Women in Sports and Events (WISE), the leading voice and resource for women in the business of sports, today announced the five recipients of its 2019 “Women of Distinction” Awards, which will be presented when the organization celebrates its 25th annual awards luncheon on June 19 in New York City.
To mark the milestone, WISE will replace its iconic “WISE Women of the Year” moniker and recognize five Women of Distinction. The honorees — Anita DeFrantz, Janet Fletcher, Lisa Murray, Michele Roberts and Suzanne Smith — were selected based on criteria including 20-plus years of experience in the sports industry, demonstrated strength in their overall body of work, and continued support in and around the industry while making their mark as pioneers in their field. The honorees were selected by the WISE National Board of Directors.
“The 2019 Women of Distinction honorees are true trailblazers in our industry and epitomize everything WISE seeks to represent — inspire, develop and support women in the business of sports,” said Kathleen Francis, national board chair and president of WISE. “They are proven leaders and mentors to many.”
The 2019 Women of Distinction honorees are:
- Anita DeFrantz, Vice President, International Olympic Committee. An Olympic bronze medalist in rowing, humanitarian, speaker, author and attorney, Anita DeFrantz is one of only four vice presidents of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and was elected to IOC membership in 1986, making her the first African-American and first American woman to serve on the committee. She has been a leader in the national and international Olympic movement and is a vocal advocate for equal rights of women in sport and the importance of inclusion of all people in athletic endeavors. She is credited for the addition of women’s softball and soccer to the Olympics. She has received numerous awards, honors and recognitions, including being named to Newsweek‘s 150 women who shake the world, NCAA’s 100 most influential student-athletes, Sports Illustrated‘s 101 most influential minorities in all of sports and Sporting News‘ 100 most powerful people in sports 1991–99.
- Janet Fletcher, Director, Olympics and Sports Marketing, The Procter & Gamble Company. As the marketing leader for P&G’s sports sponsorships, including its NFL and Olympics partnerships, Fletcher is one of the original architects behind the award-winning “Thank You, Mom” campaign. Fletcher continues to guide and nurture its creative development, informed by insights and experiences from her personal relationships with Olympic and Paralympic athletes and their families. She joined the company in 1987 and became its first female sports marketing leader in 2000, working in roles spanning from global product design initiatives to marketing for its brands. Committed to mentoring and supporting women who work in the sports industry, Fletcher passionately supports the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program. She was named a SportsBusiness Journal Game Changer in 2016.
- Lisa Murray, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Marketing Officer, Octagon Sports and Entertainment Network. A 28-year Octagon veteran, Lisa Murray oversees marketing and communications for the brand worldwide. Her leadership extends across the entire Octagon Sports and Entertainment Network, where she is the key driver of multi-agency integration and shared best practices. She is a sought-after resource for the company’s long-standing corporate clients including Allstate, Cisco and Johnson & Johnson, leveraging her vast expertise across the largest global sports properties including the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup. Her work drives business growth and efficiencies across the sports, music and entertainment enterprise that encompasses Octagon, FRUKT, Rogers & Cowan and Milkmoney. Murray was named the national chair of IPG’s Women’s Leadership Network in 2019, a WISE NYC Metro Chapter Women of Inspiration honoree in 2016 and a SportsBusiness Journal Game Changer in 2011. She has been included in Adweek‘s 2017 Most Powerful Women in Sports, Sporting News annual Power 100 and SportsBusiness Journal’s top 20 most influential women in the industry lists, and has served as a WISE Within mentor multiple times.
- Michele A. Roberts, Executive Director, National Basketball Players Association. As the first woman to head a major professional sports union in North America, Michele Roberts serves as the primary advocate for all players, ensuring the protection of the National Basketball Players Association and its membership, including serving as the lead negotiator in all collective bargaining activities. In 2018, she was re-elected to serve a second four-year term by a unanimous vote. Previously, Roberts was a trial lawyer and member of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s Litigation Group. Her practice focused on complex civil and white-collar criminal litigation before state and federal courts and in administrative proceedings. She also served for eight years in the office of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where she was named Chief of the Trial Division, and as an adjunct faculty member at Harvard Law School. She is a frequent lecturer and presenter to both the bench and bar on a variety of topics related to litigation and trial practice. Roberts was named a SportsBusiness Journal Game Changer in 2015.
- Suzanne Smith, Director and Producer, CBS Sports. A six-time Emmy Award-winner, Suzanne Smith has been nationally recognized for her accomplishments in sports media and event production. She is a director for the NFL on CBS and currently the only woman, for any network, either producing or directing NFL games. Smith’s wide-array of experience includes director for NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship; a member of the Masters production team; and coordinating producer and director of We Need to Talk, the first-ever nationally televised all-female sports show. Throughout her career, Smith has been a pioneer for women in sports television. She continues to build her resume while mentoring young women aspiring to be in television production. Smith was inducted into her alma mater the Temple University School of Communications Hall of Fame and honored with the Excellence in Media Award in 2008. Her other honors include Directors Guild of America Award; the Mary Garber Pioneer Award from the Association for Women in Sports Media; 2015 SportsBusiness Journal Game Changer; and WISE NYC Metro Chapter Women of Inspiration honoree.
In conjunction with the WISE Annual Awards Luncheon, the WISE/R Symposium, a first of its kind to focus solely on the personal and professional development of women in the business of sports, will take place on June 18, the day prior to the luncheon. Launched in 2014, the day-long program takes a 360-degree view of working in sports and includes sessions featuring leaders across the industry who share their stories, discuss trends, provide actionable strategies to making an impact and dispel myths about the best jobs for women.
Additional information about the 2019 Women of Distinction honorees, the 25th WISE Annual Awards Luncheon and the WISE/R Symposium can be found at WISEworks.org.