TODAY: NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith to headline Sport Management Symposium

Elon University’s Sport Management Department will host its annual symposium on Wednesday, April 20, featuring a keynote conversation and two expert-led panel discussions. The in-person event will address the “Changing Dynamics in Sports Media.”

DeMaurice Smith, the veteran executive director of the NFL Players Association, will serve as the keynote speaker for this spring’s Elon Sport Management Symposium slated for Wednesday, April 20. With a theme of “Changing Dynamics in Sports Media,” the annual symposium will also include two panel discussions featuring industry experts from prominent sports media organizations.

The free, in-person event will be held in the School of Communications’ Turner Theatre from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., kicking off with an hourlong conversation between Smith and Assistant Professor Bill Squadron. For more information, visit the symposium’s website and/or reserve your ticket on this Eventbrite page.

Drawing from his decade-long run as leader of the NFL Players Association, Smith will address topical issues facing the country’s most popular sport, providing unmatched perspective into the players’ increasing use of social media, the collective bargaining process, and the relationship between the NFL owners, the league’s players and media organizations and journalists. Smith is well positioned to discuss all NFL-related subjects and was reappointed to his fifth term as executive director last fall.

The symposium’s first panel is titled “Athlete-Generated Content: Brand Management or Journalism?” and features (from left) Sean Conboy, Paul Fichtenbaum and Merritt Mathias.

“We could not be more thrilled to welcome DeMaurice Smith to campus to share his incredible experiences shaping and transforming the NFL,” said Cara Lucia, chair and associate professor in the Sport Management Department. “Unquestionably, the NFL is a ratings Goliath, and to have Smith share his insights will be invaluable to our current students learning the business of sport and looking to better understand the sport media landscape.”

Lucia’s assessment of the NFL’s popularity is spot on. According to Variety, the NFL earned 39 of the 100 slots for top telecasts in 2021, including the No. 1 spot with the Super Bowl.

Following Smith’s conversation, the symposium will shift gears to panel discussions, beginning with the “Athlete-Generated Content: Brand Management or Journalism?” panel. Participants include Sean Conboy, editor-in-chief of The Players’ Tribune, Paul Fichtenbaum, chief content officer for The Athletic, and Merritt Mathias, a member of the North Carolina Courage, a professional women’s soccer team based in Cary, North Carolina.

Joe Favorito (from left), Dr. Kensa Gunter and Ted Keith will serve as panelists for the symposium’s “Redefining the Reporter-Athlete Relationship: Coverage, Access, and Mental Health” conversation.

A second panel, titled “Redefining the Reporter-Athlete Relationship: Coverage, Access, and Mental Health,” will discuss the changing and challenging dynamic between athletes and the individuals who report on them. Panelists include Ted Keith, assistant managing editor of Sport Business Journal, Dr. Kensa Gunter, an Atlanta-based sport psychologist, and Joe Favorito, a sport strategic communications consultant and co-host of “Columbia University Sports Podcast.”

“Technology, social media, ubiquitous photo and video capture and the 247 news cycle have greatly altered the traditional dynamics of sports journalism and media,” Squadron said. “This year’s annual Sport Management Symposium is meant to provide attendees a look at how fans now receive sports information, and predict the how that future will unfold. Led by DeMaurice Smith and our outstanding panelists, we will have an important, timely conversation on these subjects.”

Leading up to the symposium, Smith and the panelists are expected to visit with Sport Management Department classes and students. Additionally, Smith will have a 20-minute media availability session for interested parties. To RSVP for the media availability, contact Communications Manager Tommy Kopetskie at

Symposium program

4:30 p.m. – Keynote Address – A conversation with DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director, NFL Players Association

5:30 p.m. – “Athlete-Generated Content: Brand Management or Journalism?” Panel

Sean Conboy, Editor-In-Chief, The Players’ Tribune
Paul Fichtenbaum, Chief Content Officer, The Athletic
Merritt Mathias, Professional Athlete, North Carolina Courage

6:30 p.m. – “Redefining the Reporter-Athlete Relationship: Coverage, Access, and Mental Health” Panel

Joe Favorito, Sport Strategic Communications Consultant and Co-Host, “Columbia University Sports Podcast”
Dr. Kensa Gunter, Sport Psychologist and AASP Past President
Ted Keith, Assistant Managing Editor, Sport Business Journal