The Los Angeles Sparks brought together trailblazing women in the sports world for their HERstory Panel. The panelists included L.A. Kings scout Blake Bolden, retired NBA referee Violet Palmer, Kansas City Royals co-owner Karen Daniel, and SLG Impact CEO and founder Shauna Griffiths.
After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona, Palmer began officiating high school games. She then evolved into a top NCAA referee. In 1997, she was offered a position to work for the NBA.
To be an NBA official, Palmer had to complete a training program; she was one of two women to participate at the time. She did not worry about what the other trainees thought of her because she knew that she was qualified and had a passion for officiating.
“You just have to have your own intestinal fortitude,” Palmer said. “You know that you’re qualified, you know that you’ve worked hard, you know that you deserve to be there.”
Bolden was an All-American ice hockey player at Boston College and played for Team USA before becoming the first Black player in the NWHL and the first Black female scout in the NHL. She noted that how she got the job with the Kings was preparation meeting opportunity.
“I was outside Staples Center with Black Girl Hockey Club,” Bolden said. “I ran into Luc Robitaille, the president of the Los Angeles Kings and he is all about growth and development and inclusion in the space of ice hockey.”
Robitaille offered Bolden a scouting job although she was a professional athlete at the time. In the two years that she has worked there, the franchise honored her during Black History Month by wearing jerseys with her name on it.
“That was the biggest hug of gratitude that I could have ever gotten from and NHL club,” Bolden said. “I was excited to give my insight, to give my thoughts on the game just as a different perspective as a woman, as a female player, and as someone who is younger.”
Before she became a member of the Royals ownership group, Daniel was an auditor and was CFO for a Global Engineering and Construction Company. Being a co-owner of the Royals was her way of honoring her grandfather.
“My grandpa taught me all about baseball since I was six years old,” Daniel said. “The ownership group is very interested in transforming our community to help the underserved, underrepresented.”
Griffiths played basketball for the Michigan Wolverines and competed for two seasons in the WNBA. Her company SLG Impact focuses on marketing and brand partnerships. With her business, she wants to help people to harness their values.
“I think that especially on the coaching and the leadership side, I think it’s helping people to stand in their strength,” Griffiths said. “I think that that helps propel the path forward.”
Daniel also talked about a conversation that she had with track and field great Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Joyner-Kersee told her the next step for women in sports is for women to have different leadership roles. One of the reasons why Daniel joined the Royals ownership group was to be a role model.
“What a way for me to hopefully emulate behavior, have children emulate behavior that we can do this,” she said. “I’m hoping to have people look back, have me look back and see that I’ve impacted other young girls.”