Meet Nadia Rawlinson, New Executive Chairman and Co-Owner of Chicago Sky: “I believe in the future.


Amid swirling uncertainty in WNBA free agency, Chicago Sky made a major addition to its front office, not its roster, this week.

Sky has hired Nadia Rawlinson as its newly created Steering Committee Chair. As the WNBA continues to grow both on and off the court, Rawlinson will look to establish a stronger business foundation for the team in this position.

“For a long time, many WNBA teams were just trying to survive,” Rawlinson said. “Especially from an operational perspective, they were just trying to get through and make it. And now it’s time to thrive.”

Prior to Rawlinson’s hiring, Sky’s executive team consisted of three people. CEO and President Adam Fox, Chief Financial Officer Stephanie Hedrick and Strategy Officer Watchen Nyanue.

Principal owner Michael Alter and Fox began discussing the concept of creating an operating chairman role in 2021. But when Alter met his Rawlinson last year (initially simply interested in investing in the team), he immediately began to feel that his Sky had found a new steering committee chair.

Rawlinson has a deep background in human resources, strategy and business development as the former Chief People Officer at Slack Technologies. as the former Chief Human Resources Officer of Live Nation Entertainment. He is also a current consultant for venture capital firm Google Ventures. She currently serves on the boards of directors of J. Crew, Vail Resorts and Save the Children, and is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Stanford University and the Advisory Board of the Dean of Harvard School of Business.

Nadia Rawlinson, Chairman of the Steering Committee of the new Chicago Sky.

For Alter, her experience, coupled with her deep love for Chicago, basketball, and the empowerment of women’s sports, made Rawlinson a perfect fit.

“We thought, ‘It would be great if we could find the right people to do this,'” said Alter. It was just an idea I had, and she’s the perfect person for the role.”

As Chair of the Steering Committee, Rawlinson will oversee the development of Sky’s strategic business initiatives, including establishing and expanding corporate partnerships and increasing the organization’s civic engagement across Chicago.

Both Rawlinson and Alter highlight two areas of near-term growth potential. The first is sports betting, which has recently become a viable source of income due to new legislation that came into force last March. The second is a new media rights deal coming into effect in 2025, which Alter believes is “greatly undervalued” under his current deal with the WNBA.

Alter said Rawlinson’s expertise in the corporate sector would allow Sky to generate more income and compete more aggressively in the future free agent market, while charter flights and other areas became key topics for players this offseason. We believe it can also provide the benefits of

“The biggest goal we all have is that we need to increase our revenue,” says Alter. “That’s how we pay our players more money, and they deserve it. And that’s how we offer charter flights, and charter flights deserve that. So these are It’s all we want to have and we need to be in a position to have it.

“One of the ways we do it is by bringing in incredibly talented people like Nadia, who makes a lot more money somewhere in the corporate world. It’s possible, but we deeply believe in what we’re trying to build here.”

Sky Center's Azraa Stevens waves to fans after a 98-91 overtime loss to the Sparks at Wintrust Arena on May 6, 2022.

In addition to his role as managing chairman, Rawlinson will join Sky as a co-owner, with Alter remaining the primary owner. It’s not her first venture into sports investing: Rawlinson and her husband started a sports fund that invests minority stakes in minor league baseball, lacrosse and hockey teams during the pandemic.

Rawlinson says the experience has given him experience and appreciation of how the right mix of capital and strategic operational expertise can improve the success of sports franchises.

Applying the same practices to the WNBA franchise would be a whole new challenge, but Rawlinson is embracing what he describes as a “crucible moment” for both Sky and the league.

“I believe in the future of the team,” Rawlinson said. “This is not just a matter of passion. I believe, I think it’s a great bet.”

A native of the Chicago area, Rawlinson’s affinity for the skies stems from a lifetime of basketball in Chicago. She grew up in memories of the Bulls’ heyday—she tried trick-or-treating at Michael Jordan’s house as a kid, celebrated her 16th birthday in the rafters at the game, and spent time with her friends. Together we sneaked into downtown Metra. She celebrates her 1997 championship.

But Rawlinson also sees her new role in Sky as an opportunity to invest in the many intersecting communities that are often overlooked in the development of the sport, including women, people of color and the LGBTQ community.

As a black woman, Rawlinson said she has spent most of her professional career feeling other. I saw an opportunity to commit to a franchise that was created for.

“You have to really navigate these spaces that weren’t made for you,” Rawlinson said. “I can pay it forward to make things better and easier for the next generation, the next woman, the next people of color, and create the future the way I believe it should be. I want to

“If I can do that in institutions like sports, women’s sports, especially in the West, and in Chicago, it doesn’t get much better than that.”


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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