In July 2022 when Sandra Douglass Morgan was hired by Las Vegas Raiders to serve as team president, she became not only the third woman and third Black person to assume that role but also the first Black woman in NFL history to be team president.
Morgan joined Kristi Coleman of the Panthers and Kim Pegula of the Bills as the only women to hold the title of team president, and Sashi Brown of the Ravens and Commanders’ Jason Wright as the only Black individuals named to the position in the league’s history.
Morgan’s announcement was also huge as the NFL was working toward diverse representation across all roles in the league. Morgan herself did not waste time hiring a director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Raiders after joining them. She understands the need for diversity owing to her background. Her father, who is Black, worked in the military while her mother, who is a first-generation Korean American, worked in the gaming industry.
Her parents often spoke about the racism they faced at work all because of the color of their skin. Morgan told herself that she would be an advocate for equity wherever she found herself in the future. And she has already started championing that as the first Black woman to lead an NFL team. But Morgan never fantasized about making history growing up.
Born on Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, she and her family moved to Las Vegas in the 1980s after her father was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base. Having watched Connie Chung’s evening newscasts, she was inspired to pursue journalism and so she schooled at the University of Nevada in the 1990s, studying political science and communications. But along the way, she fell in love with the law after signing a constitutional law class during her sophomore year. Right after completing her undergraduate degree, Morgan applied to law school and ended up at the William S. Boyd School of Law at UNLV to save money, according to CNBC Make It.
In 2003 when she graduated, she became a litigation attorney for The Mirage casino resort and later the North Las Vegas city attorney in 2008, making her the first Black person in Nevada’s history to be given that position. The attorney and executive went on to work as the director of external affairs for AT&T and served on the Nevada Gaming Commission. The 44-year-old eventually became the first African American to chair the Nevada Gaming Control Board in 2019, where her role in the pandemic included managing the openings and closing of casinos in Las Vegas. Those responsibilities taught her not to be afraid of making unpopular decisions.
By 2020, she had left that job to become a board member of several businesses including Fidelity National Financial and Caesars Entertainment. The following year, she became legal counsel for Covington & Burling LLP law firm and began her own consulting business before joining the Las Vegas committee for Super Bowl LVIII. It was in that same year that she first met Raiders owner Mark Davis and asked him to approach her anytime he needed business advice.
But months later when Davis spoke with her, it was about her coming on board to serve as his team’s president. Morgan was initially hesitant but after speaking with her friends and family particularly her husband Don Morgan, former safety for the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals, she decided to take the job. Her love for basketball games and the joy she had meeting professional athletes and being a part of a fanbase during her childhood also influenced her decision to join the Raiders.
“I knew it would be an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and would bring with it the opportunity to make a positive, lasting impact on my community,” said Morgan to CNBC Make It.
Her other goal for the Raiders is to get the team involved in more activities in communities around Las Vegas while improving company culture, she said.