Executive Vice President, Chief Engagement and Advancement Officer
Sola Winley joined MLS in February 2021 as Executive Vice President, Commissioner’s Office & Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. In this role, Winley leads the league’s 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 also oversees MLS’ initiatives to drive access, exposure, opportunity and participation in soccer in underserved communities, and develops strategies to increase diversity among the league’s vendors and partners.
Soon after his arrival, Winley enacted several programs and policies to make real and lasting change. In 2021, MLS unveiled a series of updates and enhancements to its Diversity Hiring Policy for sporting positions with the clubs. The changes, led by Winley and created with a working group of club personnel, league executives and current and former MLS players, were made to increase the policy’s efficacy, add a specific focus on the hiring of Black candidates and strengthen the policy’s enforcement mechanisms. The updated policy applies to the entire MLS ecosystem, which includes MLS clubs, MLS’ youth academies, MLS NEXT and MLS NEXT Pro. In March 2022, MLS announced that it will leverage a historic $25 million loan from a syndicate of Black banks, marking the first time any sports league has participated in a major commercial transaction exclusively with Black banks. The partnership was facilitated by the nonprofit National Black Bank Foundation.
Among the many key stakeholders Winley works 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 collaborates closely with members of the league office’s employee resource groups. In addition, he works with MLS NEXT, the league’s elite youth development platform, to build upon efforts to create a more aware and responsible youth soccer community.
Prior to joining MLS, Winley’s career included tenures with the National Football League, A+E Television Networks and his own consulting and advisory companies. Winley 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 its 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 Channels Divided States limited documentary series and its Shine a Light Concert for Progress on Race in America, among many others.
Before A+E, Winley was the founder of ProVision Consulting, Inc., a firm specializing in leadership and organizational transformation. Over his eleven years at ProVision, he worked with CEOs and leadership teams on culture and design, board preparedness, executive development and team performance.
He 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. In 2016 and 2017, he was recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential Minority Leaders in Cable by Cablefax. In 2017, Savoy Magazine included him as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America.