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Athletes In Business

Former NFL Star’s Players Philanthropy Fund Is Bigger Than Sports

With his Players Philanthropy Fund, former Baltimore Ravens kicker Matt Stover is making the most of his career off the field.

Blake Yagman



Philanthropy - NFL - Ravens

Former Baltimore Ravens kicker Matt Stover has committed to giving back to other athletes so that they have a chance to meaningfully contribute to their communities through their own creative philanthropic goals.

Think of the old saying, “a candle loses nothing by lighting another flame.”

Stover, a former NFL all-pro, started a Baltimore-based non-profit called the Players Philanthropy Fund with his partners Seth McDonnell and Emil Kallina. PPF is a tax-exempt entity that acts as a fiduciary so as to enable organizations to engage in philanthropy without the fiscal, legal and operational burden of starting a new standalone entity.

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PPF currently works with more than 65 different charitable organizations across the country – including the Ed Reed Foundation and DeAndre Jordan’s Treehouse Giving organization. It also supports organizations that increase resources for mental health issues, education concerns, pediatric cancer, military/veteran and first-responder assistance, homelessness and starvation.

“The mission of the Players Philanthropy Fund is to educate, facilitate and inspire best-practice-based philanthropy,” Stover said. “Every day, PPF’s goal is to empower athletes, celebrities and other individuals by providing financial and administrative support to their charitable organization, freeing them to focus on achieving the maximum impact possible for their charity or community.”

Stover’s concept is a unique one, essentially acting as the financial architect in helping individuals and organizations build structurally sound and compliant charities.

“There are three reasons why I founded [PPF],” he said. “First, I knew that I wanted to live a life of significance following my professional football career. I also knew that I wanted to continue on my personal journey of giving back for the greater good. In addition, I wanted to take the lessons that I learned to help others in their philanthropic and financial journeys.”

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With respect to the nuts and bolts of his fund, Stover emphasizes simplicity.

“My PPF co-founders [and I] knew that if we could develop a way to remove much of the complexity and confusion that athletes, celebrities and others’ experience in developing a charity, we’d see higher participation in giving. With that in mind, we developed three operating platforms that can be chosen: ‘The Donor Advised Fund,’ ‘Fiscal Sponsorship’ and ‘Private Operating Platforms.’”

Each of these platforms has its own unique financial and administrative benefits. So, what are a few things an athlete should be cognizant of when launching a charity?

According to Stover:

  • Brand – How will launching a charitable organization help the individual realize his or her short- and long-term personal brand goals? Does the person have the team in place to ensure the charities’ brand and messaging are strong and executed consistently and effectively?
  • Differentiation – How will the mission of this organization be different from other similar organizations in its space? How will this charity improve, change or innovate the charitable landscape?
  • Timing – Is this the right time for a person to take on the responsibility of being the face of a charitable organization? Additionally, will this person have the time required to make the organization successful?
  • Financial requirements – Does this person fully understand the financial requirements of operating a charitable organization? Does the person have a team and processes in place to ensure the charities long-term success?

PPF’s popularity, due in part to the brilliant concept that Stover came up with, is also supported through the use of strategic partnerships.

“Developing a successful charitable organization goes far beyond being financially compliant,” he said. “We know, through our own experience at PPF, that developing a successful charitable organization also requires creating an effective brand and having the infrastructure in place to consistently build upon that brand.”

A member of the Ravens’ Ring of Honor, Stover has paved a path that every person —not just athletes — should applaud: a post-playing career that uses his or her platform for good.

Blake, a recent law school graduate, lives in New York City. Blake attended undergrad at the University of Miami where he worked for Hurricanes football, WVUM and student government. Blake writes about legal issues related to the sports industry for Front Office Sports.

Athletes In Business

WNBA Star Sue Bird Makes Leap to NBA Front Office With Denver Nuggets

Though she is still suiting up for the Seattle Storm, Sue Bird is using this opportunity with the Denver Nuggets to set up her post-playing career.

Bailey Knecht



Bird - Sports - Nuggets

Photo credit: Seattle Storm

In September, Sue Bird was celebrating her third championship after a sweep of the Washington Mystics in the WNBA Finals. Now, she is traveling to arenas around the country as the Denver Nuggets’ newest basketball operations associate.

In her role with the Nuggets, the Seattle legend will work in the front office with a focus on player scouting, all while balancing her playing career with the Storm.

“It’s been good,” Bird said of the apprenticeship thus far. “I kind of knew coming in, like any new job or position, there’s a lot of learning to be had. The first couple of assignments have been learning jobs and meeting people, which is fun.”

“There’s this happy balance of learning what I can and, at the end of the day, giving my opinion on players and the game of basketball in general,” she added. “Luckily, I’m already accustomed to that part.”

Although her main responsibilities will concentrate on scouting, Bird sees the position as a chance to learn as much as possible about the industry.

READ MORE: How the Seattle Storm Social Team Pulled at Community Heartstrings

“That’s what’s so great about this opportunity,” she said. “I’ve said it so many times, but I’m so thankful to the Nuggets, to [Nuggets’ President of Basketball Operations] Tim Connelly, for giving me this chance to get an understanding of what it means to be a part of an NBA front office and coaching staff, and what it takes. It’s great to see what it’s like firsthand.”

In her 17 years in the WNBA, Bird has earned three championships, 11 All-Star nods and five All-WNBA First Team selections — something she plans to use to her advantage with the Nuggets.

“I do think — because I’m a player, I’ve won before, I’ve played for many years — I have a lot of experience,” she said. “I’ve been on championship teams, teams that had championship potential, less talented teams that have overachieved, and talented teams that have underachieved. I’ve won, and I know what it takes to do that, and I’ve experienced the whole gamut in terms of teams. All of that lends to my outlook, so I’ll do my best to share that.”

“We’re thrilled that Sue has the opportunity to work with such a high-caliber NBA franchise,” added Seattle Storm GM and President Alisha Valavanis. “The Denver Nuggets have added a championship point guard and one of the best basketball minds to their staff. Sue is certain to add a unique value to their franchise.”

Bird isn’t the only WNBA player making moves in the NBA realm. The Mystics’ Kristi Toliver was named assistant coach for player development for the Washington Wizards this season. Former player Becky Hammon is in her fifth year on the San Antonio Spurs’ coaching staff, while another WNBA alumna, Allison Feaster, was recently promoted to lead the G League’s professional path initiative.

“We have a wealth of knowledge, and we’ve played for a long time,” Bird said of the women working in the NBA. “People think that just because we’re women it means we don’t know as much, but that’s not true at all. Experience is key to everything, and it helps you in every aspect of life.”

Even though the style of play in the WNBA may vary from the NBA, Bird is confident in her basketball expertise.

“Is the women’s game different?” she asked. “Yeah, of course, but with that being said, strategy and different qualities of players and teams is the same across the board, regardless of whether you’re male or female.”

READ MORE: WNBA Teams Find Success Through Creative Partnerships 

Armed with that basketball savviness, Bird joins the Nuggets at an exciting time — the team has one of the best records in the NBA and, according to Bird, exemplifies similar qualities to her own team.

It’s fun,” she said. “I’m still playing with the Storm, so a lot of my outlook has to do with my experiences there, and it feels similar. The team has been put together with really good draft picks, good free agent pickups, and it’s starting to become — instead of just a youthful, talented team — a legit contender. It’s fun to see them get to the other side and develop that winning culture, because that’s what we went through in Seattle.”

Though she is still in the midst of her career with the Storm, Bird looks forward to using this opportunity with the Nuggets as a way to get her foot in the door and gradually transition into her post-playing career.

“I mean, it’s legit the best-case scenario,” she said. “I couldn’t have written it any better.”

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Athletes In Business

Detroit Lions Linebacker Devon Kennard Is Thinking Beyond His Playing Career

Devon Kennard knows football won’t last forever, so he’s thinking ahead, using his elevated platform for business and philanthropy.



Devon Kennard - sports - football

Devon Kennard knows football won’t last forever, so he’s thinking ahead.

As a fifth-year veteran in the NFL, Kennard’s philanthropic efforts go back to his college days at USC. Included in those endeavors as a student-athlete was a trip to Haiti following the earthquake, where he and several teammates built five homes.

“I’ve always had a passion for giving back and figuring out what things I need to give back,” Kennard said. “I recognize the platform and unique perspective I have being a professional athlete. I have a perspective kids need to hear because I recognize the importance of having an education and dreams outside of sports.”

Now in his first season with the Detroit Lions, the linebacker extends his work to the Motor City.

Kennard is heavily involved in the local nonprofit Midnight Golf Program. He’s a supporter of the program because he’s a fan of golf as a business tool, but also the program’s mentorship components.

“It’s teaching them how to choose not just where you want to go to college, but which one they can afford and understanding that stuff,” he said. “If I wouldn’t have been on a full scholarship, I really could have used all of this information and guidance.”

Recently, he also started the Reading With DK Challenge, a virtual book club. In the group, he asks his social media followers to read a specific book. Eventually, he’ll ask questions and engage in discussions.

“It’s really to encourage them to read,” he said. “We live in a society where people are stuck on social media, video games and TV. Getting back to books, which is a passion of mine, is something I’ve really tried to do.”

Likewise, during Thanksgiving, he matched with a family from the Midnight Golf Program and provided them a whole Thanksgiving meal and three months of meals into the New Year. They also received tickets to their first Lions game.

READ MORE: Former NFL Star’s Players Philanthropy Fund Is Bigger Than Sports

Kennard is just one example of the growing trend of players working off the field, beyond team-suggested involvement, said Maxx Lepselter, the president of Maxx Branding and Management and Kennard’s off-the-field management. Overall, he specializes in marketing, brand management and endorsements.

“A lot of guys would rather separate things and let agents do what they do best, maximize earnings on the field, then have someone like myself build a brand around each athlete while also diversifying their portfolio across a multitude of fronts,” Lepselter said. “Then there’s someone like myself; that’s where guys are able to elevate their brands.”

Kennard said he has to keep football the main focus during the season, which is when he values having a professional like Lepselter in his corner. Still, he knows the focus can’t solely be on football as there’s a long life after his career.

“You make time for things that matter, and off the field, giving back and making an impact is important to me,” he said. “I don’t take this platform for granted. But to take advantage of it, it takes discipline and time management. And the help around you is essential.”

Along with football and his philanthropic endeavors, Kennard also thinks about money beyond football. He already has a real estate company and invests in a portfolio of properties. Kennard wants to avoid a pitfall he believes many former players struggle with: a passion for anything beyond football — and, even worse, financial issues.

READ MORE: Former NFL Player’s New Political App Aims to Instill Change

“I consider myself a businessman,” he said. “I have a strong interest in business, and after football, I’ll expand that and my philanthropic efforts. I encourage my peers to find other things they’re interested in. Even if they’re not actively involved, just to start to explore and network.

“People will be more willing to talk to an NFL player than an ex-NFL player. They need to think about the doors that might open.”

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Athletes In Business

BDA Sports Management Thrives with Unique Activations for Clients

With a major client roster, BDA Sports Management prides itself on providing holistic services to further players’ careers both on and off the court.

Bailey Knecht



Photo by Spotify

There is more to modern-day sports figures than just their impressive athletic performances.

Athletes are dedicated to their personal brand more than ever before, and earning that off-the-court recognition has become just as essential as the on-court product.

That’s why sports agencies like BDA Sports Management have become indispensable for athletes.

“We focus on strategic partnerships that will amplify a client’s visibility while developing organic brand recognition,” said Shauna Smith, vice president and chief strategy officer at BDA. “With the steady influx and growth of personalities in our industry, staying relevant and interesting is imperative for lasting success in the marketplace.”

BDA is a full-service basketball agency with U.S. and international branches that represent clients in their on-court endeavors, as well as marketing, public relations, community relations, and brand development.

As a firm, BDA strives to know its clients inside and out — their interests, stories that make them unique, and the personal image they want to portray. With that knowledge, BDA works with various organizations to secure activations and partnerships for its clients.

READ MORE: Inside the Life of Allison Galer, One of the WNBA’s Most Prominent Agents 

Many ideas for those activations arise organically. For example, BDA client and Phoenix Sun Deandre Ayton loves music, especially Caribbean beats that remind him of his Bahamian roots, so the BDA team was inspired to pursue a partnership with Spotify. It recently secured an opportunity for Ayton to become the first individual athlete to curate his own #GameDay playlist on the music streaming service.

“Watching Deandre be so engaged and have so much fun selecting his songs made me so proud,” said Arielle Moyal, the BDA marketing and PR coordinator who spearheaded the project. “He loves music, all types, so being given an opportunity to create something that highlighted that passion and had a cultural spin was incredible. The playlist was received very well, so kudos to a company like Spotify for believing in the project and supporting the fun we wanted to have with it.”

Another recent BDA activation highlighted the Chicago Bulls’ Zach LaVine and his interest in American Sign Language and working with the deaf community.

“There are not a lot of pro athletes working with or representing the deaf community, so Zach has a lot of ownership in that space,” Moyal said. “He has a natural connection and passion for the community, and as a firm, we’ve worked really hard to have him recognized as the go-to guy in the NBA for raising awareness and support for their needs and initiatives.”

After learning that Starbucks would be opening a signing/ASL location in Washington D.C., BDA reached out to have LaVine partner with the brand in a social campaign, where he signed a special message in ASL.

The video was shared on his own social platforms, as well as the Starbucks channels. Moyal explained that the activation provided both personal fulfillment for LaVine, as well as publicity from a large brand, giving him exposure to an audience that he normally wouldn’t have.

Another part of BDA’s role means knowing how and when to push the athletes out of their comfort zone. Building trusting relationships with clients is key.

“You want the ability to present unique opportunities and know the client is willing to take that leap because we have their best interests at heart,” Moyal said.

BDA capitalized on that trust with its client Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic, who considers himself an environmental enthusiast, but had a tendency to keep his off-court interests private. With a bit of reassurance, Vucevic made a guest appearance on the animated TV show “Planet Blue” through an activation secured by BDA.

READ MORE: How Teams Are Using Technology to Increase Ticket Sales

“We knew we needed to support him, and part of that meant encouraging him to use his platform to bring awareness to causes he felt were important,” Moyal said. “We told him, ‘This will get you out of your comfort zone, but you’ll be respected for it.’”

In addition to earning its clients’ confidence, the BDA staff must also be ready for opportunities to arise at any moment.

“You never know where inspiration is going to strike,” Moyal said. “You have to be prepared for all of that. We like to tell brands, ‘Give me your funky, weird, obscure ideas because I probably have a client for that.’”

BDA’s wide range of activations is proof that a diverse skill set is necessary to succeed in the sports agency field. Most important, though, is an emphasis on the client.

“You have to be on at all times,” Moyal said. “It’s a client-based business, so the first thing you recognize in our job is ‘client first’ — always.”

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