The remarkable rise of Sandra Douglass Morgan, the first and only Black female team president in the NFL

BY afrobeatsplus September 18, 2023 2:35 PM EDT
Sandra Douglass Morgan. Photo credit: Matt Aguirre, Las Vegas Raiders.
Sandra Douglass Morgan. Photo credit: Matt Aguirre, Las Vegas Raiders.

The historic appointment of Sandra Douglass Morgan as President of the Las Vegas Raiders marked a pivotal moment in the NFL’s history, as she became the first and sole Black female President within the league. She also holds the distinction of being the third woman and third African-American to assume the role of president for an NFL team. Sandra’s professional journey has been marked by many firsts and shattering barriers in industries traditionally dominated by white males.

During her high school years, Sandra excelled in leadership as the class president, served as captain of the cheerleading team, and was a distinguished member of the National Honor Society. With the help of a Presidential Scholarship, she pursued her dream career in journalism and earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and communication from the University of Nevada. It was during a constitutional law class, coupled with the events surrounding President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, that ignited Sandra’s passion for the field of law.

Regrettably, the cost of law school was a formidable obstacle for her family. Nevertheless, Sandra remained undeterred and diligently applied to various law schools. A serendipitous encounter with Frank Durand, one of the founding deans of the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law, convinced her to pursue her legal education in her hometown.

At the time, UNLV Boyd was housed in a renovated elementary school across from the university’s campus and had just secured provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association. Shortly thereafter, the school’s accreditation was finalized, allowing Sandra to receive the financial support she needed. In 2003, she proudly graduated with a Juris Doctor from the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law.

Following her graduation, Sandra embarked on a dynamic career path. She began as an Associate Attorney at Parker, Nelson & Arin, Chtd., and later transitioned into the role of Litigation Attorney at MGM Resorts International. Subsequently, she served in various positions within the North Las Vegas legal department, including Deputy City Attorney, Assistant City Attorney, and ultimately, as City Attorney, becoming the first African-American City Attorney in Nevada’s history. Sandra’s career continued to flourish as she took on roles such as Director of External Affairs at AT&T in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Area and Commissioner of the Nevada Gaming Commission.

In 2019, Sandra’s appointment as Chairwoman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board further underscored her trailblazing achievements, making her the first African American to hold this position. Managing a substantial budget of $44 million and overseeing over 400 employees in five cities, she introduced significant reforms, mandating that gaming companies establish written policies to combat harassment and discrimination based on factors like sex, race, color, gender identity, and national origin among their employees.

Additionally, she played a pivotal role in the management of casino closures and reopenings during the COVID-19 pandemic, and actively contributed to the state’s pandemic task force. Her career trajectory continued to ascend when she assumed the role of Of Counsel at Covington & Burling LLP.

Sandra’s journey to the helm of the Las Vegas Raiders was characterized by a fortuitous encounter with team owner Mark Davis and a serendipitous series of events. Her attendance at a preseason game in 2021 led to a conversation with Davis, during which she offered her expertise and local insights following the team’s relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas. Subsequently, Sandra’s involvement as Vice Chair of the Host Committee for the Las Vegas Super Bowl, scheduled for 2024, allowed her to cross paths with Davis once again. This encounter eventually culminated in a meeting to discuss her prospective role in the Raiders franchise. In a historic move, Sandra Douglass Morgan was appointed as President of the Las Vegas Raiders in July 2022, becoming the first Black female President in the NFL.

Taking the reins of a team in the midst of unprecedented turmoil, Sandra faced significant challenges. Prior to her arrival, the franchise had experienced a mass exodus of top leadership, including the abrupt departure of two former presidents. Additionally, the dismissal of head coach Jon Gruden followed revelations of his use of racist, homophobic, and misogynistic language in emails dating back to 2010. Amidst ongoing investigations and legal matters, Sandra assumed leadership of a front office desperately in need of stability.

Her initial priority was to reaffirm the Raiders’ core values, emphasizing integrity, community engagement, and a commitment to excellence. Sandra’s overarching goal revolves around fostering greater diversity within the Raiders and the NFL as a whole. To achieve this goal, she appointed a director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the Raiders and plans to cultivate a more inclusive and community-oriented organizational culture within the franchise.

Sandra’s dedication to championing equity and respect stems from her personal experiences growing up, where she witnessed her parents exchange stories of casual racism in the workplace. Determined to combat discrimination and inequity, she pledged to be a catalyst for change. Her efforts have not gone unnoticed, as evidenced by her recognition with the Ladies of Distinction Award from Olive Crest, a non-profit organization assisting abused and neglected children, in 2013.

Moreover, she was honored as the 2012 Attorney of the Year by the Las Vegas Chapter of the National Bar Association for her unwavering commitment to serving the local community, particularly individuals of color. Sandra also holds positions on the boards of Allegiant, Fidelity National Financial, and serves as a member of the Advisory Board at Cerberus Sentinel, in addition to her previous role as an Independent Director at Caesars Entertainment.