KPIX Channel 5 Sports Anchor Vernon Glenn Gives Shout-Out To Zennie62Media CEO Zennie Abraham For The Most Influential African American / Black Sports Executives In The SF Bay Area List
As we close Black History Month 2021, one question remains. Of all African American / Black sports executives in the San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose Bay Area, who makes up the list of the “The Most Influential African American / Black Sports Executives”? (And for those curious why I would use “African American / Black”, the primary concern is with search engine optimization and cultural habit: some prefer “African American” and others “Black”, so this is an attempt to capture both desires.)
Well, the hard truth is this: everyone you can name, and because compared to their white counterparts, the list is not a long one, to say the least. Moreover, an “influencer” is someone who has an above-average influence on their audience either by fame, title, or some combination of both. And who’s left off of a list demonstrates how little the person who makes such a tally really knows.
Since I can now say that I’ve been around awhile (and active in local sports media and also as a sports executive since 1993), I believe I can put together a definitive list almost everyone can agree on.
At first, I left out sports media personalities, but upon reflection, what better group of people can count as “influencers” than those who cover sports? But then, when we look from a media executive standpoint, we have to include people who actually run media organizations, either as publishers or editors or television anchors, or some combination of both.
So, with that, here is the list in alphabetical order, and which includes active executives and “legends”, or people who moved, retired, or passed on, but made a giant, notable, mark. Also, I left out elected officials who sat on boards because they are public officials who are overseers, and not called on to be specialists in the sports industry in any way.
Zenophon Abraham – Zennie62media, Inc. Founder and CEO, Sports Business Simulations Founder and CEO who’s Oakland Baseball Simworld game was used at University of San Francisco and 40 colleges and high schools and including interns of Giants, Raiders, and A’s between 2003 and 2010, Oakland-Alameda County Sports Commission Founder, Executive Director, who formed Oakland’s competitive bid to host the 2005 Super Bowl competition won by Jacksonville in 2000. I am now the only person in NFL history to have formed a bid for Oakland to host a Super Bowl Game. It wasn’t an easy job, and very complex and emotionally taxing. The work I did was recognized by the late Kansas City Chiefs Owner Lamar Hunt, and Indianapolis Colts Owner Jim Irsay, as well as current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Raiders CEO, now CBS Sports Analyst, Amy Trask. It formed my relationship with the NFL that lasts to this day. Moreover, as the Oakland Tribune noted in December of 2000, I did it single-handedly.
And prior to my Super Bowl work, I was Economic Advisor to Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris from 1995 to 1997, and the Mayor’s point person on matters regarding the Raiders, Oakland A’s, and Golden State Warriors, as all were tenants at the Oakland Coliseum Complex, which Oakland and Alameda County owned then, and now. While in that position, I worked with the NFL to re-establish the 49ers / Raiders Preseason Game.
Nana Attakora – Oakland Roots Professional Soccer Team Assistant Coach
Al Attles – The Golden State Warriors Head Coach and General Manager, was the NBA Team’s first black head coach.
Gordon Bayne – Mr. Bayne is Associate Athletics Director, Sports Administration at Cal, a post created for him. Previously, Mr. Bayne, the Cal-lifer who’s served U.C. Berkeley for three decades, was head of event management , and made sure that game operations for every home sports event ran smoothly, and was a supervisor for several sports. Now, Mr. Bayne is entrusted to manage the execution of the strategic plan for Cal Athletics.
Ray Bobbitt – Ray launched a community, grass-roots effort to save the Oakland Raiders, bankrolled the initial City of Oakland lawsuit against the NFL and the Raiders, and now heads the African American Sports And Entertainment Group that’s focused on forming a group of black owners of an NFL franchise for Oakland. Mr. Bobbitt also submitted a bid to purchase the City of Oakland’s portion of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Complex.
Donna Bolio – Ms. Bolio is Executive Assistant to The Director of Athletics at Santa Clara University. As Ms. Bolio is in her 20th year at Santa Clara, like Mr. Bayne at U.C. Berkeley, she’s rightfully earned the tag of “lifer”, and her vast array of high-level responsibilities reflect that. Donna Bolio provides administrative support to the athletic director, serves as the human resources manager for the entire department, and oversees the general office management of the department.
Mike Brown – Associate Head Coach For The Golden State Warriors
Paul Cobb – Publisher of The Oakland Post Newspaper and The Post News Group.
Bill Duffy – Famed NBA Sports Agent who’s represented NBA legends like Yao Ming, Steve Nash, Joakim Noah, Rajon Rondo, and Luka Dončić. Mr. Duffy is also working as part of Ray Bobbitt’s African American Sports And Entertainment Group to bring a black-owned NFL franchise to Oakland. He was also part of The Lott Group, which worked to keep the Raiders in Oakland – unfortunately, the NFL organization had eyes for Las Vegas, all along.
Patrick Dunkley – The Deputy Athletics Director Stanford Athletics is responsible for human resources, legal affairs and NCAA compliance and risk management for The Cardinal. Mr. Dunkley is also the sport administrator for indoor and outdoor track and field, cross-country, baseball, and is the secondary administrator for men’s basketball, according to the Stanford Athletics website.
Ty-Ron M. O. Douglas – Mr. Douglas is the inaugural Associate Athletics Director for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging at Cal.
Dr. Harry Edwards – Famed UC Berkeley Professor and NFL Consultant who encouraged the late San Francisco 49ers Coach Bill Walsh to form what is now the NFL’s Minority Coaching program, and has played a key role and served as a public face of the league’s social justice awareness program.
D’Lonra C. Ellis – D’Lonra C. Ellis is the Oakland Athletics’ Vice President and General Counsel. She is responsible for the organization’s legal matters, including intellectual property, real estate, employment, benefits, commercial, and government affairs.
Allison Furch – BDA Sports Management. Ms. Furch represents the Walnut Creek-based BDA Sports Management from her office in New York City. There, she works with sports legends like Steve Nash, Yao Ming, Zach LaVine, Luka Doncic, Klay Thompson, Rajon Rondo, Aaron Gordon, Tacko Fall, Kelly Oubre Jr., RJ Barrett, and firms like Nike, Puma, Bose, Beats by Dre, Sony, Pepsi Co., Feed America, Gov. Cuomo’s Office, EA Sports, Magnolia Pictures, Paramount Pictures, New York Post, Universal Pictures, GQ, Real Madrid, Maserati, AP, Uninterrupted, ESPN/ESPN+, and Showtime.
Merton Hanks – The 49ers Legend is now one to watch as a rising sports executive. Consider that he was assistant director of operations for the National Football League, and then the NFL Vice President of Operations in charge of player conduct. Then Merton was hired as Conference USA Senior Associate Commissioner in July 2016. On September 8, 2020 Mr. Hanks became the Senior Associate Commissioner, Football Operation for the PAC-12 conference.
Gail Hunter – Golden State Warriors Vice President of Public Affairs and Event Management. I was informed that Gail was hired by Apple Corporation.
Henry Gardner – Current Oakland Alameda County Coliseum JPA Executive Director who was Oakland’s longest serving and first black City Manager, and a noted expert on bond financing.
Aaron Goodwin – Aaron Goodwin is the Founder and President of Goodwin Sports Management. The man known for packaging $120 million worth of deals for LeBron James also sat on the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum JPA. Now, his practice is in Seattle, but since his roots are in Oakland, he’s listed here as active and not a legend.
Vernon Glenn – Long time, legendary KPIX Sports Anchor gained the nick name “Mr Involvement” after skydiving out of a plane some years ago.
Richard Gayle, M.D – The team doctor for the San Jose Earthquakes.
Terrell Lloyd – Mr. Lloyd is with the San Francisco 49ers as their full-time lead team photographer and managing all of the organization photography services.
David Kelly – Golden State Warriors noted lead Lawyer.
Arif Khatib – African American Sports Hall Of Fame Founder and Executive Director.
Shaun Livingston – Golden State Warriors Director of Player Affairs & Engagement
Ronnie Lott – The 49ers Legend and NFL Hall of Famer is a real estate developer and business investor who formed the group to build a stadium for Raiders in Oakland.
Marshawn Lynch – Sports Team Owner of The Oakland Panthers. And contrary to reports, the The Oakland Panthers are very much alive and will play the 2022 season at the Oakland Arena.
Martin Mayhew – The 49ers Player Personnel Director was just hired by The Washington Football Team three weeks ago.
Bernard Muir – Stanford Athletic Director
Monte Poole – My long time friend has went from Oakland Tribune’s influential sports columnist to television as a basketball analyst for NBC Bay Area. Monte’s also involved with Dave Stewart’s interest in sports-related real estate development at the Oakland Coliseum Complex.
Carl Reed – Mr. Reed is Assistant Athletic Director, Sports Administration and Student Services, at Santa Clara University. In his very busy role, Mr. Reed is the sports administrator for men’s and women’s water polo, men’s and women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s rowing, and oversees the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) in addition to his work as the department’s liaison to student life and the office of housing.
Jerry Rice – 49ers Legend and NFL Hall of Famer has successfully combined his sports-created public fame with marketing to become a noted local brand ambassador and now he is Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of G.O.A.T. Fuel.
David Shaw – The Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football, Stanford Football Head Coach, and holder of best record in Stanford History.
Taj Tashombe – Famed Vice President of Government Affairs at the Oakland Athletics. Mr. Tashombe oversees political, business and community engagement for the team’s new ballpark effort in Oakland
Mike Taylor – Legendary Oakland Raiders / Las Vegas Raiders Director Of Public Affairs.
Dave Stewart – The popular, legendary, Oakland A’s three-time World Series Champion, recently put in a $115 million bid to purchase City of Oakland’s share of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Stewart was also sports agent, MLB coach, and then front office executive, when he joined the Arizona Diamondbacks as GM in 2014.
Dr. Warren Strudwick – Dr. Warren Strudwick is the team physician and orthopaedic surgeon for the NFL Oakland Raiders since 1996. He was the team doctor to the Golden State Warriors, Cal Athletics, and for Team USA Olympic track and field. A highly-regarded sports medicine specialist, Dr. Strudwick regarded by many as the Bay Area’s leading sports medicine doctor.
Charles Woodson – The Oakland Raiders Legend and NFL Hall of Famer has, like Jerry Rice, successfully combined his sports-created public fame with marketing to become a noted wine maker. The NFL defensive great is also the founder of Charles Woodson Wines in Napa (now called Charles Woodson’s Intercept Wines). Mr Woodson’s gained a presence on the Super Bowl Week Party circuit, where he teams with popular Chef Charlie Palmer at the annual Culinary Kickoff Super Bowl Party.
The Legends Section Features People Who Moved, Retired, Or Passed On, But Made A Giant, Notable, Mark.
(Legend) Don Barksdale – Oakland-native and Berkeley High grad Don Barksdale arguably paved the way for Bill Russell to rise by being the first black basketball player in the Olympics and in the NBA, itself. It’s also noted that Barksdale owned one of only two black-owned record stores in Los Angeles during his time in UCLA. Because of that, he came to know legends like Etta James, Lou Rawls, and Nat King Cole.
(Legend) Dusty Baker – Former SF Giants Manager who steered the SF Giants to The World Series.
(Legend) Robert Bobb – Former Oakland City Manager / City Administrator is Founder and President of Robert Bobb Group, and former Washington D.C. City Administrator, who built Nationals Stadium and brought the Montreal Expos to D.C. He’s currently working with Ray Bobbitt on the African American Sports Investment Group. Mr. Bobb was also the person who put me in charge of Oakland’s Super Bowl Bid. Out of 11 cities, Oakland emerged as a finalist against Jacksonville, and Miami, for the right to host the 2005 Super Bowl that J-ville won.
(Legend) Kofi Bonner – The Cal dual masters degree (architecture and planning) grad, and my classmate, went on to become a famed economic developer who ran the Emeryville, San Francisco, and then Oakland Redevelopment Agencies. Then, in 1998, Kofi was hired by Carmen Policy, then the new President of The Cleveland Browns, to be the organization’s Chief Administrative Officer. He directed the building of the Browns new stadium, after being rebuffed in a similar attempt in San Francisco, for the 49ers in 1997. Now, Kofi is CEO of Bedrock, the development company owned by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.
(Legend) Robert Brown – Mr. Brown was Founder and President of sports marketing firm Sportsvisions for 16 years. He was on the Board of Directors of The Oakland Alameda County Sports Commission and played a key role in Oakland’s 2005 Super Bowl Bid. Today, Robert is Senior Vice President Business Development at Carol H. Williams Advertising.
(Legend) Morris Bradshaw – Retired Oakland Raiders Executive Assistant
(Legend) Todd Bozeman – Disgraced Cal Basketball Head Coach was also UC Berkeley’s first Black Head Coach, and managed a group of young stars led by Jason Kidd to the Golden Bears to three NCAA tournaments in four seasons. What did Todd in was a complete lack of any mentor to help the young coach with the pressure of being Cal’s first black head coach. As one who covered the team for The Montclarion in 1994, I witnessed that first hand. While Todd’s sometimes poor judgement follows him to this day in the case of Morgan State, his ability to get his squads to the NCAA Tournament at both Cal and at Morgan State is notable. I have always prayed for Coach Bozeman to reach unblemished success.
(Legend) Curt Flood – The late Oakland-grown MLB legend changed the contract playing field for baseball, forever. The definition of baller.
(Legend) Dennis Green – The late coaching legend was Stanford’s first Black Head Coach, who defied the odds and beat Notre Dame in 1991. He went on to coach in some of the NFL’s greatest games with the Minnesota Vikings and The Arizona Cardinals.
(Legend) Ralph Grant – The Late Founder of Oakland-based Grant & Smith CPA was also a sports agent who, in 1991, got former Notre Dame wide receiver/kick returner Raghib “Rocket” Ismail to pass on the NFL to sign a then-record contract worth up to $26 million with the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts.
(Legend) Hue Jackson – Oakland Raiders second Black Head Coach.
(Legend) Sylvester Jackson – A painting of Sylvester Jackson hangs in the Oakland Coliseum, on the west side, for a reason. A popular broadcaster on radio and television, Mr. Jackson hosted the Oakland A’s Baseball Journal, part of the team’s radio broadcasts, since 1987. He also produced and hosted Oakland A’s Inside Pitch for KICU-TV in San Jose. Mr. Jackson reportedly collaborated on the lyrics for the pop song “I Love Your Smile”, which was a hit for singer Shanice. Sylvester worked from 1987 to 2005, when he died of cancer at the young age of 37.
(Legend) Reggie McKenzie – Oakland Raiders Legendary General Manager, was the first Black GM for the Silver and Black. Currently, he’s Senior Personnel Executive with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
(Legend) Joe Morgan – The late great Oakland A’s Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds, and San Francisco Giants player was also a very good and popular national broadcaster for many years. For years, he lived just a block from Skyline High School in Oakland.
(Legend) Belva Davis Moore – The first female African American television anchor on the West Coast with KPIX, Channel Five. Belva Davis covered the news of allegations of racial discrimination at San Jose State University, from a group of African American athletes led by Dr. Harry Edwards, in 1967.
(Legend) Frank Robinson – The late famed McClymonds High School grad and teammate of Bill Russell went from being a legendary baseball player to the San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, and then Montreal Expos / Washington Nationals team manager. Frank Robinson also has a place in my personal history as I worked to get him to be the owner of the Oakland Athletics in 1996. When I was Economic Advisor to Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, I was trying to pair him with Magic Johnson and real estate developer John Kehrotis, but, sadly, the effort faded.
(Legend) Bill Russell – Became First Black NBA Basketball Head Coach for the Boston Celtics in 1966.
(Legend) Art Shell – Oakland Raiders Head Coach Legend and first Black Head Coach – and first re-tread Black Head Coach – when then Raiders Owner Al Davis hired him as head coach on February 11, 2006.
(Legend) Toni Stone – There should be a movie about Toni Stone, AKA Marcenia Lyle Stone. The San Francisco and Oakland legend (who moved to SF at the age of 16) is notable for being one of the first of three women to play professional baseball full-time for the previously all-male Negro Leagues. Then, she became the first woman to play as a regular on an American big-league professional baseball team.
(Legend) Ralph Wiley – The once Oakland Tribune columnist became a very influential national voice on black culture, racism, and sports, and a best-selling author. Eventually, he became a regular television sports commentator on ESPN. And his book “Why Black People Tend To Shout” (1991) is a must-read to understand how America’s racism, in all of its forms, came to shape how we as African Americans respond to actions in life.
(Legend) Tyrone Willingham – Stanford Head Coach Legend was second Black Head Coach in Cardinal History. Betweeen Green, Willingham , and Shaw, they only lost the Cal / Stanford Big Game once.
Well, that’s a list but still not an extensive one. Whereever I looked, the number of black executives when compared with white counterparts was woefully small. And some organizations, like the San Jose Sports Authority, had no African Americans on its staff on its website, or board of directors. Stanford Athletic Director Bernard Muir has an advisory role outside of the board – moreover, he’s the only black person and you have to scroll way down to even see him. On top of that, the list of black women is tiny, and this at a time when, nationally, Black female sports executives are growing in number and influence.
If there’s any Black Bay Area Sports Execs I have left off, and who’s a good candidate for the list, please feel free to email me at [email protected]. On that note, a major hat-tip to my former boss Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, as well as long-time friend, former Oakland Athletics, Golden State Warriors, and Memphis Grizzlies sports executive, now popular ZOOM-face in sports management classrooms, Andy Dolich. Hat tip, also, to my other long-time friend Beth Schnitzer, of Spritz Marketing SF, and to regular reader Terrell Jones.