Detroit Pistons Equality Program hosts sports business career seminar at MLK high school kids, though they aspire, will never play a professional sport. But, that doesn't mean that they can't be part of a team. That was the central message to students from the panel at the Sports Business Career Seminar hosted by the Detroit Pistons Equality Program at Martin Luther King Jr. High School on Thursday, Feb. 28 in honor of Black History Month. 

The panel featured a diverse group of sports business professionals and was moderated by Scott Tainsky, associate professor of management and director of the sport and entertainment management program at the Mike Ilitch School of Business. The panel included: 

  • Awenate Cobbina, Business Affairs Vice President and Executive Director of the Detroit Pistons Foundation. Awenate worked at the NFL’s Headquarters and in President Obama’s White House prior to joining the Pistons.
  • Sachin Gupta, Pistons Assistant General Manager. Sachin has worked for ESPN, the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers. Sachin is known throughout the league as a leader in the development of advanced analytics and for his knowledge of the salary cap.
  • Alicia Jeffreys, Brand Strategy Vice President. Alicia has been with the Pistons for over 15 years. At the Pistons, she oversees the marketing and communication strategies that support the revenue-generating departments, such as sales and sponsorships.
  • Erika Swilley, Community and Social Responsibility Senior Director. She returned to the Pistons in 2016 after working for the Golden State Warriors. Erika oversees all aspects of the Pistons community and social responsibility programming.
  • Trevor Thompson, Fox Sports Detroit. Trevor is a host and reporter Fox Sports Detroit’s Pistons and Red Wings coverage.

Discussants encouraged students to begin to look into different careers paths in sports business and media, including marketing, public relations, data analytics and journalism. When asked how many of them use social media, most, if not all, students raised their hands. That’s a head start, according to the panelists, because there are so many jobs now geared towards helping teams improve their social media engagement. They added that these opportunities, along with others in the sports industry, have been made more available to minorities because of increasing commitment to diversity & inclusion in these fields.

“Access to the education needed to qualify for jobs in sports isn’t an industry issue, it’s a national one," said Tainsky. "Events like this show the Ilitch School and the Detroit Pistons’ commitment to tackling this head on. What high school sophomore wouldn’t be inspired by an Alicia Jeffreys or a Trevor Thompson? It’s their stories that promise our classrooms and boardrooms will be more diverse, and better for it.”

To view the full gallery from the event, click here

For more information about the sport and entertainment management program, visit

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