Jason Wright was appointed as President of the Washington Football team. Wright makes history as the youngest and very first black person to lead a National Football League (NFL) team. If there is a silver lining to the turmoil that the franchise has faced in the last couple of months, this might be it.
Wright’s journey through football and then on to business makes him the perfect choice for a position of this magnitude as explained in a statement released by the Washington Football team.
The statement reads: “Wright spent seven years as a running back in the NFL with stops in San Francisco, Atlanta, Cleveland, and Arizona, where he was the Cardinals’ team captain and labor-union representative during the league’s 2011 lockout. Upon his retirement from the gridiron, he received his M.B.A., graduating with high honors from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and building on his undergraduate studies in psychology at Northwestern University, where he was also an Academic All-American and captain of the football team.
Jason went on to global strategy and management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, where he quickly ascended to being named partner in the Operations Practice, based in Washington, D.C. In addition to steering some of the world’s most influential Chief Human Resources Officers, Chief Financial Officers and Chief Security Officers to transformed environments, modernized operations and increased business value, he spearheaded the Black Economic Institute at McKinsey, where he additionally co-piloted their anti-racism and inclusion strategy. Jason is a trustee for the Union Theological Seminary, where he helps the institution better equip students with community organizing and social entrepreneurship skills.”
Wright discussed his new position in greater detail in an interview with Michael Strahan on Good Morning America.
When Strahan asked him about the significance of being the first Black president in the NFL, Wright explained, “First and foremost, it’s obviously very personal for me. Much like you I’m a football player first. I’ve been playing since I was seven years old, went to Northwestern on a football scholarship, played seven years in the league…and then became a businessman and cut my teeth in some of the best business schools. I’ve been helping some of the most complex organizations around the world transform for the last few years; so for me, it’s personal and an opportunity to bring together my two worlds in a really unique way at a really unique time. And the fact that I happen to be black and the most qualified person for this is a boost.”
It is a very important distinction that Wright made in explaining that he is more than qualified for the position with all of his experience as a player and expertise in business. And yes, he is Black and proud of it. That being said, he is ready to do the work.
Strahan went on to talk about the bittersweet nature of this accomplishment amid the turmoil that the franchise has been facing. Earlier this summer the team announced that it would be changing the racially insensitive name. That was followed up with allegations of sexual harassment by multiple women employed with the organization, and finally, there was an investigation into whether the team failed to consider minorities and women in their search for vice-presidency. Strahan asked Wright what his plans are for changing the culture of the team as the new President.
Wright answered, “Part of what excited me in taking this role…We had a phrase when we played: ‘You don’t talk about it, you be about it’ and I think what I’ve seen from Dan and Tanya Snyder and the hiring of coach Rivera and some of the decisions they’ve made to have an independent investigator brought in around the sexual harassment allegations, there are actual shifts in action that suggest it’s a new day and that’s why I’m excited to take this on.”
Wright went on to say, “Coach Rivera has talked a lot about this on the football side. Establishing a new culture, a new way of operating rooted in values around inclusion and transparency. That’s exactly what we’re gonna do on the business side, and it’s a culture transformation first. To make sure that we have an organization that people want to be a part of and that, itself, will start to expand the value of the franchise and make the good things happen.”
Strahan tried his best to get Wright to share details about what the new name of the franchise will be but apparently it is still an ongoing process.
“In truth, what we’re actually doing is much more than a new name.” Wright explained. “It’s actually a new identity; a new way of engaging with the world. It’s going to inform the way we embed in the community, the way we engage with fans and so its much bigger than just the name or logo or whatever you’re going to put on the jersey. It’s going to be a longer process and it’s going to engage the fans intensely. It’s going to engage the sponsors intensely and by the end of this, this is going to be a community decision that we make as a Washington football community and I’m really excited to dive in.”
Congratulations to Jason Wright and hopefully this is the beginning of a positive shift in football culture. Perhaps this first will open the door for additional talented and qualified black people to be considered for top positions in all industries.