Meet 2 Black Arizona women making history in national sports
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - As we set up for this story at Provision Coffee in Phoenix, two customers, young Arizona State University students, sprouted out of their seats after finding out whom we were interviewing.
Morgan Cato moved to Phoenix from New York just a few months ago for work. Her new job with the Phoenix Suns? Vice president of basketball operations. She’s also the team’s assistant general manager. Cato is the first woman of color to hold these titles in the NBA.
Latasha Causey grew up in Phoenix, on the west side of the Valley.
She’s the new track president at Phoenix Raceway - the first Black woman in NASCAR’s history to hold this title.
Yetta Gibson: “I have been referring to you as female Black women trailblazers in sports. Can I call you that? Do you feel that way?”
Cato: “I will have to take your word for it. ... You don’t always know the full impact of your actions until the responses like that, you know, little Black queens, just like us were coming after us like, ‘That’s me,’ you know, ‘Oh, this is something.”
Causey: “Like Morgan said, for me, I honestly didn’t really feel like it was that big of a deal until the reaction started coming in [from] people I went to high school with that I haven’t heard from them forever and people sharing their resharing Tweets, and Facebook, Instagram. The amount of things that I was getting, when I got into this opportunity, I was like, ‘This is pretty legit,’ but it was like me doing my thing.
“I have two boys, 11 and 15. The 15-year-old said, ‘Mom, you’re a big deal.’ I was like, ‘Maybe I made it!’”
Gibson: “What has been different about your job versus what you thought it was gonna be?”
Cato: “The immediate receptivity.”
Gibson: “You didn’t think that would happen?”
Cato: “Not as easy as it did happen, you know. I mean, literally, when you walk into the Suns’ facility, it’s like a family. It’s warm. So, literally, from one of my first days, you know to meet the guys shoot-around in warm-ups. When you get responses from the guys like, ‘I’m glad to have you here,’ ‘We’ve been waiting for you,’ [and] ‘We’ve heard great things about you.’ You don’t hear that level of genuineness in traditional corporate environments.”
Causey: “The woman that was in the role before this, Julie, was this truly amazing individual. She’s the one who reached out to me and asked if this is something that I would consider. And I will be very honest with you, my initial reaction was, ‘Really?’ When she started going through the list of reasons why and those were things like your leadership, those were things about your inspiration, your impact, the things that you can do for Phoenix Raceway, I had to take a pause and listen.
“I will always say if it doesn’t scare you, you shouldn’t do it. And so I was terrified to take on something like this, but at the same time, I couldn’t be more grateful. And I’m just looking forward to putting my sparkle on the Raceway.”
Causey also hopes to change the way people of color view NASCAR.
“The experience of NASCAR is something that it’s not what you normally see on TV or for people like us,” she said. “We don’t necessarily think that it’s a welcoming environment for people of color. I will tell you it’s very welcoming. It’s an amazing experience for the fans.”
Gibson: “So, how is it being firsts? African Americans and women in your roles? What is the experience?”
Cato: “We’re in 2023 now. In 2022, to still be the first woman of color to ever hold this title for a professional organization - we still have so much further to go. There are plenty of talented human beings [from] every walk of life that I’m sure have the ability to do this type of work.
“We just need to create additional entry points so that talent is at the top. So, recognizing that, I think, was big for me. And it wasn’t until a tweet that I knew 50 million people knew my name. That’s when I realized, ‘Oh this means something. This is bigger than me.’”
Causey: “The biggest thing is I don’t lead with that. You know, when I walk into the room, you already know who I am. You already know who I am when I open my mouth, right?
“So, I don’t feel like that needs to be the thing [to lead with], but I also have to recognize I cannot take that for granted either because at the end of the day, there are young girls like those girls that we saw earlier, that when we walked out we were like celebrities and in my mind, I’m just Latasha that leads the Raceway, who is part of the Phoenix Raceway team.
“But at the end of the day, you have individuals like that who are saying, ‘Wow, I could do that. too!’
“I always want to celebrate Black History 365 days a year. Will we be able to do that? When I say ‘we,’ I don’t mean just us - the three of us Black girls here. What about the others that we have in our networks? How do they celebrate?”
Cato: “I want to make sure that we’re not continuing to replicate, you know, the challenges that we’ve experienced in the past.”
“When we think about history, that we’re able to be a bit more trailblazing and recognizing different career paths that people are taking right now, recognizing the power of influence that we’re making space for new leaders. You know, it’s not just ‘Let me just check the box and see red, black, and green, you know, on a product model like that’s not what I’m looking for anymore!
“So, you know, it’s a journey. It’s a journey, but that’s why you put one foot in front of the other, and that’s why we’re comfortable shoes!”
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