The Minnesota Twins, not unlike any pro team, is looking for new ways to make money. The baseball team is doing this “with a specific focus on the exploration and optimization of potential new and existing revenue streams,” says its August announcement of hiring Meka White Morris as senior vice-president and chief revenue officer, a newly created position in the team’s upper management group.
Morris is the Twins’ highest-ranking Black executive, one of five Black women in Major League Baseball to hold a C-suite-level position (four at the club level, and one with MLB). Her first day was August 9.
“A chief revenue officer is to support all things revenue,” explained Morris in a recent MSR phone interview. “We look at every place that the organization makes money. Is there a way to think outside of the box? Is there a way to maximize all opportunities from a revenue perspective?”
Sports teams were not immune from the pandemic’s impact, she pointed out, “but it also provides a tremendous opportunity to focus with fresh eyes and fresh perspective…a full-scale return to play review” of the team’s business operations, said Morris.
Recently named among Sports Business Journal’s “Forty under 40,” for which she will be honored later this year in New York, Morris has over 16 years’ experience as a sports and entertainment executive, from the NFL (Oakland, now Las Vegas Raiders), the NBA (Cleveland and Charlotte), and music (Live Nation Entertainment).
Her most recent stint was as chief revenue officer for Tappit, a global payment and data company for sports and other events. There, Morris locked up deals with the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars, and San Antonio Spurs among others.
A Boston native, Morris got her start after graduating from the University of Kansas, where she ran track. Her post-college job was with a supplies business, then working in sales for the Miami Heat.
She quickly learned the importance of being a “relationship seller.” Sports teams are just any other product that needs selling: “Your ability to develop relationships—meaningful ones—can impact your business both positively or negatively if you’re deficit in this regard,” said Morris. “We learned early on how to nurture and develop meaningful relationships.”
As a Black woman executive, selling the Twins, especially to the local Black communities, is awfully important, continued Morris. “The Minnesota Twins and the Pohlad family understand the importance of the Black community. I think if there were ever a testament to how much they believe that [it is] by hiring someone like me.
“I think they recognize that somebody who has a seat at the table who looks like the people that you’re looking to [attract]… It is really hard to understand the plight of that community unless somebody in the room is a part of it.
“So, I see [being hired] is a testament to trying to do better…creating opportunities for Black and Brown people to support the Minnesota Twins,” she said. “I can’t be anything other than a Black woman. My perspective is always going to be that of a Black woman.”
As nice as the SBJ award is, Morris quickly stressed, “That’s not the pinnacle for me. That’s not the be-all, end-all for me. If that allows me to get one more young Black girl interested in the business of sports and leave a legacy that they can strive in the industry…beyond what it was when I first started, that would be very much more validation for me than any award that I can receive.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.