The “W” represents women. Specifically, those who make up the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), the first sports labor union for women athletes. “I am the Director of Operations for the powerful, the strong, the intelligent, the diverse, the beautiful, the beautifully diverse women who play basketball in the WNBA, arguably the most elite level in the world. This gathering is as much a celebration of who they are as it is a demonstration of support for who they are; where they are in this moment and where they are headed! This is the Power of the W!”
I delivered those initial remarks before introducing Donna Brazile (pictured with me above to the left) at a private event for current and former WNBA players. My objective was to honor the players, describe my role in their union, and then set the tone for what I knew was going to be an inspiring conversation with Ms. Brazile, who at that time was the Interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee.
My remarks that night provided an opportunity for me to reflect on my position with the union. The job is equal parts negotiator, good listener and problem solver, marketing and creative consultant, fixer and all things good governance. I report to union leadership – an executive committee of players and a board of player representatives. When you get to know the WNBPA membership, then you understand why I love my job. They are tremendous competitors on the court, and it does not end there. They are even more off the court. My team and I are privileged to represent their multifaceted, collective interests.
As I also shared in my remarks, in just my first 90 days, WNBA players had a defining moment in social advocacy. It was July 2016. It was the middle of my first season and the middle of a tough summer for our country because of the violence in the form of police shootings in Texas and Minnesota and the violence that targeted the police themselves. In response, there was the emergence of an entire league of players. A membership of black, brown and white voices, 100+ strong, who united and said, “Enough!” to all the violence.
“I am the Director of Operations for the powerful, the strong, the intelligent, the diverse, the beautiful, the beautifully diverse women who play basketball in the WNBA, arguably the most elite level in the world. … This is the Power of the W!” — Terri Jackson
There are all kinds of ways to make a statement, but the visual of entire teams of embracing players is impactful. I remember one article described their demonstrations as the “most united, persistent, political statement in sports history.” Professional athletes taking on social engagement was not new. But what this entire league of WNBA players had done might have been new. It was a true call to action. One of the lessons learned from the 2016 season is the power in the collective voice. Specifically, the power of sports unions. The WNBPA was started because the well-established union for NBA players, the National Basketball Players Association, advised WNBA players on the value of organizing. A simple concept: players supporting players.
Building relationships in the labor movement will be key for reasons that are obvious, like sharing collective bargaining and negotiating resources. And for reasons that may not be so obvious, like building a more robust business and licensing program. That’s where a new relationship with the NFL Players Association and its marketing arm, NFL Players Inc., will play a valuable and critical role. Again, players supporting players.
Working with NFL Players Inc., we have created a strategic marketing plan that will help us identify potential partners who recognize and embrace the diversity and the range of off-the-court interests and talents in our athletes. Our goal is to partner with companies whose products and services highlight WNBA players. Businesses that promote healthy images of women and girls; empower and support moms; and are looking for elite level, but down to earth, sports influencers are businesses that I want to meet and determine how we can work together. In that way, I can best serve my membership and advance the union. This is the Power of the W 2.0!
Contributor: Terri Carmichael Jackson earned her Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center and Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown University. She is the recipient of her alma maters’ distinguished awards for community service and service to the legal profession. She is happily married to Jaren Jackson, former NBA Champion (San Antonio Spurs). Terri and Jaren are the proud parents of one son, Jaren Jr. The WNBA celebrates its 20th anniversary at the conclusion of this 2018 season.