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Queens of the Court: 7 Most Powerful Black Women in Sports

In its inaugural class of "30 Most Powerful Women in Sports," Adweek showcased the powerhouses that influence sports from the boardroom to the court itself.

"There was a time when sports was considered a man's world," Michael Bürgi wrote for Adweek, "but that's ancient history now."

Of these women, there are a special seven who add to diversity in the sports industry along the color line as well. Here are the women breaking down the glass ceiling for black women in sports:

1. Serena Williams, Tennis Icon

Day Two: The Championships - Wimbledon 2016
Serena Williams of USA shouts out with anxiety during her first round match against Amra Sadikovic of Switzerland at Wimbledon on June 28, 2016 in London, England. Visionhaus / Corbis via Getty Images

This year, the 35 year-old tennis star became the highest-paid female athlete according to Forbes. Williams continues to dominate, as she enters the second round of Wimbledon 2016.

Off the court, she can be seen in Beyonce’s music video “Sorry,” from her newest visual album “Lemonade” and in the documentary “Serena: The Other Side of Greatness,” portraying many sides of her life surrounding the near clinch of the Grand Slam in 2015. Williams and her sister Venus Williams have a stake in the Miami Dolphins, making them the first female African-Americans to hold an ownership stake in a NFL franchise.

2. Katrina Adams, CEO/President of the U.S. Tennis Association

36th Annual Salute to Women In Sports
Tennis player Katrina Adams attends the 36th Annual Salute to Women In Sports at Cipriani Wall Street on October 20, 2015 in New York City. Jemal Countess / Getty Images

Adams, a former tennis player herself, became the first professional player, the first African American, and the youngest person to serve as the president of the United States Tennis Association. She recognizes the influence the Williams sisters have had in encouraging African-Americans to pursue tennis, and plans to implement more programming for minorities.

She told the New York Times, “It goes to show you that if there’s someone out there that looks like you that you can see and hear, it kind of motivates you.”

3. Lisa Borders, President of the WNBA

2016 WNBA Draft and Portraits
WNBA President Lisa Borders talks to the media during the 2016 WNBA Draft Presented By State Farm on April 14, 2016 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Steven Freeman / NBAE/Getty Images

Before Borders was appointed as president of the WNBA this year, she served as an executive with Coca Cola, holding positions as Chair of The Coca-Cola Foundation and Vice President, Global Community Affairs. She’s no stranger to the WNBA, in 2008 as vice mayor of Atlanta and president of the city council, she brought the Atlanta Dream to the city.

Borders enters this presidency on the heels of the most poorly attended season in the league’s history. As Borders leads the league into its 20th year of existence, she hopes to capitalize on “The athleticism of the game and the sportsmanship exhibited between teams” to grow women’s basketball.

4. Pamela El, Chief Marketing Officer of the NBA

Steve Harvey Hosts NY Gala Benefiting Steve Harvey Foundation - Inside
Pamela El speaks at the New York Gala benefiting The Steve Harvey Foundation at Cipriani, Wall Street on May 3, 2010 in New York City. Michael Loccisano

When El was brought on board two years ago, she was the NBA's first CMO since the late '90s. She began the “This is Why We Play" campaign, which is a series of videos that capture the essence of basketball’s allure.

El is the only executive to head up marketing for two pro-sports associations — she also runs marketing operations for the WNBA. She is also one of only two female marketing chiefs among the major pro sports leagues.

5. Sheila Johnson, President/Managing Partner of the Washington Mystics

2016 Garden Brunch
BET Co Founder Sheila Johnson attends the Garden Brunch prior to the 102nd White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Beall-Washington House on April 30, 2016 in Washington, DC. Paul Morigi / WireImage

As a founding member of BET, Johnson is no stranger to pioneering. Since selling BET to Viacom, her endeavors have gone well beyond the media sphere.

Johnson is the first African-American woman to have a stake in three professional sports teams: the Washington Wizards (NBA), the Washington Capitals (NHL), and the Washington Mystics (WNBA). She also serves on the executive committee of the United States Golf Association, and vice chairman at Monumental Sports & Entertainment.

Outside of the sports word, Johnson supports the film industry—she was the first investor in Lee Daniel’s "The Butler," shelling out $2 million to help it come to fruition. Johnson is also the founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, which includes 72-hole PGA tour golf course in Palm Harbor, FL.

6. Adrienne Lofton, Senior Vice President of Global Brand Marketing for Under Armour

Adweek's Brand Genius 2015
Sr. Vice President, Global Brand Marketing of Under Armour, Adrienne R. Lofton attends Adweek's Brand Genius 2015 at Guastavino's on October 20, 2015 in New York City. Mireya Acierto / WireImage

Lofton attributes her goal-oriented focus that has propelled her to the top of the advertising field to her time as captain of Howard University’s NCAA Division I Volleyball team. Lofton is the branding genius behind Under Armour’s “I Will What I Want" Campaign” featuring Misty Copeland.

"It's about allowing women to have the platform to show that they can absolutely break barriers, they can absolutely set records, they can absolutely be some of the best in the world,” she said in an interview with AdWeek.

7. Michele Roberts, Executive Director of the NBA Players Association

espnW Summit 2015
Keynote speaker Michele Roberts addresses the audience during the espnW Summit 2015 at St. Regis Monarch Resort on October 14, 2015 in Dana Point, California. Mpu Dinani / Getty Images

Roberts is the first woman to be executive director of the NBA Players Association. She began her career at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, and built her reputation as a trial lawyer from there. Washingtonian magazine once named her the “finest pure trial lawyer in Washington.”

Hailing from humble beginnings in the South Bronx, she’s proud of her upbringing and what it’s done for her path.

"I’m not going to say I was proud to be poor – nobody believes that,” Roberts told Time. “But I’m proud that my background guided my life.”

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