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How the President of the Las Vegas Raiders Gets It Done

Leading a sports franchise was never something Sandra Douglass Morgan, the president of the Las Vegas Raiders, envisioned for herself. She was born, raised, and still resides in the city, which didn’t have a single professional sports team until the late 2010s. The Raiders moved over from Oakland in 2020, and two years later, Morgan made history when she was hired as the first Black woman president of an NFL team (and she was only the third woman or Black person to ever hold that title). “Fifty percent of NFL fans are women,” she says. “We always talk about making sure that decisions are made with the fan in mind, and to have someone in a leadership position that can actually talk to and relate to 50 percent of the fan base is incredibly important.”

With over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a number of impressive roles under her belt — including serving as the city attorney for North Las Vegas and the chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board — it’s no surprise Raiders owner Mark Davis sought Morgan out for multiple roles before eventually approaching her to be the team president. “It wasn’t something that I was actively seeking,” she says. “But it was an incredible opportunity, and with the preparation and the things that I dealt with in my career, it was something that I definitely wouldn’t turn down.” She’s since launched a number of community-driven initiatives, including a program that partners the team with women-owned and diverse businesses. When I spoke with Morgan, she and the Raiders were preparing to host thousands of guests (and Taylor Swift) at Super Bowl LVIII. Here’s how she gets it done.

On her morning routine: 
I wake up around 5:30 or 6 a.m. I get up that early naturally, but we also have to make sure that our kids are up by at least 6:45. I have two children; they’re 17 and 13. My son drives, and they’re on their way to independence, but we’re not quite there yet. When I get up, I’m usually lucky enough that my husband brings me coffee. We turn on SportsCenter and see what the sports news is in the morning. I take a look at our local paper and The Wall Street Journal. And then it’s go time. I usually don’t eat until around 7. That can be anything from a croissant to a yogurt parfait, but it’s usually quick and on the go. Then I look at my calendar. I always check it before I go to sleep and then again in the morning to see if anything’s changed. I hit the road around 7:30.

On a typical day during football season vs. off-season: 
I’m responsible for all of our success off the field, so it’s a lot of meetings. During the season, there’s a lot more focus on game-day preparation, whether it be getting updates on special guests that we may have coming or looking at different concerts and events that are happening before or after the game. We have a wonderful halftime show every game. It’s usually a well-known artist, so we’re navigating that and seeing if any of our partners want to meet them.

I used to think that our off-season was truly an off-season. But after my first season, I learned that’s when a lot of the work is really done. We’re working with football operations and seeing what training camp looks like, making sure we’re supporting their needs. We’re also looking at off-season concerts and other events. On top of it all, I’m on some subcommittees of the NFL, like the Stadium Committee and the Legal Sports Betting Committee.

On how she celebrates a win at work:
A high-five and a “great job.” In all seriousness, these last few weeks have been an incredibly trying time for the team getting ready for the Super Bowl, because we are on the ground supporting the NFL and supporting the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. We’re gonna celebrate with a large post–Super Bowl party.

On staying grounded:
Every evening — or I would say at least five out of seven nights — my husband and I go on our upstairs patio and talk. It could be venting, it could be laughing, or it could just be reflecting. It’s something we do that makes us realize that we’re just small pieces to a much, much bigger world. It’s a good reset. It’s calming, even if it’s for five minutes. And it’s something that we do that helps us connect as a couple.

On the last show she binge-watched: 
Yellowstone. Cole Hauser (who playsRip) is actually a huge Raiders fan and we had a chance to meet him, so that was nice. If I watch something on TV, it’s usually going to be a stand-up comedy or sports. Oh, and I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan.

On dealing with criticism: 
It’s part of the job, especially when you’re dealing with a team that has a very strong fan base and you’re dealing with wins and losses every week. If I know that everything I’m doing is going to be in the best interest of the Raiders, then I’m going to be able to sleep at night. If it’s a personal decision, if I know that everything I do is going to be the best thing for my family, then I’ll be able to sleep at night. Criticism is challenging, of course, but I am open to receiving it. It’s important to be able to grow, take feedback, and apply it.

On the team accomplishments she’s most proud of:
The Raiders are continuing to build our brand and our Las Vegas fan base, and doing so in a way that is truly meaningful to our community. We’re investing in growing the game of football and encouraging physical and mental health. We’re having our first gala that is focused solely on making sure that we’re expanding mental-health resources in southern Nevada. With the growth of flag football and it now being an Olympic sport, we know that more girls and young women are going to be fans of the game. Why not allow them to play and grow with it?

On the advice she wishes she’d gotten at the start of her career: 
I wish someone would have told me to be more vocal in sharing my own goals, both personal and professional. It wasn’t until I made a pivot to go to a different job that my mentor and I had a conversation about what I was interested in doing and why I made the switch. He was like, “Why didn’t you tell me before?” For me, it was always: Get a job, put your head down, go to work, do your best, go home, repeat. I always thought, Do the job that’s given to me and chase those other interests on my own. But if I had shared my goals with a partner at a firm or someone a little more senior to me, maybe I could have had those opportunities earlier. That vulnerability will help people get there faster than doing it on their own.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Brooke LaMantia , 2024-02-12 12:00:14

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