980-83), earning second team All-American honors in 1983 and finishing his career ranked third on the school’s career victories list. He was later named to the UCLA Athletic Department Hall of Fame as one of the school’s 25 all-time greatest athletes. Harris, who graduated from UCLA with a degree in sociology, went on to play five years professionally (1984-89), including three for the Dr. Buss-owned Los Angeles Lazers of the Major Indoor Soccer League. He was also a member of the United States Men’s National Soccer Team in 1985.
An Inglewood native, Harris currently resides in Manhattan Beach with his wife Choel and their three children: Jude (12), Dane (10) and Gage (6).
- Dan AugustLos Angeles Rams
- Kevin DemoffLos Angeles Rams
Kevin Demoff is in his ninth year as Chief Operating Officer & Executive Vice President of Football Operations with the Rams. In this capacity, Demoff serves as the team’s top front office executive and liaison to owner and chairman, Stan Kroenke, on all organizational matters.
After serving on the working group that helped Kroenke return the Rams – Los Angeles’ original professional sports team – home to L.A., Demoff is now playing a significant role in delivering on Kroenke’s vision to design and construct the 298-acre sports and entertainment district in Inglewood that will serve as the future home of the Rams. The NFL-themed campus will include a 70,000 seat stadium, performance venue, retail district and office complex and is currently the largest entitled real-estate project in Southern California.
Demoff also continues to lead the club on all business operations, including marketing, media, partnerships, finance, administration, communications, ticketing and community affairs. Additionally, Demoff works closely with General Manager Les Snead and Head Coach Sean McVay to develop the club’s strategic plan for player signings and acquisitions.
Since the Rams returned home to Los Angeles in 2016 – the team’s 50th season in Los Angeles after calling the region home from 1946-1994 – the Rams are committed to being a key contributor to the betterment of the Los Angeles community.
Immediately on the heels of the National Football League’s historic return to Los Angeles, Demoff and the Rams helped lead a regional effort to bring Super Bowl LV to the new L.A. Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park in 2021. In addition to being the most-watched sporting event in the world, Super Bowl LV will attract tens of thousands of people to the Los Angeles region and generate hundreds of millions of dollars for local hotels, restaurants, shops and other businesses.
Demoff and the Rams have also joined forces with the LA24 Olympic Bid Committee, chaired by Casey Wasserman, to help deliver the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games to Los Angeles.
Reinforcing the Rams’ commitment to the Los Angeles community, Demoff serves on the boards of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission and Los Angeles Sports Council. Demoff also is part of the American Cancer Society’s CEOs Against Cancer, which is a partnership of the world’s leading CEOs and the American Cancer Society dedicated to eliminating unnecessary deaths and suffering from cancer.
Since joining the Rams in 2009, Demoff has been responsible for re-organizing the club’s business efforts with a focus on delivering a better overall experience for Rams’ fans and increasing the club’s presence in the community.
As part of his vision, Demoff spearheaded the organization’s efforts to become one of the strongest philanthropic partners in professional sports. That focus has led the team to receive numerous awards for their charitable efforts including being named the “2010 St. Louis Philanthropic Organization of the Year.” His tireless dedication to community engagement will continue to set the tone for the organization as they continue to become part of the fabric of the greater Los Angeles region.
One of the hallmarks of the Rams’ community outreach efforts is the team’s Staff Day of Service program. Introduced by Demoff in 2009, each month the team’s front office staff takes time out of the office to volunteer with local non-profits. Since the project’s inception, the Rams’ staff has provided more than 13,000 hours of community service. In 2016 alone, the Rams contributed 1,200 hours of community service to 10 local non-profits and 19 schools across the Los Angeles region.
The cornerstone volunteer effort of the Staff Day of Service program is the team’s annual community improvement project that includes staff, players and cheerleaders uniting to assist a local non-profit, school or community in need. In 2016 – the team’s 8th annual community improvement project and first in Los Angeles – the Rams funded and built a new playground for Woodworth Elementary School in Inglewood.
Under Demoff’s watch, the Rams have made significant strides to reach more fans through media. In 2016, the Rams established partnerships with local English and Spanish TV networks and radio stations to broadcast preseason games and other exclusive content. Demoff oversaw the creation of the award-winning Rams Broadcasting Network, which has grown to include two weekly Rams television programs that air on KABC and numerous features across the Rams media platforms .
Demoff was recognized by the Sports Business Journal as one of its “Forty under 40” class members of 2016. In 2010, the St. Louis Business Journal named Demoff as one of its “40 under 40” award winners, which recognizes individuals for their career achievements and community work. In 2010, he also was named one of the “NFL’s 10 Future Power Brokers” by Sports Illustrated.
Prior to joining the Rams, Demoff spent the previous four seasons (2005-08) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he served as a consultant before being named Senior Assistant in 2006. In this capacity, Demoff assisted General Manager Bruce Allen in contract negotiations, salary cap management, strategic planning and both college and pro scouting. During his tenure with the Buccaneers, the team captured NFC South titles in 2005 and 2007 while posting a winning record in three of his four seasons.
From 2001-04, Demoff served as Director of Football Operations for the Los Angeles Avengers of the Arena Football League. Demoff helped direct the team to its first-ever playoff berth and in his final three seasons with the club, the Avengers posted a record of 28-18, third-best in the Arena Football League, qualifying for the playoffs in each of those seasons.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Calif., Demoff received a bachelors’ degree in history from Dartmouth College in 1999 and a Masters in Business Administration from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth in 2006.
Kevin and Jennifer have two children – a daughter, Claire and son, Owen.
- Rodger SaffoldLos Angeles Rams & Rise Nation
Father, husband and an offensive guard drafted by the Los Angeles Rams, Rodger Saffold is the owner of a competitive eSports team “Rise Nation” and is one of the first professional athletes to own an eGaming team. In 2014 Rodger decided to start “Rise Nation” with his long time friend Kahreem Horsley, and from there they have worked together to create what has become a very successful organization to date.
Passionate about diversifying the eSports culture, Rodger recently partnered with the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) to provide scholarships for minorities and women. In addition, Rodger enjoys sharing his eSports experiences as he recently shared his thoughts and unique perspective at SXSW on a panel discussing “The Future of Inclusivity in Modern Gaming”. Rodger hopes to his platform as an eGaming owner to educate and create opportunities for minorities.
- Mike TollinMandalay Sports Media
- Melissa BrennerNBA
As Senior Vice President of Digital Media for the National Basketball Association, Melissa Rosenthal Brenner has led the development, oversight and implementation of the NBA’s global digital strategy and social media portfolio across multiple media platforms. In that role, she has forged groundbreaking deals with leading social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, found innovative ways to incorporate social media throughout the league’s wide array of assets, and helped NBA partners maximize social media opportunities with the league.
Additionally, Brenner manages the league’s relationship with Turner Sports relating to NBA Digital, where she is responsible for the development and oversight of NBA TV, NBA LEAGUE PASS, NBA.com and various NBA mobile content offerings. Over the past two seasons, Brenner oversaw the rollout of a variety of new digital offerings including single game availability of NBA LEAGUE PASS, phone- and tablet-optimized streams through NBA Mobile View, fully produced weekly games in virtual reality, and the league’s first real-time fantasy game, NBA InPlay.
Under her leadership, the NBA has built one of the largest social media communities in the world, with more than 1.3 billion likes and followers combined across all league, team and player pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Sina and Tencent. Brenner has been instrumental in the NBA’s achievement of many milestones in the social media space, including the first professional sports league to partner with YouTube (2005) and Facebook (2007).
In 2016, Brenner was recognized as “Top Digital Executive” at the Cynopsis Social Media Awards, while the work of her group was honored as “Best in Sports Social Media” by SportsBusiness Journal. In 2013, Brenner was named to AdAge’s “Women to Watch” list.
A member of the NBA family since 1997, Brenner has worked in the Consumer Products Marketing, Advertising and Marketing departments. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Brenner lives on the Upper West Side with her husband Joe and their two children, Sadie and Jack.
- Kenny AndersonNBA All-Star
Queens native Kenny “Chibbs” Anderson is a basketball legend and one of New York City’s top sports icons. After a renowned high school and college career, he played point guard professionally for over 14 years.
Born October 9, 1970, in Queens, New York, Anderson and his three siblings were raised by their mother, Joan, who created the famous nickname “Mr. Chibbs”. Considered one of the best collegiate basketball prospects in the country during his time at Archbishop Molloy High School, Anderson was the second player to be named All-City four times (first and only other player ever do this was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), as well as being named a McDonald’s All-American, New York State Mr. Basketball by the New York State Coaches Organization, and High School Basketball Player of the Year by Gatorade. Tom Konchalski, writer and legendary high school basketball scout, once called Anderson “unequivocally, the greatest high school point guard I’ve ever seen.”
Declining offers from some of the nation’s top college teams, Anderson signed a letter of intent in November 1988 to play at Georgia Tech as a point guard. He helped lead them to the Final Four in 1990, along with swingmen Dennis Scott and Brian Oliver. The nickname for the trio was “Lethal Weapon 3”. In 1991, after two years with the Yellow Jackets, Anderson entered the NBA draft and was selected by the New Jersey Nets with the second overall pick, at that point the youngest player in the league at just twenty years old. From 1991-2005, Anderson played for NBA teams across the country including the Nets, Hornets, Portland Trail Blazers, Boston Celtics, Seattle Super Sonics, Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks and the Los Angeles Clippers, as well as Lithuania’s Basketball Club Žalgiris.
In 2008, Anderson was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame. Two years later, he was hired as the basketball coach at the David Posnack Jewish Day School in Davie, Florida. His high school coaching career was short lived, as the school refused to renew his contract following a 2013 DUI arrest. It was that same year Anderson publicly revealed details of his sexual abuse as a child. Since then, Anderson has become an advocate for young victims of sexual abuse. He also focuses much of his time on training high school basketball players at The Clinic in Tampa along with Coach Bobby Parker.
Anderson, a father of eight and a grandfather, currently resides in Pembroke Pines, Florida with his wife Natasha and children Kenny Jr. and Tiana.
- Akbar GbajabiamilaNBC's American Ninja Warrior
As one of the most irreverent television personalities in sports and with an unparalleled ability to connect with viewers across the county, NFL star, sports commentator and entertainment personality Akbar Gbajabiamila, reigns supreme hosting NBC’s Emmy nominated, heart-racing obstacle course competition series “American Ninja Warrior,” which has returned for its ninth season on Monday, June 12th following competitors as they tackle a series of challenging obstacle courses in both city qualifying and city finals rounds across the country. Those that successfully complete the finals course in their designated region move on to the national finals round in Las Vegas this summer and the winner takes home a grand prize of $1 million. Gbajabiamila also currently hosts NFL Networks’ highest rated show “NFL Fantasy Live.”
The Los Angeles native grew up in the Crenshaw district with his mother, father, both of whom were born and raised in Nigeria, and 6 siblings. Gbajabiamila is one of seven children of Nigerian immigrants. His first name means “great” in Arabic and his last name means “big man come save me,” which derives from his paternal great-great-grandfather — an impressive man who stood 7-feet tall and was the moderator in the village in which he lived.
Born to be an athlete, his first passion was playing basketball. He was part of the basketball team at his alma mater, Crenshaw High School, during the dynasty era coached by none other than Willie E. West. He made the junior varsity team his first year, which was unheard of at the time, and by his second year was pulled up to varsity just in time to play in the Nike Extravaganza tournament. It was with hesitation at the end of that year that he started playing football, pressured by coaches because his older brother was a powerhouse on the team and yearned for an equally superb talent of another Gbajabiamila. By his senior year, he received scholarship offers from 5 top colleges: Oregon, University of California at Berkley, San Diego State, Fresno State and Colorado State. He opted for San Diego State, choosing the same school as his older brother.
Akbar received his degree in communication and new media studies because deep down he always had the desire to be a broadcaster. He admired notables in the field like Jim Hill and aspired to be just like them.
The Southern California native played five years in the NFL as a linebacker and defensive end with the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins before retiring in 2008. Akbar played college football for San Diego State University where he graduated with a degree in communication and new media studies, before completing a certified entrepreneurship program at the Wharton School of Business in 2005.
Throughout his NFL career, Gbajabiamila had an interest in broadcasting, and in 2005 he was selected as one of the NFL’s first athletes to attend their Broadcast Boot Camp, an intense workshop aimed at training athletes for potential careers in broadcasting and journalism. While playing for the Chargers, Akbar contributed to KSWB, an NBC radio affiliate in San Diego, and co-hosted “Football Night in San Diego” from 2006-2008. He went on to serve as an analyst for the Mtn. Network and CBS Sports, before joining the NFL Network in 2012.
The multihyphenate recently made his feature acting debut in the 2015 short film “The Sac Fly”, and previously co-starred in a Funny or Die skit “Internet Cops with Nnamdi Asomugha”. He was also a fan-favorite on the 2009 ABC adventure series “Expedition Impossible” where he was hand-selected by producer Mark Burnett to compete in challenges across the globe.
Akbar has a long history of volunteering and social consciousness. He currently serves as a board member for the Asomugha Foundation, an organization aimed at creating better educational opportunities for impoverished communities. As a collegiate undergrad, Akbar joined Athletes for Education, a youth education program where he was able to promote financial literacy for youth in the San Diego community.
He and his wife along with their 4 children currently reside in Marina Del Rey with their beloved dog.
- Meridith AhrNBC Universal
Meredith Ahr is President of the newly launched Universal Television Alternative Studio, which creates, develops and produces original series for NBC as well as platforms domestically and around the globe. Ahr’s passion for innovation and insight into what audiences crave has led UTAS to be a lead supplier of hit content, helping to solidify NBC’s dominance in alternative programming.
The studio’s most recent breakout hit, “World of Dance,” which features and is executive produced by Jennifer Lopez, debuted in the summer of 2017 as the #1 new show of the year. Ahr also launched high stakes game show “The Wall” (executive produced by Chris Hardwick and LeBron James), which in addition to stateside success has garnered exceptional interest across the globe, becoming the highest rated game show of 2017 in France on TF1, and is soon slated to launch on RTL in Germany as well as Mediaset in Spain. Universal Television Alternative Studio is also responsible for “Better Late Than Never,” which ranked as the #1 new summer series of 2016 and is set to return with a second season this year, as well as “Hollywood Game Night,” with Emmy Award winning host Jane Lynch, which has been sold internationally in 17 countries and is currently in its fifth season.
Ahr is in the process of producing/developing upcoming series for the studio including “The Handmade Project,” a competition for America’s best artisans and makers, developed and executive produced by Amy Poehler, who will serve as host alongside Nick Offerman; and “The Awesome Show,” a new series in partnership with Mark Burnett and hosted by Chris Hardwick that will showcase groundbreaking scientific and technological advances.
Prior to her current role, Ahr served as Executive Vice President of Alternative Programming for NBC, where she spearheaded a diverse programming slate that included “The Voice” and “America’s Got Talent,” both of which she was integral in developing, as well as “American Ninja Warrior,” “Hollywood Game Night,” “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” and “Little Big Shots.”
Ahr’s career at NBC began in 2001 when she joined the network as a page in New York, with roles ranging from seating audiences at “Saturday Night Live” to working in the office of Bob Wright, then Vice Chairman and Executive Officer, GE, and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, NBC Universal. Ahr is a graduate of Boston College.
- Vishal ShahNFL
Vishal Shah is the Senior Vice President of Digital Media Business Development at the National Football League. In his role, Shah is responsible for the strategy and execution of NFL’s domestic media growth initiatives and partnerships, including those related to NFL’s owned & operating properties.
Shah particularly focuses on digital media initiatives that drive the expanded reach of NFL content and creation of innovative experience such as digital live game streaming, social media distribution, video syndication, interactivity, next generation statistics, and evolution of NFL digital assets.
Prior to joining the NFL, Shah was a venture capitalist at GGV Capital, focusing his time on expansion stage mobile and digital media investment opportunities in the US and China.
Shah is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.
- Ladainian TomlinsonNFL Hall of Famer
LaDainian Tomlinson, one of the Chargers’ greatest players and one of the most prolific running backs in NFL history, will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 5, 2017.
Tomlinson retired from the NFL in 2012 as the league’s fifth all-time leading rusher (13,684 career yards) and its second-most prolific scorer (145 career rushing touchdowns).
The Chargers’ first-round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft (fifth overall), Tomlinson and his disarming smile were the face of the Chargers’ franchise during nine seasons in San Diego (2001-09). He set or tied a total of 28 team records, including marks for career rushing yards, rushing touchdowns in a season and total touchdowns.
Tomlinson is one of the most decorated Chargers in history. Among the more than 100 team and NFL awards that he captured during his career, Tomlinson was named the Associated Press’ NFL Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year in 2006. That same year, he was named the Walter Payton co-NFL Man of the Year and the runner-up as the AP’s Male Athlete of the Year. Tomlinson was a five-time Pro Bowl selection, three-time first-team All-Pro, two-time second-team All-Pro and runner up for the AP’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2001. Tomlinson was named by his teammates as the Chargers Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year five times.
Tomlinson assembled his most outstanding individual campaign in 2006 when he was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player by the Associated Press. It was the team’s first-ever league MVP award as Tomlinson garnered 44 of a possible 50 MVP votes. He also finished second to golfer Tiger Woods in voting for AP’s Male Athlete of the Year Award. Tomlinson helped the Chargers win a franchise-record 14 games during the regular season, while shattering a host of NFL records. He set new NFL marks for rushing touchdowns (28), total touchdowns (31) and points scored (186) in a season. His scoring average of 11.6 points per game was the most since Paul Hornung’s 12.2 average for the Green Bay Packers in 1961. Tomlinson won his and the team’s first NFL rushing title with 1,815 yards and just missed out on the title for yards from scrimmage by 11 yards. He became only the fifth player in league history to score 20 or more touchdowns in consecutive seasons and he set 10 other NFL records, including touchdowns in a five (15) and six-game stretch (19); touchdowns through the first 10 (22) and 12 (26) games of a season; games with two or more touchdowns (8); games with four touchdowns (3), games with three rushing touchdowns (5), consecutive games with three rushing touchdowns (3), consecutive games with three or more total touchdowns (4), and consecutive multi-touchdown games (8). He shared the league’s mark for consecutive four-touchdown games (2). Tomlinson also became the NFL’s fastest player to both 100 rushing touchdowns and 100 total touchdowns.
Tomlinson’s accolades in 2006 extended beyond the playing field, as he was also crowned with the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. One of LT’s childhood idols, Payton was the only other man to win MVP and Man of the Year honors in the same season.
From his very first game in a Chargers uniform, Tomlinson appeared destined for greatness. He ran for 113 yards in his NFL debut against the Washington Redskins in 2001, becoming only the 20th player in the NFL since 1970 to eclipse 100 yards in his first game. As a rookie, he went on to rack up a team-record 1,603 total yards from scrimmage, while setting team rookie records for rushing yards (1,236) and rushing touchdowns (10).
In 2002, Tomlinson shattered previous team records when he tallied 1,683 rushing yards and 2,172 total yards from scrimmage. He ranked second in the NFL in rushing and third in yards from scrimmage. His 15 total touchdowns ranked sixth in the league.
In 2003, Tomlinson caught a team-record 100 passes and he became the first player in league history to rush for 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes in the same season. “LT” racked up 2,370 total yards from scrimmage in 2003, second-most in NFL history (Marshall Faulk – 2,429 yards in 1999). Tomlinson became just the eighth player to post consecutive seasons with 2,000 or more scrimmage yards.
In 2004, Tomlinson carried the Chargers to their first AFC West title in 10 years as he led the NFL in rushing touchdowns (17) for the first time in his career. A year later (2005), Tomlinson tied Lenny Moore’s NFL record by scoring a touchdown in 18 straight games and he set a new NFL record by scoring a rushing touchdown in 14 straight games. In San Diego’s 2005 season finale against Denver, Tomlinson scored his 20th touchdown of the season, breaking Chuck Muncie’s team record of 19, set in 1981. Tomlinson also moved past Alworth to become the team’s all-time leader in career yards from scrimmage.
In 2007, Tomlinson captured NFL titles for rushing yards (1,474) and rushing touchdowns (15), while tying Emmitt Smith as the fourth-fastest player to rack up 10,000 total scrimmage yards (106 games). Tomlinson became the first player since Edgerrin James (1999-00) to win consecutive league rushing titles and the first player ever to score 15 or more touchdowns in six consecutive seasons.
Tomlinson’s final two seasons in San Diego saw him achieve even more milestones. In 2008 he reached 15,000 career scrimmage yards, doing so faster than any other player in league history and he reached 11,000 career rushing yards faster (117 games) than every back except Eric Dickerson (103), Jim Brown (107) and Barry Sanders (115). In 2009, LT scored his 150th career touchdown, reaching that mark in fewer games than any player in NFL history. At the conclusion of the 2009 season, Tomlinson had set NFL marks for a decade (2001-09) for rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns.
In 2009, Tomlinson and former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner were selected as Most Caring Athletes by USA Weekend Magazine. He and his wife, LaTorsha, started the Tomlinson Touching Lives Foundation, which has hosted many events over the years. They included youth football camps, golf tournaments, fishing trips for kids and at-risk teens, a Thanksgiving program that provided complete holiday dinners to more than 2,100 San Diego families, and a Christmas program in which they gave away more than 1,500 holiday gifts to the patients at San Diego’s Children’s Hospital and Health Center.
Prior to the 2010 season, Tomlinson signed with the New York Jets as an unrestricted free agent where he continued to play for two more seasons.
Born in Rosebud, Texas, Tomlinson starred at University High School in Waco before taking his career to Texas Christian University, where he became an All-American and a two-time Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year. At TCU, Tomlinson became only the second player in college football history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season and 5,000 yards in a career. In 2005, his jersey was retired at TCU and in 2009 he was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
Tomlinson now works as an analyst for the NFL Network, while continuing to be a leader in the community. LaDainian and LaTorsha reside in Colleyville, Texas with their son, Daylen, and daughter, Dayah.
- David LehanskiNHL
David Lehanksi is Senior Vice President of Business Development & Global Partnerships, responsible for the development of new platforms, the League’s relationship with the Club sales departments, and all sales and partnership initiatives with the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA).
Since joining the League in 2005, Lehanski has worked to bring in some of the biggest brands in sports marketing to the NHL including Honda, PepsiCo, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Geico, and MillerCoors, among many others. In 2011, Lehanski and his team turned an initial one-year partnership with Discover into a multiyear renewal, developing an entirely new platform built around a new Thanksgiving Friday NHL game broadcast known as the Discover Thanksgiving Showdown. Each year, the NHL on NBC broadcast on Thanksgiving Friday is preceded by the first-ever NHL themed float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade showcasing Discover’s partnership with the League.
Lehanski played a key role in the establishment of the NHL’s 10-year partnership with NBC in 2011 by leading the development of an internal broadcast marketplace analysis to determine the potential ad revenue opportunity to be generated from several potential broadcast partnership scenarios.
Lehanski also crafted many new partnerships that enhanced digital strategies at the NHL, including developing branded content captured via the League’s new network of cameras in all 30 NHL arenas as a new season-long marketing platform.
His leadership achievements have been acknowledged throughout the industry, including SportsBusiness Journal’s 40 Under 40 honors in 2012.
Before joining the NHL, Lehanski served as Vice President of Marketing Solutions at Clear Channel Advantage where he worked with Fortune 500 advertisers/marketers to develop, sell, and activate fully integrated media/marketing solutions that leveraged all of Clear Channel’s media assets.
Before Clear Channel, Lehanski was the co-founder and Vice President of HallOfSports.com, an online company focused on the distribution of sports memorabilia and collectibles with a long-term goal of consolidating the industry. At the time, HOS featured the largest online aggregation of sports collectibles (6,000+ items) with annual revenues exceeding $1M. Previously, Lehanski also spent several years as a consultant on the agency side at SFX Sports and Clarion Sports & Entertainment.
- Amy TraskOakland Raiders
Amy Trask has had many titles during her career: chief executive, analyst, and author. The former CEO of the Oakland Raiders, and current football analyst for CBS Sports Network, recently joined Ice Cube, Jeff Kwatinetz and Roger Mason Jr. as CEO of BIG3 to further solidify her role as a leading executive in the sports industry.
During her time with the Raiders, Trask was the highest-ranking female executive in the NFL. She spent almost 30 years with the Raiders organization, where she became the NFL’s first female front-office executive and was one of the highest-ranking women in American professional sports. As CEO of the Raiders (1997-2013), Trask was involved in all non-football operations for the team and represented the organization at league meetings. Under her watch, the Raiders won four Division Championships (1990, 2000, 2001 and 2002) and one AFC Championship (2002).
Since 2013, Trask’s role with football extended to television as a studio analyst for CBS Sports Network on THAT OTHER PREGAME SHOW. She also serves as a panelist on WE NEED TO TALK, the first-ever nationally televised all-female sports show and contributes to THE NFL TODAY on CBS.
In her book, You Negotiate Like a Girl: Reflections on a Career in the National Football League (Triumph Books, 2016), Trask shared her experience as the highest-ranking female executive in the league and working in the front office. With the help of sportswriter Mike Freeman, Trask delved into her past and discussed how she achieved success.
Trask serves on the board of directors for Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation and the advisory board of the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission.
She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkley and the USC Gould School of Law. She resides in Los Angeles, California with her husband.
- Matt ChelapOctagon
Matt Chelap is a Vice President at Octagon, the world’s largest sponsorship consulting practice and a pioneer and leader in athlete and personality representation and management.
Since joining Octagon in 2004, Matt has worked on and managed both domestic and international sport sponsorship programs for key Octagon clients The Home Depot, Bank of America and PlayStation. In the process he has implemented strategic marketing campaigns and events with such properties as ESPN College Gameday, the College Football Playoffs, MLB, NBA, and the NFL.
Currently, Matt manages Octagon’s PlayStation account business. This includes their PlayStation Fiesta Bowl entitlement, official College Football Playoff sponsorship, national mobile tour and eSports sponsorships.
Matt received his Bachelor of Science in Sports Marketing from Valparaiso University and his Masters of Education in Sports Marketing from the University of Georgia. He currently resides in Atlanta, GA.
- David NugentOmnigon
David Nugent is a founding partner at OMNIGON, a digital consulting firm that delivers strategic technical and creative guidance and solutions to leaders in the sports, media and entertainment industries.
Nugent oversees the Business Development and Client Management teams and has been instrumental in all new business acquisition. Nugent and his team are responsible managing the relationships of all OMNIGON’s clients including PGA Tour, AS Roma, Bayern Munich, NASCAR, Rugby International Marketing, World Rugby, USGA, USTA, FOX Sports, and FIA Formula E.
Nugent has become popular on the thought leadership circuit having spoken several conferences within the last year, including Variety’s TV and Entertainment and Technology Summits, Sports Business Journal’s Thought Leadership Retreat, Leaders Sport Business Summits (NY & UK), SportsPro Live, On Deck Sports Conference, Sports and Entertainment Alliance in Technology, NASA Life Event Technologies and the Social Media Summit.
Prior to OMNIGON, Nugent was Founder and President of RDW Sports Marketing, a sports marketing and technology company whose clients included Madison Square Garden, National Hockey League, New York Rangers, and the New York Knicks among others. As an avid hockey fan, Nugent developed and ran a youth hockey program from 2006-2008 as part of RDW’s relationship with the National Hockey League. The program, “Got Skills,” ran in 10 NHL markets including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Anaheim, Phoenix and Nashville where it served hundreds of children each year. Before RDW, he was Founder and President of a web development firm, Gyrate Internet Solutions.
Nugent received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Ithaca College. He lives in New York with his wife and three children. Still a recreational hockey player, he also coaches youth ice hockey and lacrosse teams.
- Justin TomanPepsiCo
Justin oversees all of Pepsi’s sports partnerships including all league, team, sports media and athlete assets. He is responsible for delivering PepsiCo’s long term sports investment strategy as well as break through sports marketing programs and platforms across all beverage brands.
Justin joined PepsiCo in 2007 and held several brand roles including Mountain Dew, Propel and Pepsi. He has been on the Sports Marketing team since 2013; first overseeing baseball, soccer and hockey, then transitioning to lead Pepsi’s NFL partnerships and currently oversees all sports. Justin has led Pepsi’s successful Super Bowl activations since 2014 and was recently named one of Sports Business Journal’s ‘Forty Under 40’, a group recognized as the best young talent in sports business.
Prior to PepsiCo, Justin worked at the University of Michigan Athletic Department. He holds three degrees from Michigan (M.B.A., Masters of Sports Management and B.S.) and won three NCAA Gymnastics Championships. He was named the 1999 University of Michigan Male Athlete of the Year (over Tom Brady).
- Rich EisenThe Rich Eisen Show and NFL GameDay Morning
In 2014, Rich Eisen launched his daily talk show, The Rich Eisen Show. Recently nominated for an Emmy Award, The Rich Eisen Show airs Monday-Friday from 12 Noon – 3:00 PM ET on DIRECTV’s Audience Network and simulcast across the Premiere Radio Network and Fox Sports Radio.
In addition to hosting The Rich Eisen Show, he continues to be a mainstay at the NFL Network being the first on-air talent added to NFL Network’s roster in 2003.
Eisen has been the host of the Emmy-nominated NFL GameDay Morning. Eisen also anchors NFL Networks of the NFL Draft, Super Bowl Weekend and NFL Scouting Combine where he does his annual Run Rich Run 40-yard dash to help raise money for St. Jude’s Children Hospital.
Eisen was a mainstay on ESPN’s SportsCenter from 1996 to 2003.
Eisen is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications.
He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and long-time ABC, FOX and TNT sports broadcaster Suzy Shuster. Together, they have three children.
- Ryan MontoyaSacramento Kings
- Ben SchwerinSnapchat
Ben is Vice President of Partnerships for Snap Inc. In this role, Ben oversees relationships with all domestic and international media rights holders, including the NBA, NFL, MLB, the NCAA, and Live Nation.
Before joining Snap, Ben co-founded Fenway Strategies, a communications consulting firm. The company advises major corporations, business leaders, and high-profile foundations on all aspects of their business and reputation.
From 2003-2009, Ben served as an aide to former President Bill Clinton and u2. He has also served as an advisor to the ONE Campaign, Product RED, and Maverick. Ben is a graduate of Cornell University and currently resides in Los Angeles.
- Laura FroelichTwitter
Laura leads Sports Partnerships at Twitter, bringing exceptional content from leagues, teams, broadcasters and athletes to fans in real time, while driving reach and revenue for these strategic partners and Twitter. Prior to joining Twitter in February 2014, she spent five years at CBS Interactive devising product marketing and monetization strategies for premium sports content including NCAA March Madness, NFL and college football, The Masters, PGA Tour golf, as well as the suite of fantasy games from CBSSports.com. Her efforts led to multiple years of record-setting revenues for the properties. Prior to CBS, Laura focused her career in sales and marketing at such notable publishers as CNET, Ziff-Davis, and Condé Nast. Laura is a graduate of Brown University where she received a BA in International Relations. Follow her on Twitter at @laurafrofro.
- Gabby DouglasUSA Gymnastics
Gabrielle Douglas is a US Women’s Artistic gymnast, and the first All-Around Olympic gold medalist in US history to earn a position on a second Olympic team. She also is only one of two US gymnasts in history to win gold medals in back to back Olympics, which Gabby did at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. At that Games, she also became the first reigning All-Around Olympic champion to return to compete in a second Olympic Games since Nadia Comaneci in 1980.
At the 2012 London Summer Olympics, she won gold medals in both the team and individual All-Around competitions and won her third gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, with the Final Five team under Martha Karolyi. Gabrielle is the first woman of color of any nationality and the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become the Individual All-Around Champion. She is also the first American gymnast to win gold in both the gymnastics individual All-Around and team competitions at the same Olympic Games.
Gabrielle was introduced to gymnastics by way of a cartwheel. Her older sister, Arielle – a former gymnast and competitive cheerleader, was determined to teach the toddler the sport she loved. Gabrielle immediately picked up her older sister’s love of the sport and soon taught herself how to do a one armed cartwheel.
Although a four year old Gabrielle vividly remembers flipping around the house and off the furniture, there was a bit of a delay in beginning her formal training. After four years of poking and prodding, Arielle convinced their mother, Natalie Hawkins, to allow Gabrielle to train at a local gym. Once formal training began, another two years was all it took for Virginia to crown Gabrielle as the new 2004 Gymnastics State Champion.
Gabrielle soon reached her peak at her local gym, quickly accumulating numerous victories and top finishes over the next few years. The task became clear; Gabrielle had to convince her mother to allow her, the youngest, to move across the country in pursuit of her Olympic dream. This would allow her an opportunity to train under elite coach Liang Chow in West Des Moines, IA. At age 14, having overcome a number of obstacles placed before her, Gabrielle left Virginia Beach and her family in order to relocate to Iowa. In 2014, Gabrielle moved to Westerville, OH to train with coaches, Christian Gallardo and Kittia Carpenter.
Since leaving home in 2010, Gabrielle helped Team USA win gold at the 2011 and 2015 World Championships, garnered the highest All-Around score as an alternate athlete at the 2012 American Cup, placed first at the 2012 Olympic Trials (earning the only guaranteed spot on the Olympic Team), was a silver medalist in the All-Around at the 2015 World Championships and won the gold medal in the All-Around at the 2016 AT&T American Cup.
- Nastia LuikinUSA Gymnastics
Grace and beauty in the sport of gymnastics led Nastia Liukin to her crowning achievement at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, but winning five medals was only the beginning for this golden girl. After returning home, she graced the pages of countless magazines and appeared on various TV shows, while even being chosen as one of 2009’s most influential people by MSN Lifestyle. Liukin’s commitment to helping little girls with big dreams landed her a clothing line, SuperGirl by Nastia along with her very own gymnastics competition, The Nastia Liukin Cup. Nastia was part of the Kellogg’s Tour of Olympic Champions, a national, 38-city tour following the 2016 Olympic Games. She remains an Ambassador for the sport by serving as an athlete representative for both the Federation of International Gymnastics and USA Gymnastics along with work as a television analyst
for NBC (She was a commentator at the Olympic Games in Rio 2016).
Liukin also graduated from New York University this past spring, has co-founded Grander Sports, a platform of communities to empower female athletes, and also just launched her blog http://www.nastialiukin.com
- Debbie SpanderWasserman
Debbie Spander is Vice President of Broadcasting and Coaching for Wasserman Media Group, an athlete management, sponsorship, media rights and brand consulting company. Spander focuses primarily on representing on-air talent and multi-media journalists, as well as NBA coaches. Her responsibilities include securing broadcast and coaching opportunities for clients, negotiating deals, providing career guidance, overseeing relationships and securing and negotiating marketing and appearance opportunities.
Her media clients include Frank Thomas, Aaron Boone, Brent Barry, Candace Parker, Alyssa Roenigk Nicole Zaloumis, Brian Scalabrine, Ric Bucher and Stewart Mandel. Her NBA coaching clients include Fred Hoiberg, Darren Erman and Mark Madsen.
Debbie started her career at Fox Sports Net, where as VP business & legal affairs, she structured, negotiated and administered telecast licenses for FSN, Fox Sports and FX. Debbie was also VP business affairs, MTV Entertainment, the digital, sports and comedy division of Viacom. Debbie is a Director of the Sports Lawyers Association and a Director of Westcoast Sports, an LA-based charity which funds after school sports and mentoring programs for thousands of children in Southern California.
Debbie is a frequent speaker at sports business and law conferences and author of articles on sports media and broadcasting. She is a graduate of Stanford University and the UCLA School of Law.
She lives in Santa Monica, California with her husband and daughter.
- Michael DavisWhistle Sports
Michael Davis leads branded content, marketing, and account management for Whistle Sports, which creates and distributes award-winning sports entertainment content for today’s generation of sports fans. Michael previously led branded content at Complex Networks and spent a decade in digital strategy at agencies like Razorfish and Initiative prior to that. Michael is a native of Iowa and currently resides in New York.
- Ed HorneWWE | IMG
Ed Horne is Executive Vice President Brand Strategy & Activation at WME | IMG. In this role, he leads the company’s Global Partnerships division and is responsible for managing relationships with major global clients, helping to develop strategic and activation plans for the use of sports and entertainment as a business-building platform. Key clients include General Electric, ABI, Marriott, USAA, Kia and Visa among others.
Horne has more than 25 years of experience as an executive in the sports and entertainment industry, and spent 15 years at the National Hockey League prior to joining WME | IMG. Over that time, he was involved in virtually all aspects of the global NHL business, including Sponsorship, Media, Marketing, Licensing, Communications, Fan Development, and Events.
Some of Horne’s most notable professional moments include helping to negotiate the first ever Super Bowl halftime show sponsorship with Frito Lay, playing a primary role in creating the partnership with the IOC and relevant NOC’s and NGB’s that saw NHL players participating in the Olympic Winter Games, and leading the re-launch of the NHL after a full season work stoppage while realizing revenue of $2.5 billion dollars in the first year back. Horne was also an on-ice referee at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary.
- Michael LuisiWWE Studios
Since he was named President in September 2011, Michael Luisi has overseen worldwide strategy for WWE Studios and its diverse slate of projects released theatrically, direct to home, and/or across digital platforms. Luisi manages development, production, distribution and marketing of all film releases. In addition, he oversees business development and strategic initiatives, such as WWE Studios’s marketing and distribution partnership with Jason Blum’s BH Tilt label and genre label Erebus Pictures co-founded by WWE Studios and KISS Icon Gene Simmons.
Upcoming films from WWE Studios’s prime slate include FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY, written and directed by Stephen Merchant and featuring Dwayne ‘The Rock®’ Johnson, Florence Pugh, Lena Heady, Vince Vaugn and Nick Frost, ARMED RESPONSE starring Wesley Snipes, Anne Heche, & WWE superstar Seth Rollins, the biopic of the legendary martial artists and iconic figure Bruce Lee titled BIRTH OF THE DRAGON, and PANDEMONIUM, the highly-anticipated biopic based on the life of Vince McMahon.
Luisi joined WWE in January 2011 as Executive Vice President of Business Development, General Counsel & Secretary. Prior to joining WWE, Luisi spent twelve years with Miramax Films, most recently as Executive Vice President, Worldwide Operations. In that position, he oversaw the day to day operations of Miramax, as well as serving as the principal business advisor to the President of Miramax and primary liaison with then parent company Disney. Luisi was an entertainment lawyer at Frankfurt, Kurnit, Klein & Selz prior to Miramax. During his tenure there, he specialized in individual talent and production company representation across the motion picture, television and advertising industries. He has also held positions at Weil Gotshal & Manges and New Line Cinema. Luisi has served as an adjunct professor in the Entertainment, Media and Technology (EMT) program at New York University Stern School of Business for over ten years and has served as an adjunct professor at USC’S School of Cinematic Arts since 2014. Luisi holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Film & Television Production from New York University Tisch School of the Arts and a Juris Doctor degree from New York University School of Law.
- Tim KatzYouTube