By Grace Austin
Professional sports have long been a boys’ club.
A true glass ceiling remains in the executive levels of professional athletics. But not for Eve Wright Taylor. Taylor hadn’t even reached 35 when she earned a top spot as vice president and associate general counsel for the Miami Heat, a position she has held for several years. Taylor, a relatively young executive, has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks of corporate America and the professional sports world.
Taylor was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana. Growing up, sports were an important part of Taylor’s life. She was raised playing volleyball, basketball, and softball.
“My mother thought it was very important for us to play sports. I enjoyed it, and I ended up playing sports year-round,” said Taylor.
While she did not pursue athletics into college, Taylor found her calling, the law, while interning at her future mentor’s law firm as a sophomore at DePauw University.
“I always knew I wanted to practice law. No one in my family was a lawyer, but I knew I wanted to be one,” said Taylor. “I started working for my mentor in college. [He and his partner] started a sports and entertainment practice, and that was really my exposure to [law]. After college, I wanted to stay [at the firm] but they kind of pushed me so I could have the experience of working with other firms.”
Taylor began her professional career at corporate law firms. Her career in the sports industry began at the LPGA, where she served as the senior director of Business Affairs. As senior director, she developed sports marketing opportunities for corporate sponsors to leverage their affiliation with the LPGA in order to reach target markets; presented strategies to facilitate golf association relationships; and identified strategic brand extension and revenue generation opportunities.
Taylor transitioned her tenure at the LPGA into her current position at the Miami Heat. In her role at the Heat and American Airlines Arena, Taylor advises on a wide variety of legal issues pertaining to marketing and promotions, concerts and events, corporate sales, merchandising initiatives, and player-related matters. Although Taylor sees major differences in the scope of both leagues, she also sees many similarities between the LPGA and the NBA.
“[In professional sports] corporate sponsorships are a huge component of your business. There is quite a bit of overlap between marketing and business,” said Taylor.
Taylor is aware of the advantages of working for an NBA team, although they might not be what one would expect.
“Professional basketball is awesome and exciting. My absolute favorite part, though, is the people. Liking the people you’re with is awesome,” said Taylor. “What keeps me energized is that I like things that change, the fact that in any given day I could be working on five different things and it’s also moving pretty quickly. I like that environment, and I like being around people that are moving. While some people may like sports for the action on the floor, the type of culture and environment that this industry affords is what I enjoy.”
Being in a male-dominated industry like sports and entertainment has not been easy. Taylor attributes much of the ease in her professional rise to past female pioneers in the industry.
“By in large, there have been significant gains made. I stand on the shoulders and the backs of women who really suffered through some things. I am in an environment where there are six women who are senior staff members. That is pretty unique in professional sports. So, I think it’s a reality you have to deal with in sports and other industries as well. We have to be good caretakers of this legacy,” said Taylor.
Taylor acknowledges that while some teams in the wide-ranging sports industry, which includes everything from swimming to rodeo, may be more enlightened when it comes to hiring women and diverse staffing, others are far less so, and may need more guidance and time.
“I think some people get it, some people not yet, and I think it’s an education process and an opportunity to us, as women in the sports industry, to kind of chip away at those barriers,” said Taylor.
In recent years, Taylor has taken on the role of public speaker, addressing everyone from law firms to young professionals. She now speaks regularly on sports, licensing, sponsorship, corporate governance, and diversity issues. Lately, she has begun speaking to larger groups in seminars.
“It’s really a give-back. People have shared information with me, which shortened my learning curve. I’m starting to do seminars talking about finding your passion and what you want to do with your life. It’s been an interesting emergence,” said Taylor.
While she may be a rising star at the Heat and in the public speaking circuit, above all Taylor appreciates the motivated people and organization that she works for. However, the perks of working at American Airlines Arena are appreciated. Said Taylor, “We get tickets to the game, and there’s a lot of good concerts here. It’s really exciting!”