While many recognize the top NBA stars either on a first-name basis or through their hawking of products, this can’t be said for many WNBA stars or any league players. Lisa Borders aims in time to correct that.
Named last week as the league’s fourth president, Borders brings over 25 years of experience in operations, marketing, government relations and public service to her role as leader of America’s longest-running women’s professional league. She spoke to the MSR February 12 by phone from Toronto, where she attended the NBA All-Star festivities.
All her previous positions, including as a former Atlanta city council president and vice-mayor, have involved “lifting up those voices that have not been heard,” said Madam President-To-Be, who is leaving as chair of the Coca-Cola Foundation and vice president of its global community affairs operation. If there is an organization whose voices need lifting, it is the W.
“In every position I’ve ever taken, there have been opportunities to really make things better,” continued Borders. “I’ve always had the opportunity to champion a group who didn’t feel they had their best voice [heard].
“Charles, at 58 years old I don’t do anything I don’t want to do,” proclaimed the new league president. “There’s not enough time to do frivolous things.” Rather, Borders says she lives by a biblical mantra: “To whom much is given, much is required.” She proudly pointed out, “I have brought that piece of Scripture to life through my work.”
She recalled when she was brought in to head up the fundraising arm of an Atlanta hospital that was “the hospital of last resort” for local low-income folk. “That hospital almost closed its doors in 2008,” said Borders of her presidency of Grady Health System’s foundation for Georgia’s largest public hospital. She has worked on numerous corporate and civic endeavors over the years.
She’s now charged with “lifting” the WNBA to its rightful place in American sports, as Borders next month becomes the second Black woman to lead a major league sport and the first Black league president whose predecessor also was Black — Laurel Richie stepped down last fall. Borders assumes her duties March 21.
“Some great work has been done. Can we do more? Absolutely. Can we be more comprehensive? Absolutely. Can we reach broader? Absolutely,” stated Borders. “We have the best athletes in the world. The product that is on the floor is amazing. Enduring for two decades is a critical milestone. I think there are good things being done all over the league.”
Borders got connected with the league after meeting former president Donna Orender at a city luncheon in 2007 to discuss the possibility of an expansion team coming to Atlanta. “I love basketball and really understand the game. When I saw the opportunity for women to fulfill their aspirational dreams post-college, I jumped at the opportunity to help bring the Dream to the city in 2008.
“I was a season ticket holder then, and I am a season ticket holder now,” said Borders, who probably is the first to ascend from fan to league president. “I think the first thing, after eight years as a raving fan in Atlanta, I need to spend a substantial amount of time listening to understand the landscape, the people and the process,” she surmised. “What I think about in starting my very first day is learning what we are doing today so that it will inform our future.
“The season will be starting very shortly, and I am a quick study,” concluded Borders. “This is really a dream job for me.”
Read more on new WNBA President Lisa Borders here.
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Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org