Closing The Gap

Meet Sandra Douglass Morgan, the only Black female president in the NFL: ‘This job is much bigger than me’

Courtesy of the Las Vegas Raiders

Growing up in Las Vegas, Sandra Douglass Morgan never dreamed about making history — she just wanted to make herself, and her parents, proud. 

Her father Gilbert, who's Black, and her mother Kil Cha, who is a first-generation Korean American, would swap stories about experiencing casual racism at their jobs while cleaning up after dinner. Gilbert was in the military, and her mother worked in the gaming industry. 

But Douglass Morgan didn't need to eavesdrop to understand that she and her family would be treated unfairly because of the color of their skin. She watched people assume her mother couldn't understand English, and question how she and her sister Sonya could be her daughters.

Douglass Morgan, now 44, made a promise to herself: No matter what she did, she would champion equity and respect. If she wasn't happy or felt like she wasn't being seen, she would be part of the change. 

Seven months ago, she started a new job as the president of the Las Vegas Raiders — also becoming the first Black woman to lead an NFL team in the league's history.

All roads lead back to Las Vegas

Douglass Morgan didn't always plan to stay in Sin City for the long haul.

She was born on Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, but her family moved to Las Vegas in the early 1980s after her father was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base.

As a teenager, she set her sights on moving to California and pursuing a career in journalism, inspired by Connie Chung's evening newscasts. She enrolled at the University of Nevada in the 1990s, where she studied political science and communications.

During her sophomore year, however, Douglass Morgan signed up for a class that would alter her career plans and the course of her life: constitutional law.

She fell in love with the law's complexities, its endless possibilities and the chance to use it to build a more fair, accessible world. As soon as she finished her undergraduate degree, she applied to law school, ultimately choosing to attend the William S. Boyd School of Law at UNLV to save money.

Shortly after graduating in 2003, she was hired as a litigation attorney for The Mirage casino resort. She became the North Las Vegas city attorney in 2008, making her the first Black person in Nevada's history to hold the job.

Douglass Morgan continued to climb the corporate ladder, working as the director of external affairs for AT&T and serving on the esteemed Nevada Gaming Commission. In 2019, she shattered another glass ceiling when she became the first person of color to serve as chair of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

This meant that, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Douglass Morgan was responsible for managing the openings and closing of casinos in Las Vegas — an experience that taught her how to lead under pressure like no other.

"There was no blueprint, no one could tell me what to do," she recalls. "I quickly learned not to be afraid of making an unpopular decision, because ultimately I had to trust my gut and do what I felt was best for the people I managed and whose safety I was responsible for."

She left that job in the fall of 2020 to serve on the boards of different businesses, including Caesars Entertainment and Fidelity National Financial. In 2021, she became legal counsel for Covington & Burling LLP law firm and started her own consulting business. That same year, she joined the Las Vegas committee for Super Bowl LVIII. 

Courtesy of the Las Vegas Raiders

A once-in-a-lifetime experience

The blend of legal, business, and political positions on Douglass Morgan's resume, she says, has made her a more confident, adaptable leader, and have a good instinct for what makes a strong organizational culture — all traits that, unbeknownst to her, would make her a great NFL president.

When Douglass Morgan first met Raiders owner Mark Davis in 2021, she told him to call her if he ever needed business advice from a local, given that the team had just moved from Oakland to Las Vegas for the 2020 season. 

Months later — and after the abrupt departure of two presidents — Davis approached Douglass Morgan about the job. The Raiders had considered several qualified candidates, he told her, but her name kept coming to the top of the list.

At first, she hesitated. "I didn't see myself working in the front office of one of the most iconic franchises in football," she recalls. Douglass Morgan sought the counsel of friends and family, including her husband, Don Morgan, who played four years in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals. 

As she mulled over the job offer, she was reminded of some of her favorite childhood memories: attending UNLV basketball games, meeting professional athletes during school assemblies, and the joyous connection that being a part of a fanbase can bring.

That convinced her to take the job. "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," she says. 

'Success isn't being the first'

Douglass Morgan jokes that she underestimated the amount of attention her new job would bring.

"I'm glad I did, though, because if I knew that was going to happen, I would have been a lot more nervous," she adds.

Before the season, she attended an event at Allegiant Stadium for suite and season ticket holders. She had spoken at length about the significance of her appointment, and what it meant to her to be the first Black female NFL president at press conferences and meetings with her staff, but at that point, she couldn't grasp the impact of her achievement.

Then, a young father came up to her.

"He told me that he brings his son and daughter to the games and that his son always talks about wanting to play for the Raiders, while her daughter says nothing," she says. "But when she saw me on the field, she turned to her dad and said, 'Maybe I can work for the Raiders, too.'" 

She continues: "I realized, at that moment, that this job is much bigger than me. It's giving people hope and visibility and optimism that this is something you can strive for."

But Douglass Morgan wants to be more than a figurehead. She aims to make the Raiders and the NFL more diverse, starting at the top — one of her first moves was to hire a director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Raiders. 

Her other goals include strengthening the Raiders' company culture and engaging the organization in more community activities in and around Las Vegas. 

"To me, the definition of success isn't being the first — it's to have many, many others follow behind you," Douglass Morgan says. "It's incredibly important to uplift and support the next generation of leaders. I don't want sports, or other male-dominated industries, to be a trail anymore — I want it to be an eight-lane highway, open to all."

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