Women of the NFL United For Purpose

By Amakeda Ponds

:  Photos by Lina Pace

With the emersion of the “Me-Too Movement” and the call for equality for women’s rights, Women Empowerment has been on the rise.  So, it’s no surprise that we find women, in this case, women of the NFL (spouses of current and retired players) coming together to not only network and share common experiences, but to uplift and empower.

This year, June 7-9, SET – Sports and Entertainment Today and Women of The NFL joined forces for the second consecutive year, to do what seemingly has been long overdue for women who are joined together by football. The action-packed weekend of connection, empowerment and motivation for these women proved to be memorable. This year’s conference was presented by Merrill Lynch and Block & Scarpa Attorney’s at Law.

Hosted in sunny Miami, FL, the W Miami Brickell welcomed 150 women with representation from all 32 NFL teams. Friday night’s Welcome Reception hosted by Hennessy set the tone with a riveting live performance by April Raquel. With Hennessey infused cupcakes by Foralways Event Planning and an exclusive Le Voyage signature Hennessy tasting experience, on the rooftop, set the stage for what promised to be a weekend to remember.

Saturday was ushered in with good chakra and rooftop yoga hosted by S3 Yoga and the Alma Community. It was the perfect way to channel clarity on the intent of the weekend and prepare for all the information to be shared for the rest of the conference.

Hosts Patrick Walker Reese, motivator, speaker and author and Amina Smith, host, on-air personality and fiancée of Chicago Bears Safety Deon Bush, kept the conference upbeat and attendees engaged while making sure the day stayed on track.  Packed with a wealth of information, there were a total of 6 sessions, some including panels that answered questions moderated by Lysandra Russell, wife of former NFL player Antwan Russell.

Session I: Turning Passion/Pain into Purpose – Finding purpose sounds much easier than it is. The panel discussed turning passion or pain into purpose and philanthropy and was led by Kelly Gallagher, philanthropist and founder of Superhero Project Inc., Christina Hovstadt, Community Relations Manager for the NFL and Founder of The Set Apart Women, Dr. Tiffany Bowen, philanthropist and Owner of Harlem Hookah, Jordan Britt, lifestyle blogger and former director of sponsorship for the non-profit, Family Lives On Foundation, and Dereck Faulkner former Philadelphia Eagle and Founder of the Athletes for Vets Foundation. 

Session II: CTE, CBD and Y-O-U! – addressed the aspects of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) including its pathology, clinical presentations and diagnostic criteria, treatment options and implications for the family as well as the use of cannabidoiol (CBD). Session was led by Dr. Kaye Cole who co-founded the Sports Counseling Interest Network for the American Counseling Association and established The Cole Group which addresses mental health gaps in services as they pertain to athletes across multiple sports. Vanessa Wilhelm, cofounder of CBD oil company, Clean Remedies and a Senior Ambassador for Neal’s Yard Remedies, Dr. Ann McKee, a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor at Boston University, professor of Neurology and Pathology at Boston University School of Medicine, Director of Neuropathology for VA Boston, and Director of the BU CTE Center, and Lisa McHale, wife of 9 year NFL veteran Tom McHale who unfortunately passed and was the second NFL player diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy by researchers at the CTE Center at Boston University School of Medicine sat on the panel.

Session III: Finding Me in We – addressed each woman wearing so many different hats, yet taking the time to find themselves, what fulfills them or simply a sense of calm. Led by mental health professional Natalie Graves, a licensed clinical social worker and expert in the area of mental health and wellness for athletes. The panel consisted of NFL Wives – Terricka Cromartie, TV personality, mother of six and wife of Antonio Cromartie , Ashley Wheeler, entrepreneur, mom of two boys and wife of Phillip Wheeler, Ashley Peterson mom of three and wife of Adrian Peterson, and Asia Saffold blogger, entrepreneur, mom of two and wife of Rodger Saffold. 

Christian Recording Artist Lauren Bea, wife of NFL linebacker Keenan Robinson, was slated to perform but after recently suffering a miscarriage, she shared her testimony and a philanthropic initiative that is dear to her, One Child Matters.

Session IV:  Let’s Talk About SEX was a candid, hilarious and fun filled discussion led by Ieshai Bailey.  Ieshai is a Certified Sex Therapist, Board Certified Transgender Care Therapist and Alternative Sexuality Affirming Therapist. The ladies were able to breathe, squeeze and speak about a topic that at most conferences would be taboo. Not here.

Session V: The Transition – addressed what NFL players and their families should expect as they transition from the NFL to other careers. Led by Amber C. Edwards who has held positions with the NCAA, NBA, AHL and NFLPA. The panel consisted of Agent Nicole Lynn, of Young Money APAA Sports Agency – the first black female agent with a top 10 NFL draft pick, Brendon Ayanbadejo, 10 year NFL veteran, Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl Champion, LGBT rights advocate and Orange Theory Fitness Area Developer, husband and father of 2, Rachel McKenzie, entrepreneur, television personality, mother of four, wife of NFL veteran Mike McKenzie and Danielle Forte, entrepreneur, mother of two, and wife of NFL veteran Matt Forte.

Session VI:  Rushia Brown former WNBA player, internationally renowned speaker and change agent closed the day with a discussion about Passion Principles – How to be the Exception and Not the Rule.  This session was a perfect way to end the day on a high note as Rushia shared her story of trial and triumph.

To unwind after the conference the ladies enjoyed a cocktail hour hosted by Surterra Wellness that included lavender infused mojitos, henna tattoos and hand massages.

The weekend ended with a community service initiative at the Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center.  The women of the NFL asked questions and were asked questions by the women who are at the center for addiction recovery and therapy services.

With the success of the 2019 SET An Example Conference we cannot wait to see what the 2020 conference in Dallas, TX has in store. For more information contact Danisha Rolle drolle@setmagazine.com.