Whitney Meyer is a rarity. Even in this day in age, when Black players fill the majority of NFL rosters, Meyer is the first Black woman to serve in a C-suite role at the Jacksonville Jaguars having joined the team last fall as Chief Community Impact Officer. She not only brings a unique cultural perspective to the table, but she also offers a diversity of industry experience with her background in education. The Jacksonville native previously served as the Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at the University of North Florida (UNF) and advised on diversity, inclusion, and racial equality.
When I asked when she realized she wanted to work in sports she said she never predicted that she would end up with a team. "I pretty much got into sports because someone saw my skill set and saw a great fit. I never thought that my career path would lead to the sports industry, " Meyer recalled.
There are very few Black women working in an executive role in the sports industry. With that in mind, those who take on these positions carry a great deal of responsibility for those that follow.
"In the world of sports, specifically football, it's incredible. I'm constantly looking to make an impact. I'm always striving to figure out how I can create more opportunities for more Black men and women in this industry and help prepare the next generation of people, " Meyer explained.
With an influx of young and diverse talent entering the NFL on the front office and business side, the landscape of diversity and inclusion in the league is constantly changing. Just as it's important to attract talent, it is equally important to retain young professionals to also excel in these positions.
"I see a lot of young Black professionals coming in with a clear vision and creativity to take our projects to the next level. With that comes additional opportunities for us to have a more inclusive environment," she explained. "I see the diversity in talent growing in our office and we have many young, ambitious, and visionary employees. We as an organization have to ensure that we are supporting these individuals to reach their goals and advance in their careers."
The NFL Experienceship Program is a cohort of bright HBCU students looking to hone the skills necessary to work in the NFL. For Meyer, the program is a good first step.
"I also think it is important to start engaging students at the high school level. At the Jaguars we are launching a program that allows women high school and college students to shadow us," she explained.
When considering the Jaguars relationship with hiring Black talent, it is also important to note the Jaguars' relationship with local Black communities in Jacksonville.
"We do a lot, and we do it consistently," said Meyer. "We are actively looking to improve our communication with the local Black communities, specifically with our immediate neighbors in the Outeast community. I am proud of our marketing team becoming more creative and having a relatable voice to our community. And I am proud of our Community Impact Team consistently finding new ways to engage and be better neighbors like hosting senior meal drop offs, creating workforce development plans, and staying engaged with the schools in the area through after-school programs and football tournaments. We've made it clear that this is our main priority."
As a Black woman leading the way, Meyer is actively creating Black history by not only being the first person to have this role, but also her dedicated effort to provide Black individuals the support and mentorship needed to succeed within the industry. She's a rarity today, but hopefully not for long.