The Washington Football Team on Monday hired Jason Wright as team president, making him the first Black person to hold that position in NFL history.
Wright, 38, will be responsible for leading the team’s business divisions, including operations, finance, sales and marketing.
The surprise announcement came Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Washington Football Team appointed Jason Wright as team president in a historic hire. Wright will be responsible for leading the organization’s business divisions, including operations, finance, sales, and marketing. Wright now becomes the first black president of an NFL team. pic.twitter.com/Qoti1iBKAk
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 17, 2020
Wright is the fourth former NFL player to become a team president and will be the youngest in that role.
Wright called this an “ideal opportunity and said, “I have always enjoyed building exciting new things and taking on the hard, seemingly intractable challenges that others may not want to tackle.”
In a statement, team owner Dan Snyder had nothing but praise for Wright:
If I could custom design a leader for this important time in our history, it would be Jason. His experience as a former player, coupled with his business acumen, gives him a perspective that is unrivaled in the league. We will not rest until we are a championship caliber team, on and off the field. Jason has a proven track record in helping businesses transform culturally, operationally and financially. He is a proactive and assertive advocate for inclusion of all people and will set new standards for our organization, and for the league. There could not be a better duo than Jason Wright and Coach Ron Rivera as we usher in a new era for Washington Football.”
Wright spent seven years in the NFL as a running back. He played for San Francisco, Atlanta, Cleveland and Arizona, where he was the Cardinals’ team captain and labor-union representative during the league’s 2011 lockout.
After his time in the NFL, he went on to get an MBA, graduating with high honors from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Wright then worked for global strategy and management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, and became a a partner in the Operations Practice, based in D.C.
According to the release, Wright steered “some of the world’s most influential Chief Human Resources Officers, Chief Financial Officers and Chief Security Officers to transformed environments, modernized operations and increased business value.”
At the Black Economic Institute at McKinsey, Wright worked on an anti-racism and inclusion strategy.
Additionally, he is a trustee for the Union Theological Seminary.
Washington’s hiring of Wright drew a commendation from the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which seeks to promote diversity in NFL. Chairman Harry Carson and executive director Rod Graves called it a “historic event.”
“The selection is the result of an inclusive process that recognizes the talents that people of color can offer,” they said. “We hope that it signifies a true change for the manner in which leadership is chosen in the NFL.”
Until now, Kevin Warren had been the highest-ranking Black business-side executive in the NFL. The Minnesota Vikings promoted Warren to chief operating officer in 2015, and he held that post for four years until leaving to become the Big Ten commissioner.
During a visit with WTOP Monday afternoon, Warren wasn’t far from Wright’s mind. He said that Warren “did a similar job for many years, just without the title” in Minnesota.
“Anytime you’re a person of color, and you’re the first anything, it’s worth pausing and celebrating and acknowledging,” Wright said. “And it’s meaningful and significant, but not because of me, but because of all the people that came before to pave the way.”
Wright, like head coach Ron Rivera, will report directly to Snyder while overseeing Washington’s operations, finance, sales and marketing departments. Rivera, who was a defensive coordinator in Chicago and San Diego at the time, said he remembers Wright as a player and has grown to realize the two share many of the same values that should help them work together.
“It is no surprise to me that he went on to achieve the caliber of success that Jason has in his time in the business world,” Rivera said. “Because he knows the NFL firsthand and how fast it moves, I am excited to have him on board to head up the front office and operations.”
The move to hire Wright comes after the team dropped its controversial name in July and renamed itself 10 days later. The team also is trying to move forward after 15 female employees of the franchise said they were sexually harassed.
Wright told WTOP’s Shawn Anderson that policies will be put in place to “give employees the ability to elevate concerns in a very rigorous and fast way.” An investigation into past harassment is “a good start,” he said.
“We need great people, leaders across the organization that create an environment where everybody feels included and can do their best work,” Wright told WTOP. “We’re going to have a trust-based organization that’s established through consistent messaging from the top and role modeling from our most senior leaders.”
As for the process to pick the team’s new name, Wright sees it as an opportunity to engage a frustrated fan base and rebuild their trust.
“It’s going to be one that is very open collaborative, that is community based,” Wright said, “and fans are going to have input on that decision.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.