She’s moving past the goalposts!
Danita Johnson, Los Angeles Sparks president and chief operating officer, has been announced as the new president of business operations for the D.C. United soccer team. This makes her the first Black president of a Major League Soccer club and one of the highest-ranking female club executives in league history. Johnson led the Sparks with top corporate sponsorship dollars earned and saw an increase in ticket sales by 50% from 2014 to 2017.
“I’ve learned a lot from my time with the WNBA, especially the Los Angeles Sparks organization,” Johnson said in a statement. “It is my belief that establishing a winning culture off the field impacts every aspect of the business, from fan interactions to community engagement, and I am committed to doing just this for one of the most storied and decorated clubs in American soccer history.”
— Danita Johnson (@DanitaJohnson) December 22, 2020
Before joining the Sparks, the North Carolina native worked with the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and Detroit Shock and the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers and the NBA G League’s Bakersfield Jam over her nearly two-decade sports career.
D.C. United CEO and co-chairman, Jason Levien, said they are confident in Johnson and believe she is the right person to lead the team’s business and take the club to new heights.
“Throughout her career, Danita has demonstrated the ability to develop a positive and inspiring work culture, and she has done a tremendous job connecting with the communities in which she has lived and worked,” Levien said. “We are thrilled that she has agreed to join us at this critical moment in D.C. United’s trajectory.”
A leader with a legacy of success set to usher in a new era for D.C. United and @MLS.
— dcunited (@dcunited) December 22, 2020advertisement
The 37-year-old will be responsible for growing the fan base, sponsorships, and arranging non-MLS events at Audi Field. Johnson will also oversee Loudoun United’s business, a second-division team based in Leesburg and owned by the D.C. organization.
In October 2020, MLS announced an increase in diversity and inclusion initiatives following pressure for Black Players for Change; an MLS group founded following global social justice efforts in sports this past year. Black players make up about 22% of the player pool, but there are only two Black Coaches, Colorado’s Robin Fraser and Montreal’s Thierry Henry, and one general manager, Toronto’s Ali Curtis.
Johnson graduated from Western Carolina University, Johnson sits on the board of the Share Winter Foundation, is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and is a WISE Within Mentor.
She joins iconic goalkeeper Briana Scurry, one of the first Black professional women soccer players, as a trailblazer and creating a more inclusive league.
Photo Credit: D.C. United