Jess Smith takes charge of Golden State’s WNBA expansion, eyeing new success in women’s sports after work with Angel City FC.
The Golden State Warriors’ new WNBA team made a significant move on Tuesday by appointing Jess Smith as its president. Smith, who has a successful background with the NWSL’s Angel City FC, brings a unique approach to this role, aiming to build a team that stands out not only in sports but also in its broader impact. She is set to take the helm officially on Feb. 14.
At Angel City FC, Smith’s work was notable for its strong commercial results. Her innovative approach to sponsorships, which included reinvesting a portion of funds into the community, set a new bar in sports management.
Smith is focused on leveraging her experience in building successful sports brands to make the Warriors’ WNBA team a powerhouse. She envisions a team that excels in basketball and sets a new standard in the sports industry. For Smith, it’s not just about winning games; it’s about creating a lasting legacy that includes being pioneers and leaders in the field.
“That’s what I was looking for in the initial conversations. They were candidly like, ‘What are your intentions in women’s sports?’” Smith said, via Alexa Philippo of ESPN. “‘Are you building an incredible basketball team that’s going to be successful, or are you building a legacy that has the opportunity to be that and so much more, by being the first, by being the best,’ because that’s what I want to be a part of.”
Jess Smith’s ambitious goals
Warriors president and COO Brandon Schneider acknowledged Smith’s ambitious goals.
“We think that we can learn a lot from other WNBA teams and other sports teams more broadly, but we also want to do things differently,” Schneider said. “We don’t want to just sort of fall into line with how everyone else has done it, we want to push things forward.”
The new WNBA team, set to debut in 2025, will be the 13th in the league and marks the first expansion since 2008. This development comes at a pivotal moment for the WNBA, which is experiencing a surge in talent and business growth.
“It’s the best region to do it, best ownership group to do it with,” Smith said of the expansion team. “I think that’s going to signal an incredible amount of growth from the current teams and any new ones that would come in, and then you look forward to things that the league has on hand like the broadcast agreement and the CBA, and I think you’re about to see a cascading year-over-year opportunity for growth for all the stakeholders.”
The Warriors and Smith have stressed the importance of building a franchise that promotes equity and prioritizes community engagement. They are currently working on establishing the team’s identity, including its name and brand, as well as appointing a general manager to oversee basketball operations.
“I do believe that with my expertise coming from being probably the most successful commercial women’s brand in the world within sport, coupled with what the Warriors have built, and then all of us being connected to the Bay Area and willing to bring that together, that it will be unstoppable,” Smith said.