By Cassandra Cousineau, LVSportsBiz.com Staff Writer
It’s been three months since the Las Vegas Raiders announced the hiring of Sandra Douglass Morgan as its new team president, making her the first female African-American president of an NFL team. The former chairwoman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board oversees all business operations, finances, sales, marketing, non-football personnel, and administration for the Raiders and Allegiant Stadium.
Douglass Morgan’s new job at the Raiders came at a tumultuous time in the organization’s history with front office executives coming and going. When we sat down to speak with the Silver and Black’s highest-profile hire in the past 12 months, it became clear she has formidable tasks. The 44-year-old Las Vegas native shared some of those, while keeping others close to the vest in the way that an experienced lawyer would.
LVSportsBiz.com asked Douglass Morgan at the start of our interview this week about how she was going to stabilize the business organization and lead the Raiders into even a more profitable direction.
I think that you can still do that while treating people with dignity, and respect, and encouraging people to have each other’s backs and support each other and all work together collectively to do what’s best for the Raiders. — Raiders team President Sandra Douglass Morgan
In July 2021, ex-longtime Raiders staffer and former team president Marc Badain resigned.
Raiders owner Mark Davis later said that Badain and a few other top executives left because of “accounting irregularities.” Then Jon Gruden, the Raiders’ former coach, also resigned in the wake of news reports detailing his use of racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments in emails over the years.
Add to that, women who used to work for the Raiders alleged harassment, forced demotions and unequal treatment.
Flanked by the iconic Raiders Silver and Black logo, Douglass Morgan told LVSportsBiz, “I do think my appointment was definitely broader than just about HR. I think it was more of Mark’s and probably a better question for him, but Mark’s decision to show a leader that sees people for people, but also can deliver results and deliver the revenue to make sure that this is a successful team and a successful stadium on the business side.”
Regarding the staff turnover, Douglass Morgan said, “With respect to some of the turnover that’s happened, my goal has always been and it will be at the Raiders to communicate directly and effectively and often, to convey expectations and to hold people accountable.”
During her short tenure, Douglass Morgan has stabilized a turbulent front office. The team’s general counsel, Kevin Manara, left and his position was filled by Justin Carley, a former Howard Hughes Corporation lawyer.
Asked about the general counsel transition, she said, “We’re always going to continue to change and adapt those as circumstances change. I’m going to be optimistic and focus on the future and I’m just ecstatic that Justin will be joining us next week “
Douglass Morgan also added long-time political consultant, Piper Overstreet-White, as vice president of government relations.
Behind Douglass Morgan’s disarming smile is an experienced legal mind. Her straightforwardness is nuanced by what Davis called, “A force to be reckoned with.”
Douglass Morgan said leadership starts at the top.
“To have an owner be so publicly supportive of me in this role, you know, the leadership really starts at the top. But, if you look at Nikki Fargas at the Aces and some other things that he’s doing, I just know that he has entrusted the Raiders [to me], which is such a rich part of his family’s legacy,” she said. “It’s incredibly humbling for me to hear him say that about me.”
While many NFL team presidents ascend to the position through specific inner circles, Douglass Morgan followed a different path.
Breaking barriers is nothing new for her. Douglass Morgan was a defense attorney, who later became a litigation attorney for The Mirage from 2005 to 2008. She then worked as city attorney for North Las Vegas from 2008 to 2016 becoming the first African-American to hold such a role in Nevada.
Douglass Morgan also had a taste of the corporate world, serving as director of external affairs for AT&T Services from 2016 to 2019.
The mother of two has ties to the NFL through her role as vice chairwoman of the Las Vegas Super Bowl host committee. She was appointed to the board of directors of Allegiant Travel Co., which owns Allegiant Air, the naming rights partner of Allegiant Stadium.
“As a woman of color people kind of speculate as to why you get a certain role without really taking the time to look at our respective biographies and what we’ve done in the spaces where we’ve operated,” Douglass Morgan said. “As you know, we often have to work twice as hard to even kind of not only be noticed, but to even be given the opportunity to serve In certain spaces and certain leadership roles.”
The NFL, as a whole, has earned warranted criticism for its track record on hiring women and people of color.
She joined an NFL team known for breaking new ground when it came to hires.
“This is not something that’s new for the Raiders. You know, Al Davis Mark’s father, made a bold decision back in the 1960s to move the location of the AFL All Star game from New Orleans because Black players weren’t being treated properly in New Orleans in the deep south,” Douglass Morgan said.
“He hired the first Latino head coach in Tom Flores, Hall of Famer, Art Shell was the first African American coach, and he hired the first female Chief Executive of a team in Amy Trask,” she said.
Amid the human resources trouble, and disturbing off-the-field behavior by Raiders players, Douglass Morgan inherited a deep well of good business news for the Raiders.
Last year, the Silver and Black were the highest ticket revenue generating team in the NFL. A business magazine said the Raiders were valued at $5.1 billion.
And in 2020, personal seat licenses had generated $549.2 million.
The new $2 billion stadium project, paid for with a record NFL stadium public contribution of $750 million, helped the Raiders’ corporate sponsorships soar from the NFL bottom to near the top.
Douglass Morgan did not reveal any revenue-making plans.
“I don’t want to share all of our secrets, but I know that I’m incredibly, incredibly proud of the team. I think we want to focus on being data driven on a lot of the decisions we’re making,” she said.
It’s clear the Raiders will rely on the publicly-subsidized domed stadium to deliver revenues and profits for their private organization.
“I think combined with my understanding of this community and of what Las Vegas is and having the best of hospitality and entertainment and making sure that with sports, those are all coming together. For example, the ability for us to host things like the NFL Draft and the Pro bowl and the Summer League now for multiple years has shown that people love sports, people went to that mix of being able to watch a game and maybe go to a show and stay, be able to stay at one of the best hotel and resorts in the world and we provide that like no other city in the nation.”
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