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From Entry Level To NFL Exec: I Created A Playbook For Women Who Work In Sports

I'm honored to have the opportunity to start, and build, a department in the NFL. So, now I'm here to tell you what I know.

As Told To

As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.

This is Chanelle Reynolds' story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

I'm often asked how I got to where I am.

Mainly because the sports industry doesn't have many black execs within sports organizations, especially African-American women. Seeing us in this industry, is like seeing a unicorn and because of that, I think people are attracted to my story--which is why I'm always happy to tell it.

If you aren't aware, I am a female executive in one of the most male-dominated industries on this planet. I'm honored to be in my position, to have the opportunity to start and build a department for The Washington Football team. Yes, I'm consistently in daily and weekly board meetings with all departments, each being essential when you work for an organization that employs over 50,000 staff members. I train my team on new projects or initiatives we would like to accomplish. I also contact large corporations to build relationships and invite them to attend our games. Off-season schedule is typically 9-5 however, my in-season schedule varies as I tend to work longer hours on game and event nights.

Ultimately, I'm responsible for creating new and essential relationships with individuals to generate new business opportunities.

Sounds fun, right? A bit exclusive too. But trust, there is a lot of work that goes into this game.

--

I was born and raised in the Mid-Atlantic waters of Delaware. Growing up, I always knew I would make an impact in business, someway. How, I wasn't exactly sure. I certainly didn't know I would be working in the sports business, but I always loved going to live sporting events. I remember going to the Sixers games with my dad, and my family and church members. It was so electrifying, so intense. And remember, this was during the A.I. era; I loved the type of player he was. He was so fun to watch and made an impact on sports and culture as a whole. So basically, my fandom gained momentum from here.

I began my career in the NBA G-League as a Ticket Sales Account Executive, where I worked in ticket sales, and which was definitely a grind. Coming in as an entry-level employee for a minor league team gives you a special type of grit and hustle that others may not be able to fathom.

But ultimately, while there, I enjoyed the thrill and decided to have fun with it. A shift came when I started exploring different departments, and building my reputation. I worked with so many amazing individuals and left the organization as a Group Sales Manager. My work preceded me and followed me all the way to being named Delaware's Top 40 under 40 in Delaware Business Times.

This opportunity prepared me for my next position. I knew there was a higher hustle there, I knew I could do more. I knew I could leverage these opportunities, and catapult myself into what was next. Eventually, I transitioned into the NFL, and was hired by The Washington Football Team as the Director of Group Sales, which is the point of where I am now in my career. Everyday, I am lucky enough to lead a team of dynamic and driven sales account executives, feeding and applying everything that I've learned over the years directly into my department, from grinding in the G-League, all the way to literally walking clients down to the field to experience halftime shows up close.

Is it all too much? I would be lying if I didn't say that sometimes it is. Because I've learned that I love people, and I love building relationships, and I love being in the sales department; my job is instinctual. But sometimes that can take its toll. I protect my energy by identifying with a tribe of people that I can be vulnerable with and I also create a safe space within my professional space. Also, I'm very passionate about my faith. So I often lean on prayer and read the bible. This is what keeps me going.

Most importantly, I take true moments of solitude; just reflecting on the journey, thankful for the lessons and being privileged enough to consider my trials and tribulations as a blessing.

And there are plenty of trials and tribulations that I could talk about for days, which I'm always willing to share. With being a black woman working in the industry, I'm often asked for advice on how to navigate, and how to stand out, and honestly, I could offer up gems and hacks for days.

So, my best advice lies here:

  • You need a mentor and you need to be vocal, but also connect with as many people as possible. This is a relationship industry.
  • The industry is a lot smaller than you think. Try not to burn bridges with colleagues or employers. You want people to respect you based on your reputation and if you have a bad reputation, then it might not work out in your favor.
  • Work ethic and integrity will trump what you see on how to be successful in the TV shows.
  • I know it's not popular, but Linkedin is your friend.
  • This industry gives you no time to process emotions or inconveniences. I was once pooped on by a bird while on-field with clients. Push through, even during the poopy moments.
But mostly, it is absolutely imperative that we know our individual limits, take a step back and regroup. Be in complete control of your calendar and your day.

For example, during football season I slow down on my "side hustle" endeavors because I know there won't be too much time for that. I decline speaking engagements, etc. It's important that we understand our limits.

--

In the end, I just want the world, specifically black women, to understand that no matter who they are, what they look like, or what statistics say, success is at your fingertips. Whatever you want to do you can do it. Take a leap of faith, develop a strategy and hit the ground running...as if you have a football.

Chanelle recently launched Hustle University, a series of master classes, webinars and coaching calls that teaches entrepreneurs how to be successful in their career and personal life. She also operates The Reynolds Group, and is the author of The Success Playbook. For more information, visit her website or follow her on Instagram at @chanellesreynolds.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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