Updated July 7, 2022 - 10:57 pm
Former Nevada Gaming Control Board chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan was named the Raiders’ new president Thursday, making her the first Black woman to assume such a role in the NFL.
Morgan’s hiring was announced to Raiders employees via a letter obtained by the Review-Journal. She was later introduced at a news conference at Allegiant Stadium.
“I am thrilled to join you as we embark on one of the most exciting times in the history of our organization,” Morgan said in the letter. “I look forward to meeting each of you in person over the coming weeks.”
Morgan, who was the first African American to serve as Control Board chair from 2019-2021, will begin her new role immediately. Morgan is the third woman and third African American to be president of an NFL team.
The president’s position has been vacant since early May when then interim president Dan Ventrelle was fired by the team. Ventrelle claims the move was made in retaliation for him alerting the NFL to a hostile work environment within the organization.
There have also been reports of a hostile work environment occurring within the Raiders organization, with some women alleging a troubling pattern of harassment, forced demotions and unequal treatment.
Morgan acknowledged the reports and said it is something she intends to address. In her nearly two years at the helm of the Control Board, Morgan worked to ensure that all gaming licensees adopted policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment.
“Let me be clear — I am not here to avoid or sidestep problems or concerns that need to be addressed,” Morgan said in her letter to employees. “I’ve given long and thoughtful consideration to joining you, and I’ve done so because I believe in the promise of the Raiders. Most importantly, I believe in your core values of integrity, community, and commitment to excellence. I will expect you to embody those and to hold me accountable to doing the same.”
The ‘next chapter’
Morgan said she officially met Raiders owner Mark Davis about 10 months ago, after brief encounters before in her previous roles in the community. After the role for team president opened up, the two chatted about what that would entail.
“He told me his vision for the organization and how that would blend well with my leadership philosophy and management style,” Morgan told the Review-Journal. “I’m just extremely excited to be a Las Vegan and to see what the team has done for the community in the last three to four years is just incredible. To have the opportunity to lead it to the next chapter of the Raiders is a dream come true for me.”
Davis said the Las Vegas connection was not a criteria in the president hire, but Morgan’s knowledge and connections in the area were a plus.
“Obviously, somebody that knows this community, knows the people in it I think is very important for us to continue to build our foundation in Las Vegas,” Davis said. “I think having Sandra here, who knows the community as well as she does, is going to be a very important part of helping that process.”
Morgan has a long history in Nevada outside of her role with the Control Board.
Last year she was named vice chair of the Las Vegas Super Bowl host committee and was appointed to the board of directors of Allegiant Travel Co., parent company of Allegiant Air, the naming rights partner of the Raiders’ home, Allegiant Stadium.
“The Raiders organization brought almost $2.3 billion in economic impact from visitors, just for events at Allegiant Stadium,” Morgan said in an interview. “The estimate for the economic impact for the Super Bowl in 2024 is definitely in the billions, so there’s so much more to do.My service for the host committee has given me insight to the amazing things that are going to come in the next couple of years. I’m excited to be at the helm of that growth.”
From 2016 to 2019, Morgan served as director of external affairs for AT&T Services Inc., where she oversaw the company’s local government, legislative and community affairs work in Nevada.
Prior to that Morgan spent eight years with the city of North Las Vegas, including serving as city attorney from 2013 to 2016. Before that she also served as litigation attorney for MGM Mirage, now known as MGM Resorts International.
Morgan also previously served on the Nevada Gaming Commission and the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
“The Raiders could not have selected a better person to put at the helm,” said Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft. “Sandra Douglass Morgan is a proven business leader, passionate community advocate and experienced regulator. I lookforward to working with her in this new role and continuing our partnership with the Las Vegas Raiders and Allegiant Stadium, to solidify our reputation as the greatest arena on earth. ”
Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, concurred: “A great hire by the Raiders,” he said.
“Bringing Sandra Douglass Morgan on board to lead the Las Vegas Raiders was a brilliant decision,” said Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association. “Over the years in her various high-profile roles, she has consistently displayed all the qualities that make her the perfect choice — her intellect, integrity, unflappable leadership, business acumen, tenacity, passion and open style of communication.”
The Raiders are no stranger to breaking color and gender barriers in the NFL. The team hired Art Shell as the first Black head coach of the modern NFL era and made Amy Trask the first female CEO in league history. Former head coach Tom Flores also was the first Hispanic head coach to win a Super Bowl.
Similarly, Morgan’s new role with the Raiders won’t be the first time she has broken barriers in a distinguished career. She was the first African-American city attorney in the state of Nevada and was the first African American and second female chair of the Control Board.
Upon accepting that appointment, one of her stated missions was ensuring traditionally underrepresented groups had a presence in all levels of the gaming sector.
Part of her oversight responsibilities included sports betting at a pivotal time when the state was still dealing with the integration of major league franchises and the expansion of legalized betting into new markets across the country.
That long history and the challenges that came with it will carry over to her new role. From helping deal with the recession while with North Las Vegas, to having to shut down and then reopen resorts during the height of the pandemic, Morgan has plenty of experience to draw from.
“I’ve been able to take from unfortunate situations,” Morgan said. “Being able to rise through and find good solutions that help the greater good … I definitely learned a lot about management, leadership, and working with others. I’m a very collaborative leader and I think that I will be able to bring those skills to the Raiders organization.”
Morgan has deep roots in Las Vegas. She moved to the city when she was 2 years old and her father retired at Nellis Air Force Base. Her mother worked in the gaming industry when she was growing up.
Her father, Gilbert Douglass, is one of Morgan’s biggest fans and attended the announcement ceremony. He said he’s proud, but not surprised with the continued success of his daughter.
“I think it’s a great accomplishment, but she’s done a lot of wonderful things during her life,” Douglass said. “She’s always been great at what she does, she’s a very smart kid. I think it’s going to work out just fine.”
Morgan’s husband Don played in the NFL between 1999-2002, with stints with the Minnesota Vikings and the Arizona Cardinals. That history adds an extra bit of excitement within their household.
“It’s an exciting time as a native Las Vegan and obviously (I’m) incredibly excited,” Morgan said. “My husband is an NFL veteran, so he’s ecstatic as well. I just can’t wait to start and get in there.”
Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the Raiders hired the first Hispanic head coach in the NFL.
The Raiders’ decision to hire Sandra Douglass Morgan, an African-American woman, as team president is another significant step toward diversifying the upper levels of management in the NFL.
The Washington Commanders were the first NFL team to hire an African American president when they tabbed former player Jason Wright for the position in 2020.
Sashi Brown became the second when he was hired for the same position by the Baltimore Ravens in March.
Kim Pegula, who owns the Buffalo Bills with her husband Terry, became the first female president of an NFL franchise when she assumed the title in 2018.
The Carolina Panthers named Kristi Coleman president in February. She had been with the organization for eight years, including three as the team’s CFO.
That makes Morgan the first female president in NFL history hired from outside the organization.
— Adam Hill