In 2019 when the Super Bowl came to LaTonya Story’s city of Atlanta, she created The Sports Power Brunch: Celebrating the Most Powerful Women in Sports to recognize leading women who have made a major impact in the sports industry. Entering its fifth year, the annual event has become one of the hottest tickets during Super Bowl Week, providing inspiration, networking, and career advice for women across careers and demographics. LaTonya also is the CEO and Founder of LPS Consulting PR LLC, one of the leading minority and woman owned sports and lifestyle boutique agencies.
The following interview is edited for length and clarity.
What was the impetus behind starting the Sports Power Brunch? Was it important for you to tie to football and the Super Bowl?
I started the Sports Power Brunch in 2019, when the Super Bowl was in Atlanta, Georgia. Prior to that, I would do these events in the city called Lady’s Pigskin Sundays for women who love football. We would gather women together to watch football games with giveaways and a DJ. Then when the Super Bowl came around, I wanted to do an event the honored women I personally admired, like Amy Trask, Lisa Salters and Melanie Few. Some of them I did not know personally, but I believe a closed mouth don’t get fed, that you have not because you ask not. So, I went through the proper channels of reaching out either through their representative or through someone I was connected to with one degree of separation. I was able to get everyone I wanted to honor an invitation and they accepted and attended. From there, it just grew and we’re going into our fifth annual event in Las Vegas (in 2024).
To be honest, I don’t even think I forecasted what it could be. From the generosity of sponsors and partners and supporters, it collectively has evolved to what it is now. I’m just happy at the beginning I was able help create a platform that resonated with other people.
I picked the Super Bowl because I’m a football fan, I love it. But also, it’s the largest sporting event in the world. And we don’t just honor women who are a part of football, we honor women across the sport spectrum. Even though it’s taking place during Super Bowl week, it’s not limited to just those who work in football.
What lessons have you learned from taking this idea for the Sports Power Brunch and having it bloom into one of the most powerful gatherings for women’s voices across the sports industry? What would you want other aspiring connectors to know about this process of creation?
I think the three things that I can point to are community, impact, and faith. Community is people gathered together for a common goal. Impact is how it affects other people, not just me. Faith is to know anything that you believe in, the universe will bring to pass. I think the combination of all three of those is the lesson I’ve learned in all of this.
For aspiring connectors, I think it starts with having a great team around you, people who can follow and understand your vision. It’s different when you’re trying to do it yourself, but you can’t do everything alone. So having those right partners, vendors, supporters and sponsors who are aligned with what you’re trying to do, who buy into that vision, who want to see it succeed, is really important.
From ideation to execution, there are a lot of things that happened in between, and finding the right team, to be able to help that come to pass is really important.
In the beginning, I was doing everything myself, but trying to find other people to build my team was so important, because you get burnt out and then you’re not able to enjoy the fruits of your labor. When I first started, because I was doing everything, I didn’t even realize who was in the room. I missed out on opportunities to also network and connect. I would hear people say, “Oh, I really enjoyed your event.” And I was like, “Oh, you were there?”
Sports Power Brunch has featured panel discussions on women in sport media, in leadership, and coming up about women in sports law, showing a generation all the possible ways a career in sports can look. Why do you think women tend to have only a narrow view of how they can have a sports career?
It’s based on what you see. So, if you only see women in front of the camera, you don’t know that there are other career fields behind the camera, behind the scenes. We have a panel on women at the intersectionality of sports and tech and I’m super excited about that. With a panel on women in sports law, people may not know that you can be a general counsel or associate counsel. There are many different avenues of occupations that you can have. But again, it’s about visibility. If you don’t see it, you don’t know to dream, and you don’t know you can become it.
We know that diverse representation matters and that good intentions often fall short or ring hallow. What is one meaningful way for businesses to amplify the work of Black women in sports?
One meaningful way is putting them in positions to succeed and giving them the support to succeed. Hire those women who are qualified in roles that may not necessarily have been available to them. And don’t let it be just something that will check a box. Diverse voices can help business strategy. Sometimes people just don’t know how to read the room. If you don’t have someone in the room who can give you a different opinion, someone you can ask, “Hey, before we put this material out, let me know how it affects this population,” then you’re going to get backlash from it. That’s why it’s important to have diversity, equity and inclusion in the room.
And to your point of being meaningful, it has to be where they truly have a voice. It’s one thing to have someone of color or a minority in the room, but if they’re not empowered, if an executive changes a decision, then our voice is not being heard. It’s just a moot point.
What’s your advice for young women who want a career in a sports-related field or for women who may be mid-career and want to lean into a sports field?
Just never give up. And once you’re in the room, leave the door open for someone else to come in. Don’t be, “You know, I’m in. You figure out how to get here on your own.” That’s not a way to be sustainable. You have to be able to leave room at the table for others.
Speak up. Network. A closed mouth don’t get fed.
Sometimes people aspire to something and then try to reach out to people who may be out of their reach. But you know, I heard Issa Rae talk about networking on the level that you’re already on. So, if you see people who are on your same playing field, you can help one another out, because there’s going to be a point that you all rise together.