The Unrelenting: SI's list of most powerful, influential women in sports - Sports Illustrated

The Unrelenting

Introducing our list of the most powerful, most influential and most outstanding women in sports right now—the game-changers who are speaking out, setting the bar and making a difference
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“Everyone thinks women should be thrilled when we get crumbs, and I want women to have the cake, the icing and the cherry on top, too.”

Those were the words famously spoken by tennis legend Billie Jean King in 1970 as she led a crusade calling for female players to earn equal prize money. Throughout her career and in the decades since that proclamation, King has championed equality and social justice and her efforts have created opportunities for both women and the LGBTQ community—and at age 76, she’s still charging on.

That’s why King kicks off The Unrelenting, Sports Illustrated’s list celebrating the women in sports who are powerful, persistent and purposeful in their pursuits—for athletic greatness, gender equality, social justice and more. Women who are innovating, influencing and inspiring. Women who are showing up, speaking out, setting the bar and making a difference, both inside and outside of competition.

From athletes and activists, to executives, coaches and more, the group of honorees is diverse and spans a variety of sports and fields, but all of the women share a common thread: They’re all changing the game.

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Billie Jean King

Tennis legend and social activist

A true icon and one of the most renowned tennis players in history, King has dedicated her life to fighting for change and equality, using her on-court skills to garner respect and recognition for female athletes and her activism to help pass Title IX and secure opportunities for the women in sports today. King is the first female athlete to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the first woman to have a namesake major sporting venue, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York; and, most recently, the International Tennis Federation reamed its annual team competition the “Billie Jean King Cup” in her honor. In the years since and at age 76, King has not ceased her social change efforts but intensified them, continuing to fight for equal pay in sports, leading the work of the Women's Sports Foundation and serving as a mentor and role model for the next generation of women determined to create change.

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Naomi Osaka

WTA World No. 3 and three-time Grand Slam champion

In the seven matches it took to win her third major title at the 2020 U.S. Open, Osaka donned seven masks, all spotlighting the names of Black victims of police brutality and racial injustice. While her three-set, comeback victory over Victoria Azarenka in the final was undeniably impressive, the 22-year-old has been resolute and relentless in using her platform to speak up in 2020. “All the people that were telling me to ‘keep politics out of sports’ (which it wasn’t political at all), really inspired me to win. You better believe I’m gonna try to be on your tv for as long as possible,” she tweeted after her win in New York.

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Maya Moore

Minnesota Lynx forward

Since stepping away from basketball and hitting pause on her flourishing career in early 2019, Maya Moore has been a tireless advocate for criminal justice reform, ultimately helping to free Jonathan Irons, the man whose case she became heavily involved in and married in 2020. A four-time WNBA champion and 2014 WNBA MVP, Moore has now sat out two straight seasons to fight for justice and use her platform to impact social change.

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Michele Roberts

Executive director, National Basketball Players Association

In August 2014, Roberts became the first woman leader of a major professional sports union in North America. In the years since, the South Bronx native has secured salary increases and better schedules for the NBA players she represents. In early March, Roberts announced that she would be stepping down from her role. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit and shut down the NBA season on March 11, Roberts halted her retirement plans and immediately pivoted to helping shepherd players through this difficult time. Roberts was fundamental in organizing the sport’s return in the Orlando bubble, negotiating financial agreements, player health and safety protocols and social justice messaging and efforts, such as the “Black Lives Matter” signage on every court.

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Simone Biles

U.S. gymnast

With a combined total of 30 Olympic and world championship medals, the most decorated, dominant gymnast ever was poised to add to her haul this summer at the Tokyo Olympics. Even with the Summer Games postponed to 2021, Biles doesn’t need more hardware to prove her power, poise and persistence, particularly in matters away from the mat. The 23-year-old came forward with accounts of how she, too had been sexually abused by Larry Nassar and continues to push her sport forward as she fights for survivors and adds to her growing list of namesake gymnastics elements.

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Terri Jackson

Executive director, Women’s National Basketball Players Association

After serving as the NCAA’s director of law, policy and governance, Jackson became the WNBPA’s first executive director in 2016. In her role, Jackson spearheaded the recent players’ union negotiations with league officials, which resulted in a new, eight-year collective bargaining agreement that secured players a 53% pay increase, paid maternity leave and fertility benefits, upgraded travel arrangements and more. Jackson has also been integral in helping the union navigate the coronavirus pandemic and supportive in the players’ efforts to spread awareness about racial inequality during the WNBA season.

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Jennifer Cohen, Sandy Barbour, Heather Lyke, Carla Williams and Candice Storey Lee

The only five female athletic directors at Power 5 schools

University of Washington’s Cohen, Penn State’s Barbour, Pittsburgh’s Lyke, Virginia’s Williams and Vanderbilt's recently hired Lee represent the five women to hold the athletic director position across the 65 colleges in the Power 5 sports conferences, the nation’s most lucrative and influential. Although the percentage of female athletic directors has increased from 19% in 2009 to 24% in 2019, according to an annual report from Women Leaders in College Sports, most hires have come at the Division II and III levels, leaving this small group to represent women at the top ranks of college sports.

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Nneka Ogwumike

Los Angeles Sparks forward

She’s a WNBA champion, six-time WNBA All-Star and WNBA MVP award winner, but Ogwumike is making her presence felt off the court in an even bigger way. As president of the WNBPA, the 30-year-old was an integral part of securing a groundbreaking, eight-year collective bargaining agreement earlier this year, and, most recently, she helped construct the details of the “Wubble” for the 2020 season while making sure the players were able to be leaders in the fight for social justice.

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Megan Rapinoe

USWNT, OL Reign

In 2019, Megan Rapinoe was honored for her World Cup performance and outspoken voice by being named Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year, marking just the fourth woman in the award's 66-year history to win it unaccompanied, a feat that is both a remarkable athletic achievement and a reflection of entrenched gender biases. Since then, Rapinoe has doubled down on her tireless fight for racial and gender equality, LGBTQ rights and social justice, refusing to be silent in the face of adversity.

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Lisa Joseph Metelus

Executive, CAA Sports and CAA board member

Since joining CAA Sports, a division of Creative Artists Agency, in 2011, Metelus has helped her basketball clients with off-the-court endeavors, including endorsements, philanthropy, speaking engagements and more. Her client list of more than four dozen NBA players includes Dwyane Wade, Zion Williamson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Collin Sexton, and Tyler Johnson, among others. In June 2020, Metelus was promoted to the CAA board, the group that is responsible for the day-to-day management of the agency. Metelus is also heavily involved in creating career opportunities for women in sports, serving as one of the four founders of Play Make Her, which aims to support women in the industry with peer-to-peer leadership, empowerment through networking and more.

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Crystal Dunn

USWNT, North Carolina Courage

The USWNT star and 2019 World Cup champion is known for being a resilient, versatile player that excels in every position on the field, but she’s also proved to be a powerful advocate off the field, too. Playing in the NWSL, which was the first of the major pro sports to return after the pandemic shutdown, Dunn has raised her voice as a Black woman to call out the importance of protesting and the shortcomings within the league, including how announcers talk about Black players and the stereotypes that are often leaned on.

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Doris Burke

Analyst and broadcaster, ESPN

A longstanding figure in broadcasting, Burke has an ability to articulate the game and connect with audiences that has set her apart as one of the most powerful and prominent voices in sports. She has continuously made history during her illustrious career, becoming the first woman to be awarded the Curt Gowdy Media Award by the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and, in 2017, the first woman to be a full-time NBA TV analyst on ESPN and ABC, a role that she still holds today. And when the NBA Finals begin next month, Burke is set to rewrite the records yet again as the first woman to serve as a game analyst for the event on network television or radio broadcast. “I’m honored to be the first, but there is also a part of me that knows the timing of my career has contributed to this,” Burke told SI in September 2020. “The fact of the matter is that, at some point, this will stop being a conversation piece.”

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Alysia Montaño

U.S. Olympian, track and field

You may know Montaño as “that pregnant runner,” after she ran the 800 meters at the U.S. track and field championships in 2014, when she was eight months pregnant, and again in ’17, when she was five months along. The label may be in her Twitter bio, but Montaño has done much more than just compete while pregnant. The 2012 Olympian and six-time USATF outdoor champion spoke out (breaking her nondisclosure agreement) to reveal the lack of maternity protections she received from sponsors Nike and Asics as a professional athlete. To continue the fight, Montaño created her nonprofit &Mother earlier this year, to help “break down the barriers that limit a woman’s choice to pursue and thrive in both career and motherhood,” and she has also used her platform to bring awareness to and combat racism in the sport of running.

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Alyssa Nakken

Assistant coach, San Francisco Giants

On Jeopardy! in late September in a category titled, “The Good Stuff,” the $800 answer read: “Ex-Sacramento State softball star Alyssa Nakken didn’t have to go far to be the first female coach in MLB with this NL team.” The question, of course, was, “Who are the San Francisco Giants?” The 30-year-old can now add Jeopardy! clue to her already impressive résumé, which, in addition to her 2020 hiring, includes becoming the first woman to coach in an on-field capacity, when she replaced the first base coach during exhibition games against the Oakland A’s this summer.

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Coco Gauff

WTA No. 51

Coco Gauff went from being No. 686 in the WTA rankings at the start of 2019 to winning her first WTA title, to making remarkable runs at three Grand Slam tournaments, including victories over Osaka and Venus Williams. It was quite the ascent for a 16-year-old, but in 2020, with tennis on hold for a few months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gauff emerged in a completely different—and perhaps more impressive—way. In addition to being outspoken on social media, Gauff took the lectern at a Black Lives Matter rally in her hometown in Delray Beach, Fla., in June, demanding change and urging others to use their voice for good.

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Julie Donaldson

Senior vice president of media, Washington Football Team

A longtime NBC Sports Washington reporter and broadcaster, Donaldson was hired as the Washington Football Team’s senior vice president of media in July, and she has already made it clear that she is determined to change the culture within the team and organization. Just one example: She created the Women’s Initiative Now board to help support the women employees in the franchise within her first few days on the job. And when Washington played its season-opener against the Eagles on Sept. 13, Donaldson made history in her debut as the first woman to hold a full-time role in the radio booth for an NFL team. After surviving a domestic assault by a former boyfriend nearly 12 years ago, Donaldson is passionate about using the ordeal to further support her dedication to making a difference in the team’s culture.

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Ada Hegerberg

Olympique Lyonnais forward

At just 25 years old, the Lyon striker is the all-time leading scorer in the Women's Champions League and the first woman to win soccer’s biggest award, the Ballon d'Or. But since 2017, Hegerberg has continued to sacrifice her place on Norway's national team—including the 2019 World Cup—in protest of the country's treatment of women's soccer and its national team members as compared to the men. Backed by other women like Alex Morgan and Rapinoe speaking up about equal pay, Hegerberg’s voice has been amplified.

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Kim Davis

Senior executive vice president, social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs, NHL

Following two decades at JPMorgan Chase, Davis joined the NHL in December 2017 and currently serves as the highest-ranking Black executive in the league. Since she was hired, Davis’s aim has been focused on diversity and making the sport of hockey more inclusive. In a mostly white league, Davis has been integral in identifying inequities, fighting for representation and creating awareness. “The NHL has long used the phrase ‘Hockey Is For Everyone,’ not as a statement of today's reality, but as an expression of our vulnerability and a vision for our future,” Davis recently wrote in an op-ed. “While the game is not renowned for its diversity, I believe it is nonetheless poised to become the most inclusive sport in the world.”

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Natasha Cloud

Washington Mystics point guard

After winning a WNBA championship in 2019, Cloud decided to forgo the 2020 season in order to focus her efforts on social justice. “I have a responsibility to myself, to my community, and to my future children to fight for something that is much bigger than myself and the game of basketball,” Cloud wrote on Instagram in her announcement. In June, Cloud signed a deal with Converse to become the first WNBA athlete to join the sneaker brand, which covered the entirety of Cloud’s forfeited 2020 salary.

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Jessica Berman

Deputy commissioner and executive vice president, business affairs, National Lacrosse League

After 13 years in the NHL—nine as deputy general counsel and, most recently, four as vice president, community development, culture and growth—Berman joined the NLL in August 2019, becoming the first woman to hold the title of deputy commissioner at any professional sports league in North America. Berman is responsible for the emerging league’s legal affairs and team services, as well as assisting with its expansion strategies.

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Serena Williams

WTA World No. 9

A longstanding figure in the sport of tennis for more than two decades, Williams has 23 Grand Slam titles to her name—and at age 39, she’s still competing and clawing for her record-tying 24th major title. A cultural and sporting icon, Williams’s influence extends beyond the court. From battling injuries to surviving serious complications after giving birth to her daughter, Olympia, in 2017, to withstanding racist remarks and body-shaming comments throughout her career, Williams has confronted adversity head on, with strength, resilience and courage. And all the while, she serves as a constant inspiration for both working moms and a new generation of young tennis players around the world.

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Blake Bolden

Pro scout, L.A. Kings, and U.S. ice hockey player

When she joined the NWHL at age 25, Bolden became the first Black woman to play professional hockey. Since then, Bolden has become a three-time NWHL All-Star and the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year. The 29-year-old has made strides off the ice, too, dedicating her time to helping young women of color get involved in the sport and working with Black Girl Hockey Club, a nonprofit organization focused on inclusivity in hockey. This year, Bolden made history yet again when she joined the Kings, becoming the NHL’s first Black woman pro scout.

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A’ja Wilson

Las Vegas Aces forward

This season, in her third year in the WNBA since being drafted first overall, the Aces forward led her team to the No. 1 seed and captured the league’s 2020 MVP award. The 24-year-old has also become a leader off the court, emerging as a strong voice for young Black girls and spearheading the efforts of the league’s newly formed Social Justice Council, which is focused on issues such as race, voting rights, LGBTQ advocacy and more.

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Samantha Gordon

Viral football star and activist

The world was first introduced to Sam Gordon in 2012, when a YouTube highlight video of the then nine-year-old tearing it up in the local Salt Lake City peewee football league went viral. Since then, Gordon has appeared in an NFL Super Bowl commercial and helped to create the Utah Girls Football League, the first all-girls tackle football league in the U.S. Now 17, Gordon has continued to use her celebrity to advocate for girls football. Gordon and her father are part of a pending Title IX lawsuit to get girls football added as a varsity high school sport in Utah; recently, after more than three years, a federal judge finally allowed the case to go to trial.

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Allyson Felix

Four-time Olympian, track and field

At age 34, Felix is one of the most decorated track and field athletes in history, with nine Olympic medals (six gold) in four appearances and 18 world championship medals, including 13 gold to surpass Usain Bolt’s previous record of 12. But she’s also making a name for herself as a powerful voice and advocate for maternity rights for women everywhere. In 2019, Felix’s op-ed on her former sponsor Nike in The New York Times ignited a discussion about pregnancy discrimination in sports and athletics and led to the brand’s revision of contracts to include more protections for pregnant athletes. As she gears up for the Tokyo Olympics, Felix remains at the forefront of the fight.

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Cat Osterman, Jessica Warren, Victoria Hayward and Erika Piancastelli

Athletes Unlimited softball captains

With Tokyo postponed until 2021, softball has to wait a little longer for its return to the Olympics. But in an effort to change the structure of the sport, a group of players still put softball in the spotlight this summer—with the launch of a new league, Athletes Unlimited, that's trying to redefine the idea of a team sport. With no general managers, no head coaches, and no owners, AU is based on the idea that the power should rest with individual players, as four team captains had the chance to call the shots and redraft their rosters fresh each week. The end result was not one championship club but instead four top players—Cat Osterman, Jessica Warren, Victoria Hayward and Erika Piancastelli—who ruled the summer, finishing with the most points overall.

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Samantha Rapoport

Senior director of diversity and inclusion, NFL

A former Canadian women’s league quarterback, Rapoport is one of the leaders in forging a pipeline for women looking to pursue careers in football. In her role at the NFL, where the majority of coaches, scouts, referees and other employees are men, Rapoport has worked to change the mindset of owners and executives and create a more diverse environment. The 39-year-old conducts an annual conference at the scouting combine that helps match female candidates with teams. In just a few years, her initiatives have helped dozens of women get football jobs at the pro and college levels.

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Hilary Knight

U.S. ice hockey player, three-time Olympic medalist 

Widely known as the one of the leaders (and greatest goal scorers) in women's hockey, Knight has used her platform to advocate for change in her sport. In 2019, Knight was one of the loudest voices in a group of more than 200 players who decided not to play for any professional league until better pay and working conditions were obtained—and she hasn’t stopped fighting since. As part of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, Knight is battling for the next generation of young athletes and embracing the responsibility that comes with her celebrity, particularly when it comes to social justice and gender equality efforts.

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Nicole Lynn

NFL and NBA agent and lawyer, Young Money APAA Sports

After signing her first client at 26, Lynn became the third woman—and the first Black woman—to represent a top-five NFL draft pick when Quinnen Williams was drafted third by the New York Jets in 2019. Since then, Lynn has continued to challenge stereotypes and blaze trails in a male-dominated industry, recently adding former Oklahoma and current Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts to a roster that already includes a dozen NFL players, football coaches, professional softball players and more.

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Courtney Dauwalter

Ultramarathon runner

Arguably the greatest ultrarunner in the world, Dauwalter is known for pushing the limits of the human body and breaking down barriers for women in the sport. The former science teacher from Golden, Colo., has set records for running extremely long distances, beating runners of all genders in arduous endurance events over hundreds of miles. In August, Dauwalter set out to run 486 miles from the start of the Colorado Trail in Durango to Denver in an attempt to break a record, but had to stop due to acute bronchitis. It’s no surprise that only a few weeks later, the relentless 35-year-old was back out on the mountain trails logging major miles.

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Becky Hammon

Assistant coach, San Antonio Spurs

When she was hired by the Spurs in August 2014, Hammon became the first woman to be a full-time assistant coach in any of the four major men’s pro sports in North America. In the six years since that history-making moment, the undrafted six-time WNBA All-Star has been promoted to the front of the bench, led the Spurs to a Las Vegas Summer League title and earned the respect, trust and admiration of both coaches and players around the league for her basketball knowledge, coaching style and natural leadership skills. All the while, Hammon served as a trailblazer and inspiration for other women striving for male-dominated coaching positions. As head-coach vacancies hit the NBA, Hammon is among the top candidates for multiple openings.

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Simone Manuel

U.S. swimmer and four-time Olympic medalist

At the 2016 Rio Olympics as a 19-year-old rookie, Manuel quickly made her name known, capturing four medals overall and becoming the first Black swimmer to win gold in an individual event. Now 24, Manuel is set to dominate again at the forthcoming Tokyo Olympics, but she also sees this moment as an opportunity to use her platform to speak up about racial injustice and advocate for more diversity in the predominantly white sport of swimming.

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Keia Clarke

Chief executive officer, New York Liberty

In her 14-year career in the NBA and WNBA, Clarke has continued to climb the ranks, starting as a senior business development coordinator with the NBA in 2006 and advancing to become the director of marketing, and then chief operating officer, for the WNBA’s Liberty. In July 2020, Clarke was promoted to CEO. She’s credited with moving the team’s home venue from the Westchester County Center to the larger Barclays Center used by the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and continuing to increase viewership and prominence of the team, both in the New York metropolitan area and at the national level.

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Kendall Coyne Schofield

U.S. ice hockey player, two-time Olympic medalist

Last year, Coyne Schofield made history by becoming the first woman to compete in the NHL All-Star skills competition, finishing less than a second behind three-time champ Connor McDavid and seventh in the league’s fastest skater event with a time of 14.346 seconds. Since that trailblazing moment, Coyne Schofield has continued to make strides for women in hockey, leading the more than 200 members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association and serving as a commentator on the San Jose Sharks broadcast team.

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Muffet McGraw

Former head women’s basketball coach, Notre Dame

After 33 years at the helm of Notre Dame women’s basketball, McGraw announced her retirement from coaching in April 2020, finishing with 936 career victories, nine Final Fours and two national championships with the Fighting Irish. The stats are impressive, but they don’t fully capture McGraw’s legacy. While the Hall of Famer retired from coaching, McGraw plans to use her platform to continue to fight for women’s equality and leadership.

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Lisa Baird

NWSL commissioner

Lisa Baird was named commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League in February 2020, and on March 12, she made the decision to shut down the league due the coronavirus. It was a swift and unexpected start for the former longtime U.S. Olympic Committee marketing chief, but after only a few months in her new role, Baird made a significant impact. The NWSL was the first professional sports league to return to action amid the pandemic with its Challenge Cup and Baird was integral in ensuring a safe environment for everyone involved—the tournament ended without a single positive COVID-19 test throughout the event. This year, Baird also helped to secure a television contract with CBS, a streaming agreement with Twitch and several new sponsorship deals, as well as league expansion for future seasons.

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Brenda Tracy

Founder of Set the Expectation

Brenda Tracy is one of the most influential voices on the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence against women at the college level. In 1998, at age 24, Tracy was gang-raped by four football players. Since surviving, Tracy has become a powerful force for women, speaking on college campuses, initiating policy reform and establishing Set the Expectation, a nonprofit to help educate athletes and coaches about consent and sexual misconduct.

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Niele Ivey

Current head women’s basketball coach, Notre Dame

After 17 seasons at Notre Dame as a player and an assistant coach and a year with the Memphis Grizzlies as an assistant coach, Niele Ivey was named women’s basketball head coach in April 2020, succeeding her mentor, McGraw. During her time in the NBA, Ivey became only the ninth woman to coach in the league, and in her new role at Notre Dame, the 43-year-old became the school’s first Black woman head coach in any sport. Since starting in her position, Ivey has already used her platform to speak out after the police killing of George Floyd. “We need to change the laws and unite together to stand up for what’s right,” she wrote in an impassioned post on social media.

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Cheryl Reeve

Minnesota Lynx head coach and general manager

During the 2020 season, Reeve was named the WNBA Coach of the Year for the third time in her career. Under Reeve’s leadership, the Lynx have won four championships (2011, ’13, ’15 and ’17) and have compiled 232 wins over the last 10 seasons, including a 67.7% winning percentage (245–117) since 2010, which ranks first in league history. Reeve also has a long history of championing social justice issues, and, in recent months, she has continued to be outspoken and supportive of her players’ social justice efforts both on and off the court.

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Candace Parker

Los Angeles Sparks forward and TV analyst, TNT

At age 34 and in her 13th WNBA season, Parker was named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year in September, adding to a long list of athletic accolades that includes a championship, a Finals MVP award, two Olympic gold medals, two regular-season MVPs and a Rookie of the Year award. In between playing games in the Wubble this season, Parker was also working as an analyst for the NBA on TNT shows and juggling being a mom to her 11-year-old daughter, Lailaa. Parker has managed to push forward conversations about social change all the while.

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Laura Okmin

Fox Sports broadcaster and founder of Galvanize

A broadcaster and reporter for more than 25 years, Okmin has covered the Olympics, more than 10 Super Bowls, multiple World Series, and NBA and NHL championships. You’ll typically find her on the sidelines for the NFL on Fox and Westwood One’s NFL national radio games, or working to create a mentorship network for women in sports through her company, Galvanize. In recent years, the boot camps and seminars have expanded to include not only aspiring sports journalists, but also women looking to advance their careers in public relations, marketing, sports business and more.

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Mikaela Shiffrin

U.S. alpine skier, two-time Olympic gold medalist

The youngest slalom champion in Olympic history; the youngest skier to earn 50 World Cup race wins; the first skier—of any gender—to earn $1 million in prize money in a single season; the girl who for years has worn an ABFTTB (“Always Be Faster Than the Boys”) decal  on her helmet: It’s no secret that Shiffrin dominates her sport like no other athlete. After her father’s unexpected death in February and cancellations due to the coronavirus, the 25-year-old has confronted the many challenges of 2020 head on. With a changed perspective, Shiffrin is using her platform to make a difference, developing a more powerful, outspoken voice on racism and social justice and creating the Jeff Shiffrin Athlete Resiliency Fund, in honor of her father, to help athletes who have been impacted by the pandemic.

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Odessa Jenkins

Cofounder, Women's National Football Conference

A former professional football player, Jenkins cofounded the Women's National Football Conference in 2019 with the hopes of building a long-standing, professional women's tackle football league with worldwide reach. An openly gay Black woman, Jenkins is taking on the challenges of a male-dominated sport and working to set the standard for young girls and women who aspire to play football.

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Nancy Hogshead-Makar

Olympic swimmer, civil rights lawyer and CEO of Champion Women

A survivor of sexual assault and U.S. swimmer who won three gold medals and a silver at the 1984 Olympics, Hogshead-Makar has devoted her life to addressing sexual abuse in sports and fighting for gender equality. The 57-year-old has established herself as the leading civil rights lawyer for young athletes involved with sex-abuse lawsuits, and in the wake of the Nassar and USA Swimming scandals, Hogshead-Makar continues to advocate for reform to make sports safer. She also founded Champion Women, a nonprofit that provides legal support for women and girls in sports, in areas such as sexual harassment, abuse and assault, LGBTQ discrimination, Title IX compliance and more.

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Dany Garcia

Chairwoman, The Garcia Companies

Dany Garcia is building an empire. In March, she added another piece to her expansive portfolio: league owner. Together with ex-husband and business partner Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson and private equity firm RedBird Capital, Garcia purchased the bankrupt XFL for $15 million in August 2020, becoming the first woman to own a professional sports league. Garcia adds her new title to an ever-expanding list that already includes CEO, executive producer, professional bodybuilder and more. While it seemed as if the pandemic had put the league in jeopardy after a successful inaugural year, Garcia accepted the challenge and announced a return in spring of 2022.

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Johanna Faries

Commissioner, Call of Duty Esports

Before joining Activision Blizzard in 2018, Faries was a top executive in the NFL, climbing the ranks in her 12-year tenure to vice president of club business development. Now at the helm of the video game company’s 12-team, city-based franchise Call of Duty league, which debuted earlier this year, Faries is the first and only female commissioner of an esports league. In a burgeoning industry, Faries has her eyes set on the future as she tries to grow Call of Duty into one of the biggest sports leagues in the world.

Cover image credit: Erick W. Rasco/Sports Illustrated (Coyne-Schofield, Biles, Cloud); John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated (Hammon, Nakken); Bobby Metelus/Getty Images (Joseph-Metelus); Eklund/Red Box Pictures (Cohen); Taylor Ballantyne/Sports Illustrated (Knight); Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images (Wilson); David E. Klutho/Sports Illustrated (Burke); Jeffery A. Salter/Sports Illustrated (Williams); Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images (Faries); MUSTAFA ABUMUNES/AFP/Getty Images (Montano); Keith Srakocic/AP/Shutterstock (Okmin); Simon Bruty/Sports Illustrated (Osaka); Kohjiro Kinno/Sports Illustrated (Dunn); Walter Iooss Jr./Sports Illustrated (King); Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images (Garcia); Patrick Smith/Getty Images (Felix); Joe Amon/The Denver Post/Getty Images (Dauwalter)

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An earlier version of this story incorrectly omitted the name of Candice Story Lee, one of five female athletic directors at a Power 5 school.