As part of Women’s History Month, Audible has released a 10-part She Got Game Audible Originals podcast series. The series, produced by ESPN and CBS veteran Bonnie Bernstein’s Walk Swiftly Productions, as well as XG Productions, has Bernstein interviewing top female industry leaders, celebrities, and athletes about what their time playing sports taught them. Here’s a trailer for it:
And here’s the full list of interviewees (all episodes are available now here), with what they’ve accomplished now and what their sports background is:
- Laila Ali: Entrepreneur; TV personality | world boxing champion
- Bianca Belair: World Champion WWE superstar | college track
- Chelsea Clinton: Global health advocate; author | soccer, softball
- Dany Garcia: Owner, XFL; Award-winning TV/film producer | college rowing, pro bodybuilding
- Shawn Johnson: Entrepreneur; social media influencer | Olympic gymnast
- Sheila Johnson: First black female billionaire; owner, Washington Wizards, Capitals, Mystics; Founder/CEO, Salamander Hospitality | tennis, college cheerleading
- Folake Olowofoyeku: Groundbreaking Nigerian actress (Bob Hearts Abishola) | college basketball
- Amy Trask: Lone female NFL CEO (Raiders); CBS Sports NFL analyst | equestrian
- Aisha Tyler: Emmy Award-winning actress (Criminal Minds, Whose Line Is It Anyway?) | college rowing
- Julie Uhrman: Founder, Angel City FC (boasts largest female ownership group for a pro sports team) | college basketball
Bernstein, who is the show’s creator and executive producer in addition to its host, spoke to AA this week about She Got Game. She said the inspiration for this particular series was a 2020 Ernst and Young/ESPNw study that found that 94 percent of women with C-suite roles had played sports. Bernstein said that got her thinking about a distinctive way to celebrate Title IX’s 50th anniversary last year, focusing on what it meant not just to elite athletes, but also to women who went on to success elsewhere using lessons from their sports background.
“I saw a study that Ernst and Young did a while back, and ESPNw was involved in it as well, and one of the most interesting findings that came out of that study was that 94 percent of women in C-suites were athletes, and half of those women played college sports. As somebody who’s a Title IX beneficiary and understands how much what I learned in sports enabled me to navigate this crazy sports industry, as we were approaching the 50th anniversary of Title IX, I was thinking ‘At this point, I’m an entrepreneur. The whole point of becoming an entrepreneur was to take cool creative concepts from concept to market and do really a type of inspirational or aspirational storytelling. What can I do to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX in a unique way?'”
Bernstein said she felt that area had been less explored than content focusing solely on elite female athletes.
“There’s been all sorts of amazing content shining light on groundbreakers, pioneers, glass ceiling-shatterers in the women’s sports space,” she said. “But I think what differentiates She Got Game from a lot of the other content we’re seeing is that most of these women are known for something other than being athletes, other than being in the sports space. And that creates the undeniable link that the Ernst and Young study was talking to.”
And she said some of her guests particularly hit that mark.
“Sheila Johnson, yes, she is in the sports space as an owner, she became a billionaire as the co-founder of BET, and she’s now the founder and CEO of a hospitality company that owns and manages five-star properties. And, oh, by the way, she is the only woman to have ownership stakes in three sports teams, the Wizards and the Mystics and the Capitals. And Amy Trask, yes, she’s in the sports space, but to date, she’s the only woman to ever serve as a NFL CEO. She’s a businesswoman who happens to be in the sports space. Aisha Tyler is an Emmy Award-winning actress who’s working on three big shows right now in Criminal Minds: Evolution, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and as the voice of one of the characters in Archer on FX. She has thrived in the entertainment industry, and as a standup comic, and a daytime show host. But she was a rower, she was on the crew team at Dartmouth.”
“And so when you see women who are at the top of their game, pun intended, and have leveraged sports to thrive in whatever profession it is that they’re thriving in, it speaks powerfully in a different way about what we glean from our time playing sports. And because the voices are different than what we’re accustomed to hearing, hopefully it will land differently with girls and young women who are probably focused more on playing and achieving their sports goals than ‘Oh, let me play sports as long as I can, because they’re going to help me learn about teamwork and accountability and time management and leadership and resilience.’ We’re not thinking about that as athletes.”
Bernstein said she thinks it’s vital to have that kind of content out there to encourage girls to stay in sports.
“For as many doors as Title IX has opened, what we’re also seeing is that girls are still exiting at a higher frequency and an earlier age than boys. And so what this type of storytelling does is not only does it say to girls and women playing sports ‘Okay, you might not get a scholarship. Maybe you won’t play professionally. But if you’re thinking about quitting, consider staying because whether or not you achieve, whether or not you win, you are still cultivating valuable life skills.”
And she said She Got Game will make a mark in another way too, with Audible making significant donations to youth organizations in their headquarters of Newark, NJ to help girls to play or stay in sports when they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford that.
“Audible is really stepping up, and their creative impact team is donating $25,000 to different youth organizations in Newark, NJ. So it’s not only just inspirational and aspirational content, it’s content with impact. Because through this series, we’re empowering girls who probably wouldn’t be able to afford to play to play sports. Which is just really awesome and makes my heart happy.”
Bernstein said she’s optimistic this podcast series can be useful not just for current young female athletes, but also for those in their lives, as it presents some different paths for encouragement.
“You always get the question of ‘Who’s the audience?’ Yes, the audience is girls and young women who are athletes, but it’s also moms who are now at the age where they are beneficiaries of Title IX, where they appreciate this content. It’s for girl dads everywhere whose daughters are playing sports. And when their girls are playing, this fosters the ability to have a different type of conversation. We can all say to Jenny and Susie ‘Oh, don’t quit,’ mom and dad talking to you can say ‘Don’t quit,’ grandma can say ‘Don’t quit, you’re going to learn all these life skills,’ and what do we know? It goes in one ear and out the other. But if Aisha Tyler is saying that, if Sheila Johnson is saying that, if Laila Ali is saying that, if Shawn Johnson is saying that…”
Laila Ali and Shawn Johnson are well-known for their elite athletic careers, of course. But Bernstein said they fit here because of what they’ve since accomplished outside sports.
“We know Laila Ali as one of the greatest female boxers and the daughter of one of the greatest male boxers. And we know Shawn Johnson as an Olympic gymnast. But both of those women have gone on in their post-athletic careers to be extraordinarily successful businesswomen.”
And she said that makes this series useful from two fronts, educating listeners about prominent businesswomen and their sports background, but also about prominent former athletes and what they’re doing in business.
“I think that people who hear the podcast will gain a greater appreciation for women they didn’t know played sports. If I were going to guess, I would say at least 75 percent of listeners will say ‘Wow, I had no idea Chelsea Clinton played soccer and softball, or that she was managing soccer and softball and dance several days a week.’ But they’ll also say ‘Oh, we know Laila Ali and Shawn Johnson as athletes, but we had no idea how successful they are in business now.’ There are all sorts of ways that we’re sharing the power of sports in ways you’re not really seeing anywhere else.”
It is definitely unusual to have a sports series where much of the content is focused on sports from a participation standpoint rather than an elite competition standpoint, especially with that coming from someone like Bernstein who has spent most of her career covering elite-level sports. But she said it’s vital to emphasize the value of participation in sports, even solely at recreational levels.
“It’s so important, and it’s one of the most important things about this series. You don’t only gain benefits from playing sports, you don’t only learn life skills from playing sports if you are an elite athlete. It doesn’t matter if you do anything other than, for example, play rec league soccer. It doesn’t matter. A team sport or an individual sport, you’re still gaining all of those life skills regardless of what level you’re competing at. As long as you’re committed to it and trying to be the best version of an athlete you can be, it doesn’t matter how many wins you have, how many trophies you have, how many medals you have. You, as a recreational athlete, learn as much about sports, gain as much from sports as Laila Ali or Shawn Johnson. I mean, that’s the reality, and that reality creates a unique connectivity between listeners and our guests.”
The full She Got Game series is available on Audible now.