Black women rise to C-Suite leadership roles

Aces Team President Nikki Fargas
Photo by Charles Hallman

The Las Vegas Aces is the first pro team located in that city now with a championship under its belt. Team President Nikki Fargas is the only Black executive to hold such a title in the WNBA and the second-highest ranking Black top exec in the league. (Keia Clarke, New York Liberty CEO and LA Sparks Senior VP Natalie White are the other Black women C-Suite members). 

League Commissioner Cathy Engelbert bragged about this during her Sept. 11 press conference before Game 1 of the Finals, saying that having Fargas in her current role “is a great reflection on the league and the ownership and the diversity of our front offices.”

Only four times in 26 WNBA Finals series has at least one team had a Black general manager (Natalie Williams was hired by the Aces last year). Furthermore, this is the first time in W history that two different Black general managers (James Wade, Chicago, 2021) won consecutive titles. 

Fargas was hired as Aces president in May 2021 after 10 seasons as LSU women’s basketball head coach. She and Las Vegas Raiders President Sandra Douglass Morgan, who became the first Black woman in NFL history to hold such a position, both were honored at the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Convention in Las Vegas in August.

“This is an unbelievable award,” Fargas told the gathering of Black sports journalists at the Sam Lacy Pioneer Awards banquet. “I can’t even tell you how much this means to me…to be the recipient of the Sam Lacy award. It’s just really special to me and my family.

“The work that I’ve done over the years,” added Fargas, “I earned my stripes.”

She coached at UCLA (2008-11), where Fargas won Pac-10 Coach of the Year. We first met her, then Nikki Caldwell, when her club played in the NCAA first round at Williams Arena in 2010. The former University of Tennessee guard (1990-94) began her coaching career as an assistant at her alma mater (1998-99), then an assistant at Virginia (1999-2002), then returned to UT for her second assistant stint (2002-08) before becoming a head coach. After three seasons in Westwood, Fargas accepted the LSU job.

The former coach told us why she took the Aces job and left coaching behind: “After 25 years of coaching, I wanted to pave the way for those who came after me. When I left LSU, I was the only Black head coach, and it served me well. Most important is that LSU…have a 100% graduation rate.”

After her remarks, Fargas told the MSR that being a Power Five head coach prepared her to run a pro franchise. “As a coach, you have to work with all departments. You have to work with marketing, ticketing and sales, have to work with your PR people. It was a natural progression.”

On the fact that the two top Las Vegas pro teams, ironically both owned by Mark Davis, hired Black women to run them, Fargas said, “I hope it gets to the point where it’s not like, oh my gosh, look what’s going on, to where it becomes the norm. You gave us an opportunity and we’re gonna be damn good at it, because all of our life we’ve had to be twice as good.

“To have us in those leadership roles is not something that was just given to us,” she concluded. “It’s something that was earned. To hire us, it’s okay to put us in those leadership roles.”

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