New York, NY — Major League Soccer today announced that Sola Winley has been named Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. In this capacity, Winley will lead the efforts to increase representation, advancement and retention of underrepresented groups in the front offices of the league and clubs, as well as the technical and coaching staffs with the teams. He will also oversee MLS’ initiatives to drive access, exposure, opportunity and participation in soccer in underserved communities, and will develop strategies to increase diversity among the league’s vendors and partners.
Winley, who began his role with the league Feb. 16, will report directly to MLS Commissioner Don Garber. Among the many key stakeholders Winley will be working with is the MLS Committee for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, which is comprised of MLS owners, leadership from Black Players For Change, league and club executives, coaches and former players. Winley also will collaborate closely with members of the league office’s employee resource groups. In addition, he will work closely with MLS NEXT, the league’s elite youth development platform, to build upon efforts to create a more aware and responsible youth soccer community.
“Sola’s experience and expertise make him uniquely qualified to lead MLS in our ongoing efforts to establish programs to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in our league office, at the club level, and throughout the sport of soccer,” said Commissioner Garber. “I am confident his insight and strategies will build upon what we have previously done and make MLS an even more inclusive and stronger league moving forward.”
Throughout a 27-year career that has included tenures with the National Football League, A+E Television Networks and his own consulting and advisory companies, Winley has partnered with CEOs and advised senior teams on leadership and organizational development, executive coaching, diversity and inclusion and strategic communications across a range of industries. In this capacity, Winley also developed and implemented leadership and training programs designed to prepare and advance mid-level executives of color into senior positions.
At A+E Networks, Winley served as Executive Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Planning and was a member of the executive team. While there, Winley established the company’s first multi-cultural committee, which served as a valuable internal feedback and business resource. He also led A+E Networks’ corporate values and community outreach efforts, including an alliance with Dr. Bernice King and the King Center on a series of vignettes to support the 50th Anniversary of the Martin Luther King Assassination, and a series of roundtable discussions with leading civil rights organizations including the NAACP, ADL, Color of Change, and the Advancement Project.
Winley also played a significant role in supporting A+E’s efforts to broaden and diversify its brand, content, and marketing communications strategy with input on History’s reimagining of the iconic ROOTS mini-series, A&E’s Divided States limited documentary series and its Shine a Light Concert for Progress on Race in America, among many others.
“This is a moment in our world and our sport where the responsibility of creating lasting initiatives that can make a significant cultural difference is personally important to me,” said Winley. “I am humbled to be Major League Soccer’s first Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, and look forward to building on and amplifying the important work that has already begun across the league. As the world’s game, soccer is already uniquely positioned to lead positive social change. We will work with all league stakeholders and leverage our platforms to scale impact and together create opportunities to increase access, equity and representation on and off the field. I look forward to working with my colleagues at the league, with the clubs, and leaders across the sport of soccer on programs not only in our MLS communities, but everywhere the game is played.”
Winley began his career working for seven years with the NFL, where he helped to create and roll out national grassroots initiatives and worked in the areas of special events, and international media sales and marketing. Winley has a BA from the University of Connecticut, an MA from Adelphi University, an MSW from New York University, and an MBA from Fordham’s Graduate School of Business. Winley is a member of the Executive Leadership Council and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. He also recently completed his 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training.
The hiring of Winley builds upon the league’s ongoing commitment to champion diversity and inclusion. MLS’ Soccer for All initiative will enter its ninth year in 2021, and last year the league unveiled a variety of initiatives to address racism and social injustice in society and in the sport of soccer. As part of those initiatives, MLS pledged to hire the league’s first Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer.
In addition to the naming of Winley, a pair of MLS employees will transition into new roles. Tunde Oguntimein, who for the last 2-½ years has been Special Assistant to Deputy Commissioner/President and Managing Director of MLS Business Ventures, will now work in the Commissioner’s office and collaborate with Winley to develop the league’s overall diversity, equity and inclusion strategy. Oguntimein will also work on key initiatives for Commissioner Garber and the league. MLS senior manager Jamie Batey, who has been with the league since May 2018, will continue working in the Commissioner’s office and support Winley across a variety of initiatives.
About Major League Soccer
Headquartered in New York City, Major League Soccer — celebrating its 26th Season in 2021 — features 30 clubs throughout the United States and Canada, including future expansion teams in Charlotte, Sacramento, and St. Louis. For more information about MLS, visit www.MLSsoccer.com. BPRW