The Assembly 2023

Programming Overview

For centuries, sport has been a driver of fan unity. Across leagues, fans have supported their home teams and favorite athletes through trials, pandemics, political uprisings, community upheaval, revolutions, and recessions. As sports leaders have pushed through along with the community, we have witnessed how a) how they have shifted strategy with the evolution of the fan to align with the change in audience values. b) how they redirect focus for social impact and ESG priorities within the communities they are a part of, and c) how inclusive leadership is improving outcomes in the workplace, on the field, and in the community.

As an industry, we have emerged as a hope galvanizer and community support. Regardless of what is happening in the world, sport is a form of entertainment that is deeply treasured across humanity for its ability to band around and support diverse populations; however, it has come with some challenges that the industry must work together to tackle. At The Assembly, we present data and share perspectives to help leaders with how to think (not what to think) about approaching and overcoming obstacles that may hinder individual and organizational success. While all of our leagues reach different audiences and play an important role in how sport can be a galvanizer for good, it is up to us, the pro sports leaders to be a conduit for stewarding our industry forward, and this is where the development of inclusively designed industry standards comes to life. 

During this retreat and workshop, we look at the current state of affairs that impact Leadership in Professional Sports, the challenges we face as inclusive leaders, and our role as individual contributors to the larger whole.

DAY ONE: Medal of Leadership Awards and Celebration 
Hosted by Jabari Young of Forbes and supported by Oak View Group Arena Alliance, the NFL and Shinola.
Evening, Wednesday, June 21, 2023
Medal of Leadership Logo

To tip off the second Leadership Retreat and Workshop, Pro Sports Assembly will present the Medal of Leadership Awards to celebrate members who are advancing the professional sports industry, both inside their organization and beyond to elevate standards of leadership excellence. The opening celebration will elevate members who are building strong, healthy and fair organizations and communities. The Medal of Leadership Awards were inspired by two leaders who have lifted inclusive leadership to new heights: Jason Jenkins and Cynt Marshall. They have leveraged their positions of influence to benefit the greater good and epitomize what it means to be a PRO.  

Meet the inaugural PRO Medal of Leadership Award honorees:

  • Jason Jenkins “Victory for Humanity” Award - Xavier Gutierrez, President & CEO of the Arizona Coyotes
  • Marshall Award for Values in Sport - Michele Roberts, National Cycling League investor and former Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association
  • Visionary Leadership Award - Lester Jones, Senior Vice President of Financial Planning and Analysis at the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena
  • Rising Leader Award - Mary Kate Meals, Senior Coordinator of Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement at Rock Entertainment Group

Learn more about the awards here.  

— Entertainment and Reception presented by Oak View Group Arena Alliance —

DAY TWO: Evolution of Leadership in Pro Sports
presented by Brand|Pride, Novus Global, Navigate, and Redemption
Thursday, June 22, 2023

The focus of the second PRO Leadership Retreat and Workshop will turn attention to exploring what it takes to evolve leadership of this industry.  June 22nd is when the "work" in the workshop begins. Andrea Chambers, Awenate Cobbina, Monica Dixon, Will Hurd, Alexis Meruelo, Jason Wright and more are confirmed to lead conversations about how leadership is transforming professional sports, where it's fallen short and what the future may look like. The Global Sport Institute team at Arizona State University will be back to support two workshops and provide tools you can use to lead sessions with your own team. 

— Breakfast Workshop with Breakthru Brands —

Opening Keynote: Leadership Evolution from the Investor and Player Perspective
The professional sports industry employs 150,000+/- individuals across the US. Our influential workforce contributes economic, cultural and political capital in meaningful ways, but historically it has faced existential threats operating as “billion-dollar lemonade stands.” As you think about the future of leadership in professional sports and consider the increasing sophistication and integration of teams, leagues and unions with other industries, systems and economies, what do you look for in leadership to help strengthen and protect your investment? As Pro Sports Assembly arms professionals across all leagues with data, resources and tools to support their evolving strategy for their organizations, what are your hopes for the future of sports and how can team members serve as individual contributors to make transformational change collectively?
  • Alexis Meruelo; Ownership Family, Arizona Coyotes
  • Scott Rochelle; CEO, National Basketball Retired Players Association
Workshop: Vision - Voice - Values Workshop with Novus Global
Influencing and impacting the future of an industry requires intentional leadership. Elite executive coaches from Novus Global who work with exceptional talent in creating lives, teams, and companies to go beyond high performance have prepared a workshop for PRO leaders to support maximizing their impact on the industry. During part 1 of the Vision - Voice - Values workshop, PRO leaders will walk away with the foundational tools to create a vision that incites passion in both themselves and their organization and is worth pursuing. As we continue to collaborate, our visions will lead to a stronger, healthier, and fairer future for the industry, starting from their own position of influence. PRO leaders at The Assembly will have exclusive access to parts 2 and 3 of this elite learning experience.
  • Kristin Frade - Associate Partner
  • Demore Barnes - Associate Partner
  • Lori Krueger - Associate Coach
State of the Industry: Where We Are vs. Where We Are Headed
To make an impact and continue to drive our industry forward, we must first understand how to measure success. The State of The Industry will present The Assembly attendees with data from three different perspectives. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) will focus on data from industry league reports, Mercer’s presentation will focus on US workforce trends that can help pro sports leaders plan into the future, and Arizona State University’s Global Sport Institute (GSI) will focus on data from professional sports consumers. The data will set the stage for our workshop. 
  • Adrien Bouchet; TIDES Institute
  • Howard Levine; Mercer
  • Dr. Casey Sechler; Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University

Workshop: We have new perspectives and new data, now what do we do?
Pro sports organizations face similar challenges when it comes to talent, economic turbulence and fan + brand response to social issues. Exploring what we can do individually, at an organizational level, and for the good of the industry is imperative for sustaining a strong healthy and fair future for inclusive leaders. With the Global Sport Institute and Dr. Chelsea Heyward, we will workshop and share plans for overcoming challenges amongst peers and provide tools and tactics to take back to our respective organizations to make a sustainable impact.

Leading through Organization Evolution: A Conversation with Jason Wright, Andre Chambers and Ann Seeney
From investigation, implementation, and restoration, preparing great leaders to navigate each stage well and with support is key to making pro sports a strong, healthy and fair industry. Learn directly from those who are doing the tough job of accounting for the past while leading in the present to create a more healthy future during this discussion. While these leaders are in the throes of organizational evolution, their insights can help us to recognize problems, protect people and collectively establish solutions for the industry. We’ll learn lessons on mitigating the impact on the brand, employees, sponsors, and community.  Leading through Organization Evolution: From investigation, implementation, and restoration preparing great leaders to navigate each stage well and with support is key to making pro sports a strong, healthy and fair industry. 
  • Hugh Weber; President, Seattle Sounders
  • Jason Wright; President, Washington Commanders 
  • Andre Chambers; Chief People Officer, Washington Commanders
  • Ann Seeney; Chief People & Diversity Officer, U.S. Soccer Federation
Design Thinking Workshop: Designing Industry Standards
Taking into account the aspirations, data and challenges shared earlier, this workshop will guide in designing a framework for the development of industry standards to help leaders be more successful across all disciplines. 
As you think about the future of leadership in professional sports and consider the increasing sophistication and integration of teams, leagues and unions with other industries, systems and economies, how could the development of inclusively designed industry standards for pro sports organizations (teams, leagues, unions) help strengthen and protect your investment?  Standards such as infrastructure (financing/banking/PE, sustainability, vendor/supplier, accessibility, IT), human capital (ethics, pay equity, bonus qualifiers, professional development, healthcare), advocacy (fan safety, alcohol and ticket regulation, insurance, ESG, betting), and new tech/innovation (social media policies, metaverse, AI use).
Could these help in the hiring and retention of your key leadership positions? Could industry standards help with the mitigation of risk (i.e. pandemic response, forced sale) around your plans, investments and long-term objectives?
  • Dr. Chelsea Heyward
  • Dr. Scott N. Brooks; Director, Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University
  • Kendall Jones; Manager of Strategic Initiatives, Global Sport Institute

Fireside Chat: Finding Common Ground for the Greater Good

As young leaders on Capital Hill, Ashley Bell, Awenate Cobinna, Monica Dixon and Will Hurd achieved great success by setting politics aside to work "across the aisle" and bring important policies to life. They assumed those positions with people-first perspectives that proved both unifying and challenging. Their work in professional sports brings this same spirit to life in powerful ways.After Ashley left his role as a White House Policy Advisor for Entrepreneurship in 2019, he turned his attention to creating the National Black Bank Foundation which has been instrumental in leveraging professional sports assets to deepen the economic impact of the industry alongside Black owned businesses. Will became the youngest and first-ever Black Republican to represent Texas' 23 district in Congress and has since joined Allen & Co., the investment bank at the center of many pro-team transactions. After stints in both the NFL and NBA, and Obama and Biden administrations, Awenate became the CEO of Bedrock Manufacturing Co (Shinola and Filson) in January 2022.  And, after serving in Chief of Staff roles in both Congress and the Office of the Vice President, Monica Dixon began her leadership journey with Monumental Sports & Entertainment in 2015. Join these politically astute and savvy waymakers as they share challenges and solutions to working across political divides and learn how they are leveraging their leadership roles to ensure more pathways for inclusive leaders far into the future.

  • Ashley Bell; CEO, Redemption Bank and Co-Founder, National Black Bank Foundation
  • Awenate Cobbina; CEO, Bedrock Manufacturing
  • Will Hurd; Managing Director, Allen & Co., former CIA and US Congressman
  • Monica Dixon; President, Monumental Sports & Entertainment

— NBA Draft Watch Party, presented by Tito’s —

DAY THREE: Evolution of Business Operations 
Sustainability, Partnerships and Purpose presented by Dallas Sports Commission, Evolved Experience Solutions
Friday, June 23, 2022 - Honoring the 50th Anniversary of Title IX
On this day 51 years ago, the landmark gender equality legislation, Title IX, was implemented. We celebrate its everlasting impact on the sports world, reflect on how it shaped the way the industry created more diverse opportunities for many, and what we hope and expect for the future. With key learnings from Title IX, Pro Sports Assembly hopes to be the leader in changing the representation of leadership across professional sports, how we implement diversity and inclusion, and navigate challenges to cultivate this mindset across teams, leagues, unions and venues.
Day 3 will challenge the way we think about key operations in our business. Dynamic sports leaders are concerned with what happens far beyond the court, field, course, or rink; our legacy including the carbon footprint left through events and general business operations is critical to future successes. Our intentionality with partners and vendors who leverage their position of influence and impact is just as important.  We will take learnings from experts to help diagnose where we are as leaders, consider what to do together and independently, and explore how to leverage our leadership influence for lasting impact on front offices, our community, and the industry of professional sports. 

— Breakfast Workshops with Dallas Sports and Evolved Experience Solutions —

Live Case Study #1: Sustainability
Learn from organizations that are making strides in integrating sustainability into business operations. Analyze how these organizations embrace sustainable practices, reduce their environmental impact, and generate positive social and economic outcomes. Explore the strategies, challenges, and impacts of implementing sustainable practices in professional sports.
  • with Nick Otte at Austin FC and Frantzer Le Blanc at OVG
Live Case Study #2: Leveraging Partnerships with Purpose 
This live case study aims to explore the strategies and outcomes of leveraging partnerships to create a positive impact on society. By examining real-world examples, this study delves into the various ways in which collaborations between sports organizations, corporate entities, and community stakeholders can be harnessed to bring about social change, promote inclusivity, and address pressing societal challenges.
  • with Ami Galani at Elysian Park Ventures and Danielle du Toit at SeatGeek
Live Case Study #3: Equity v Equality Live Debate Workshop 
While most executives today seem to agree that diversity and inclusion is the right thing to do in business, they often have differing views on strategies to achieve true diversity and inclusion. Today we will debate the equity approach versus the equality approach. Attendees will be tasked with developing compelling responses to common rebuttals to their assigned equitable or equal approaches and the workshop will culminate with a live debate of solution-based arguments. This workshop aims to create a safe and honest space for working through different ideologies and embracing new ideas on how to achieve our common goal of elevating the sports industry as the standard-bearer for inclusive leadership. 
  • Esé Ighedosa, Esq., Co-Founder, Pro Sports Assembly 
  • Dr. Debonair Oates-Primus, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Oak View Group

Membership Meeting:
  • Recognition of Members
  • “State of PRO”
    • Chair Report
    • Officers Report (finance, nominations, and programs)
  • Leadership and Engagement Opportunities and Elections

Wrap-up: What are you going to do? How are we going to support each other? What are our next steps? 
As an Assembly of leaders, what will we do individually and collectively to nurture intentional, inclusive leadership across professional sports? This isn’t a rhetorical question. Everyone will be invited to share and support the work ahead.

Sticking around? Be sure to check out these uniquely Austin, TX opportunities.  
  • LBJ Presidential Library, which holds the archives for the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act
  • Kid Rock at the Moody Center - Friday night complimentary tickets from Oak View Group
  • SUP on Lady Bird Lake
  • Shopping on South Congress Ave
  • Visit the Opal Lee portrait at the Texas Capital