Sounders FC joins with fellow local sports teams, Seattle University to advance diversity in sports and entertainment industry

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Together with Seattle University’s Albers School of Business and Economics and fellow Seattle sports teams, Seattle Sounders FC today announced its participation in the launch of SU’s newest graduate program, an MBA in Sport and Entertainment Management (MBA SEM), with a focus on diversifying leadership in the industry.

Led by founding partners the Seattle Kraken and Seattle Mariners, seven Seattle sports and entertainment companies – including Sounders FC – are partnering with the university to advise on the new program curriculum and to offer fellowships to students.

A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is one of the hallmarks of MBA SEM, making it the first program of its kind to build on DEI as a core philosophy. It is an offering consistent with the Albers School’s 70+-year legacy of championing business as an agent of positive social change.

The curriculum will focus on: Venue management and operation; venue sustainability for sports organizations and music / entertainment tours; and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and anti-racism in sports, entertainment in sports and venue management.

In addition, there will be DEI professional development opportunities for faculty members and the creation of a new, BIPOC-led advisory group including students, faculty and team partners. Consistent with its educational mission, the university is committed to promoting a diverse study body and will award scholarships to address financial need, to break down stereotypes in the industry and to create access to this unique program.

Founding partners the Seattle Kraken and Seattle Mariners have joined forces with Sounders FC, the Seattle Storm, Seattle Seahawks, Oak View Group and Climate Pledge Arena to provide fellowships for students and job opportunities upon completion of the program.

“We’ve designed a sports MBA with an authentic experiential immersion curriculum, where students benefit from real-world projects and close contact with various levels of organizational leadership,” said MBA SEM program director Maylon Hanold. “We will equip our students with the leadership skills and business acumen sought after by employers and prepare them for the workplace by creating a highly diverse and inclusive community.”

“When Sounders FC launched its official social justice framework last August, one of the vows we made to the community was to address the deep-seated inequity of opportunities in our sport for women and BIPOC,” said Sounders FC Owner and President of Business Operations Peter Tomozawa. “Participating in this new program offered by Seattle University provides a great step toward that goal, and we’re honored to join our fellow local professional franchises to make this investment in developing diverse talent. We recognize that this is still a first step. There remains a great deal of work to be done, but we’re committed to working together to make our community a better place.”

“Our Seattle teams share the goal of addressing historic inequities and creating opportunities in sport and entertainment leadership,” said Fred Rivera, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Seattle Mariners. “This program aligns with the Mariners’ recently announced racial equity programs and initiatives. We are excited about the opportunity to partner with the Kraken as well as Seattle University on this long-term program to make progress breaking down barriers for entry into the sports industry.”

“We know that BIPOC and female leadership is lacking in our industry, and with this program we have an exceptional opportunity to address this and instigate change,” said Tod Leiweke, CEO of Seattle Kraken. “It is unprecedented to see so many organizations come together around one cause and we look forward to welcoming the inaugural class and seeing this program grow into a model around the world.”

“The Seattle Storm is honored to join our fellow professional sports franchises in support of Seattle University’s MBA program focused on diversity in the sports and entertainment industry,” said Alisha Valavanis, CEO & General Manager of the Seattle Storm. “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion lie at the hear tof the Storm’s core values, business practices and platforms. Given the tremendous organizational alignment with Seattle University’s program, Force 10 Enterprises and the Storm are thrilled to be involved.”

“The Seahawks are thrilled to come together with our fellow Seattle sports teams to support this ground-breaking program that will provide invaluable first-hand experience in sports business, with a foundation of diversity and inclusion ingrained throughout,” said Karen Wilkins-Mickey, Seahawks Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “Our organization is guided upon core values of respect, equality and inclusiveness on and off the field, so we look forward to mentoring these future leaders and providing meaningful opportunities for them as they advance their careers in sports.”

“The sport industry has a renewed call to action as it endeavors to increase diversity at all levels and in all segments,” said Albers Dean Joseph Phillips of Seattle University. “Our program will make an important contribution to those efforts.”

“This is the first multi-organizational approach in bringing meaningful sport involvement, experiences and opportunities to a diverse audience,” said Bill Sutton, board advisor to the new MBA and founding director of the University of South Florida’s Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program.

Applications for MBA SEM are being accepted through May 15, 2021 at SeattleU.edu/Business/MBA-Sport-Entertainment. Classes begin at the end of June.



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