To celebrate Black History Month, MLS held a roundtable discussion with four Black executives in the league, hosted by FOX Sports analyst and former US women's national team defender Danielle Slaton. She was joined by D.C. United's president of business operations Danita Johnson, MLS vice president of player management Dr. Jamil Northcut, Houston Dynamo chief revenue officer Dionna Widder and Toronto FC general manager Ali Curtis.
The group discussed their time working in MLS and in sports, offering advice for the next generation of people of color aspiring to join the industry themselves one day.
Johnson said that the company one keeps is extremely important, adding that you need to have people who are "two or three steps ahead" and can offer insight on how they overcame certain challenges.
"At some point in this journey, you're going to get knocked down," Johnson said. "You're going to have a bad day that turns into a bad week and you have to figure out how to get yourself back up again."
Northcut pointed to a similar dynamic, stressing the role that a strong support network can have: "To take it a step further, identify the right people," Northcut said. "Observe and pay attention to people who want to do for you and who have helped others, and I think you'll get some better outcomes from being intentional."
Widder, meanwhile, mentioned that role can turn the other direction: "Don't be discouraged by the reflection, or the lack of reflection of representation that you see, because you're never too dark to shine," she said. "It's so important that you just put your sights on what you want and who you want to be and just go light your path, and then after that, keep the lights on so that other people can follow behind you."
Curtis emphasized that it's important to be the best version of yourself, regardless of the challenge. "Be comfortable (and) know that it's okay in different moments to have defeat and to have sadness, but also have moments of happiness because we're all human beings in this thing," he said. "We're all kind of doing the best thing that we can and to the extent that you can be."
For more from the panel, check out the clip above or more conversations here.