Spurs Sports & Entertainment (SS&E) announced Thursday it has hired a new executive with a far-reaching title: chief impact officer.
Kara Allen, who has held executive positions at the intersection of workplaces and social issues, will lead community engagement, crisis management, sustainability, and equity programming for SS&E, which owns the San Antonio Spurs, the Austin Spurs of the NBA developmental league, and the San Antonio FC minor-league soccer team. SS&E also operates the nonprofit Spurs Give, which supports community charitable initiatives.
SS&E said the new role was part of its commitment to “elevate its work around community and societal impact.” Social justice has gained an increasing emphasis within the NBA.
The announcement comes on the heels of SS&E joining 11 other local corporations in creating a new partnership called the Corporate Partners for Racial Equity, which among other initiatives has collectively pledged $13.8 million toward “initiatives for underserved people.”
The chief impact officer position is still relatively rare at corporations, though it is more common at nonprofits. Earlier this year former British royal Prince Harry took up one of these positions at a Silicon Valley startup. The position typically deals less with nuts and bolts issues at a company, and more so with high-level questions about how the organization’s mission lines up with its work and its partnerships, and sometimes with its internal organization. But the role’s definition is still fluid.
“I don’t know that we know where this goes,” said Spurs CEO RC Buford. “As an organization, we’re excited for Dr. Allen to come challenge us to think differently.”
Allen said the work will involve meeting with executives, nonprofit organizations, schools and universities, fans, and community members.
“For me, the work that the chief impact officer does is activating on our impact,” she said. “It’s ensuring that we follow through on our social responsibility requirements we have as a company.”
Allen most recently served as CEO of Chicago-based nonprofit Umoja, which focuses on training educators in schools to create “safe, inclusive, and restorative spaces,” according to its most recent tax filings. The organization partnered with San Antonio’s UP Partnership in its work with San Antonio Independent School District, Judson ISD, and Harlandale ISD.
Allen has also served in executive positions at nonprofits centered on young people, such as United Friends of the Children and CoachArt. She is currently an adjunct faculty member at Pacific Oaks College in California, as well as a moderator with Pahara Institute, a leadership program for education leaders, in their “Race, Reflection and Practice Towards Action” leadership development program.
This year SS&E also created two other new executive positions: vice president of content and distribution, for which it hired former Turner Sports and Bleacher Report executive Morgan Dewan; and vice president of global partnerships, for which it hired former Twitch executive Katrina Palanca.