In 1999, Cameron Diaz played the role of Christina Pagniacci in Any Given Sunday, a dramatic film that dug into the depths of the dark side of professional football. In arguably one of her most prolific roles ever, the actress played the role of the only daughter and heir to the recently deceased owner of the San Diego Sharks. Throughout the film, Diaz’s character is portrayed as a hardcore owner with little concern for the intricacies of the game and a sole focus on improving the team’s profitability.
Even with dramatized scenes such as Diaz busting into closed locker room doors, the movie does bring to light the very real presence of inspirational women in the sports industry. Read the below list of ten women that are arguably ten of the most inspirational women in sports.
Top 10 Inspirational Women in Sports
10. Donna Goldsmith
Between 2008 and 2011, Goldsmith acted as the Director and Chief Operating Officer of publicly-traded World Wrestling Entertainment (“WWE”). While serving as the WWE’s COO, Goldsmith helped generate almost $525 million of revenue annually at a time when other combat sports were gaining popularity. Even though Goldsmith stepped down from her position in 2011, her impressive leadership and impact in the sports industry still remains noteworthy.
9. Wendy Lewis
Having worked for Major League Baseball since 1995, Lewis currently holds the highest executive position of any woman currently employed by the league. In November 2008, she earned a promotion to the position of Senior Vice President of Diversity and Strategic Alliances. Under Lewis’s diversity initiatives, MLB has not only strengthened a culture of inclusion within its corporate offices, but also partnered with several minority and women-owned businesses.
8. Danica Patrick
In one of the few sports that does not separate male contestants from female contestants, Patrick enjoys a dominant presence in American Auto Racing. Patrick is the first female to win an Indy Car Series race and also holds the best finish by a female in any NASCAR top-circuit race. She also enjoys an influential presence within the industry as a model and advertising spokesperson. By hanging with the guys at speeds of over 100 miles per hour, Patrick opened doors for future female race car drivers.
7. Denise DeBartolo York
The daughter of a real estate mogul and multi-millionaire, DeBartolo first worked in sports when appointed the President of the National Hockey League Pittsburgh Penguins. While acting as President of the franchise, DeBartolo turned the failing team into a Stanley Cup Champion in 1991. In 2000, DeBartolo and her husband acquired ownership of the San Francisco 49ers from her brother when he faced legal issues that forced him to hand over the team. To recognize Bartolo for her contribution as a woman in sports and to help build the next generation of women in sports, the Bartolo family runs a fellowship program each year designed for young women to develop into leading executives within professional football.
6. Ronda Rousey
Rousey quickly rose as a star within the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and recently became the first female ever signed to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Known for her trash-talking and twitter trolls, Rousey has actually become a media darling within MMA and within the sports industry as a whole, even gracing the pages of ESPN’s Body issue. As a prominent and vocal female force within a male dominated industry, Rousey leads the way for aspiring female fighters.
5. Linda Cohn
In the realm of sports journalism, media professionals view Cohn as a pioneer in her field. As one of the first female sports anchors, Cohn became a permanent presence on ESPN’s Sports Center beginning in July of 1992. Mastering the art of storytelling, relating to viewers, and exhibiting her true enjoyment of sports, up-and-coming female sports anchors should look up to Cohn.
4. The Williams Sisters
Sports fans best know sisters Venus and Serena Williams for their success as professional tennis players. In a sport with a limited presence of African-Americans, the two won numerous Grand Slam titles, U.S. Open matches, Wimbledon tournaments and several other tennis contests in the past decade. With several of their own athletic accomplishments under their belt, the pair took it a step further in 2009 when they purchased a minority interest in the Miami Dolphins. With this purchase the Williams sisters became the first African-American females to own an ownership stake in a professional football team.
3. Pat Summit
With women’s college basketball gaining popularity in the past few years, basketball coaches like Summit are building their programs to develop highly competitive athletes and teams. Under the leadership of Summit, the University of Tennessee Volunteers enjoyed almost four decades of recognition as an elite program. In 2011, Summit shocked the nation by revealing that she suffered from Alzheimers. In 2012, she retired from coaching and decided to use her new found time to raise funds for cutting-edge research for the disease. Summit remains a legend in her sport as much for her philanthropic efforts over the years as her impressive career statistics.
2. Molly Fletcher
Dubbed the “female Jerry McGuire” by CNN, Fletcher stands out in a career field dominated by males. Known for both compassion and strong negotiating skills, Fletcher’s ability to adapt to both the personal and business sides of business dealings in sports, places her in a unique position in the world of sports agency. Fletcher’s roster of talent includes several professional athletes, coaches, personalities, and broadcasters.
1. Gabrielle Douglas
During the Summer 2012 Olympics, Douglas overcame several trials and triumphs to win the gold medal for Best All-Around Woman Olympian. For a brief moment in sports history, this country’s citizens put aside all differences and united to celebrate the pint-sized gymnast’s success. Gracing the front of the Kellog’s cereal box and the covers of magazines such as Essence, “Gabby Douglas” is a household name and inspiration to all.