Women in Sports and Events (WISE), the leading voice and resource for women in the business of sports, today announced that Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors President will be presented with the 2018 WISE Champion Award during the 24th Annual WISE Women of the Year Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, June 13, 2018, at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City.
The WISE Champion Award annually recognizes a male executive who has championed the advancement of women in the workplace. Recipients of the WISE Champion Award are selected based on the following criteria:
- Champions the role of women in the business of sports through the successful creation of new jobs, mentoring and networking opportunities
- Clearly communicates a vision for women in the industry and their continued advancement
- Shows consistent commitment to the promotion of women’s careers and recognition of their professional accomplishments
Ujiri has long been an advocate for creating leadership opportunities for women, living out his own mandate by bringing females into key roles throughout his professional journey within the NBA, and youth-focused social impact initiatives. With Ujiri’s support, the Raptors organization has also launched a Women’s Leadership Forum providing mentorship and opportunities for women in the professional sports and entertainment industry.
“We are proud to honor Masai Ujiri, a vocal advocate for women in sports, as this year’s Champion,” said Kathleen Francis, national chair of WISE. “Masai speaks boldly about causes close to his heart, and the value women provide in this business – on and off the court – is no exception.”
A native of Nigeria, Ujiri was named President & General Manager of Basketball Operations for the Toronto Raptors in 2013, returning to the team where he held his first front office roles from 2007-2010. In the interim, he spent three seasons as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Denver Nuggets, where he became the first African-born GM in the NBA and was named 2012-13 NBA Executive of the Year. Ujiri began his career in the NBA in a variety of international scouting roles with the Nuggets and Orlando Magic that took him all over the world, including Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. He played professionally in Europe for six years, with stops in Belgium, Germany, England, Greece and Finland. He has also managed and coached the Nigerian junior and senior National teams.
On a humanitarian level, Ujiri has been tireless in his efforts to create pathways for African youth on the continent, leveraging the game of basketball as a vessel for young boys and girls to think and Dream Big. He is the Founder of the Giants of Africa Foundation, which creates experiences and opportunities for young adults with an emphasis on hard work, accountability, honest living and positivity. Founded in 2003, Giants of Africa launched the Top 50 and Big Man camps in Nigeria, and has since expanded programming across the continent including Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and beyond. Ujiri has also has served as the Director of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program since 2002.
“Women have had a profound impact on each step of my personal and professional journey. I prioritize women in leadership roles around me because I’m committed to striving to be, and working alongside the best,” said Ujiri. “This recognition is a great honor, but more importantly, it is an opportunity to encourage others to realize the value and power of women in the workplace, and welcome inclusion and diversity within the highest ranks of influence.”
Past recipients of the WISE Champion Award include Ted Leonsis, Founder, Chairman, Majority Owner & CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment; Sean McManus, Chairman of CBS Sports; and Dick Ebersol, former Chairman of NBC Sports, among many others.