CLEVELAND — It is an exciting time to be a fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers. From the team rebuild with young talent to the fresh look of a renovated Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, the franchise's newest executive vice president can't help but be excited too.
"The building looks amazing! The team is playing great again! On the business side they're performing at a great pace. So it's a great time to be a part of the Cleveland Cavaliers' family," said Shelly Cayette-Weston.
In her ninth year with the team, Cayette-Weston made history on January 25 when the team elevated her to Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. The move makes the Louisiana native the first Black woman in the NBA to hold this position.
"They didn't just give me this role because I am a Black woman. They gave me the role because of the performance. Because as a business, we've led in the NBA in top five of revenue of all teams -- over the past five years consistently," Cayette-Weston said when we chatted with her via Zoom.
And what of the title of being "the first?" She admits it brings with it a lot of responsibility, and pressure to bear. The Louisiana native feels it but leans into what got her here.
"I also take it in stride because I am confident in the work that I've done in my abilities and experience with the organization that has allowed me to learn and grow and really prepare for this role," she said.
A role that Cayette-Weston never imagined when she prepared to graduate from Tulane University, where she played on the women's basketball team.
"I played basketball my whole life. I was 6'1" in 8th grade. But after I finished playing basketball, I was really excited to just think about something different and something new," she said.
That "something new" was the casino industry, where she started her career as a marketing coordinator. But soon, opportunities popped up with the - then - New Orleans Hornets, who have since become the Pelicans. In 2012, she received an offer to join the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Today, Northeast Ohio is home.
"I met my husband here, my amazing husband who is from here. We have our daughter and one on the way. I also have that ring and we won a championship in 2016, and a Calder Cup with our AHL team. So, Cleveland's been a great place for me," Cayette-Weston said.
Cayette-Weston also oversees all corporate revenue for the Cavs’ other entities in the G League’s Canton Charge, the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters, and the Cavs’ NBA2K team, Legion GC.
She also finds time to give back, by serving on the Cuyahoga Community College Board, College Now Board and Commission on Economic Inclusion Committee.
To the young women just starting out in male-dominated fields, or those who find themselves the only person of color in a work environment, Cayette-Weston has this advice:
Seek out mentors, remain positive and communicate clearly.
"Always let people know exactly what you're thinking and exactly your intentions on where you want to go. Very often the reason and that women, whether it be black women or just women in general, don't, continue to ascend up the career ladders is because sometimes they're not vocal. They just wait and expect things to come to them and in a perfect world, hopefully that happens, but often it doesn't. And a part of that is just communicating clearly on the front end. You asked me about my mentors. I am lucky to have a lot of amazing women mentors, in this space, but a lot of my mentors have also been men, a lot of them, white men, and they have been the most supportive of me. And so I would just say to keep an open mind -- to mentors, to support and to just always be vocal about what your intentions are. So people know, so they can help you," she explained.
To Cayette-Weston, being "the first" means nothing unless you are holding the door for others to follow.
"It means nothing if I am the first African American Chief Commercial Officer, but I haven't helped anyone to get to another place or I haven't helped another organization to look at things differently or help change how their dynamics are. If I haven't changed anything, then the first doesn't even matter."
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