This year has seen two major impacts on the world of sport. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted sport all over the world, and with it, threats to athlete, fan and worker health and safety. We also saw an increase in athlete activism, ignited by the deaths of George Floyd, Brionna Taylor and Ahmaud Aubry. At the Centre, we’ve looked at how both of these events have impacted the world of sport and human rights. How can sport return to play safely? What of the impact on women’s sport? And how can athlete activism and athlete voice – their right to freedom of expression – be accommodated on the field of play?
One league in particular, the National Women’s Soccer League or NWSL, in the United States, successfully navigated these challenges in holding its 2020 season – the first professional sports league in the United States to do so – this past spring. At the helm of the NSWL is Commissioner Lisa Baird. Lisa is the former chief marketing officer of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and a senior VP of marketing and licensing for the NFL.
Just five months into her tenure, Commissioner Baird navigated a return to sport during the Covid pandemic, negotiated a landmark broadcast deal, secured big-name sponsors and announced a new expansion team in Los Angeles.
In conversation with Centre CEO Mary Harvey, Commissioner Baird talked about her first season in the NWSL, and how she navigated what may have been the choppiest waters ever faced for the League.