Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx are putting the spotlight on the diverse journeys of Black women across sports—from the veteran athletes, to up-and-coming stars, coaches, executives and more—in the series, Elle-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports.
For Shaina Wiel, it all started with a small group chat.
The 35-year-old had several different professional threads buzzing on her phone, but the purpose of each was all the same: how to succeed and thrive in the sports industry.
“The goal really was just for us to help each other,” says Wiel. “It started as a community that kept me going. And then I realized this is not my personal friend group anymore. This is something the community at large needs.”
After years of being one of a handful of Black women on the executive side of the sports industry, Wiel became acutely aware that her colleagues needed an inviolable space to uplift one another, speak freely and put each other on professionally. And so, in 2016, Wiel took the idea of a group text messaging chain and founded Minorities in Sports Business (MiS), an organization with a clear mission: to serve as the primary source for a diverse group of people so that they can connect, exchange resources, glean insight and gain a competitive advantage in their careers.
Since its inception, MiS and its affiliates has grown into a national, invite-only digital hub of more than a thousand sports professionals. The creation of this virtual space where people of color can build communities to network horizontally and thrive is slowly but surely shifting the dynamics of the entire industry.
Before founding MiS, the native of Southside Jamaica, Queens, held positions with ESPN, the NBA, Samsung and Coca-Cola, and earned a bachelor’s degree in bio-evolutionary psychology from Penn State and a master’s degree in sports management from Columbia University. Wiel’s experience identifying the marketing desires of one of the most powerful consumer segments—sports fans—and working with athletes to build their own personal brands established her as an expert in professional development, leadership and empowerment for Black women and people of color in sports early on in her career. Now, she’s fully committed to honoring the first’ Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) women in sports by making sure they aren’t the last.
In the wake of last year’s ongoing racial reckonings, MiS garnered more business than ever. As pressure mounted on social media for companies to share the demographic makeup of their executive teams, Wiel saw a vested interest from new clients hoping to prioritize diversity.
“I think people are starting to realize that saying, ‘We can’t find talent of color at this level’ just really isn’t an excuse anymore,” says Wiel. “And executives are willing to invest in the resources to look for that talent now.”
By diversifying executive teams and centering Black women, Wiel is disrupting her white, male-dominated industry and providing representation for Black professional athletes who make the sports industry a global export. Since MiS was founded, more than 80% of its members have secured either an interview or a position in their desired field. Her clients include the PGA Tour, Grabyo, NBA, MLB, Octagon and many others, including individual athletes at the national level. MiS also provides services across domestic and international leagues and teams for sports such as baseball, football, soccer, basketball, tennis, golf, and auto racing.
“I’ve been a front-row passenger in Shaina’s growth and desire to help people of color on their journey in the sports business,” says Wiel’s mentor Roman Oben, the NFL’s vice president of football development. “This generation of rising minority sports business professionals is in great shape with the MiS community.”
Wiel is not only committed to changing the face of the current sports industry—she’s also leveraging experience and networking to help the leaders of the future. Through the creation of college chapters under MiS Next, Wiel has developed professional opportunities for Black and brown college students and recent graduates at schools such as the University of Missouri, Penn State, UCF, Howard University, Florida A&M University and the University of Pennsylvania, with more to come in the next year. And according to Wiel, this is only the beginning. She’s doing everything in her power to make sure that the vital information shared on her platform shifts the industry in a major and permanent way.
“When you think about the way that the industry is changing, why do you have a majority of leadership who do not look like your fan base, or your player?” Wiel asks. “I always say, look at what happens when you let people tell their own stories, share tips and offer advice. So to me, that transfers to the business side too.”
Naya Samuel is a contributor for Empower Onyx, a diverse multi-channel platform celebrating the stories and transformative power of sports for Black women and girls.