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EXECUTIVES & ENTREPRENEURS PHILANTHROPY

Serena Williams Joins Nike Think Tank

The Swoosh continues investing in the future of women’s sports — this time through an initiative that gives 13 powerful athletes the microphone.

Serena Williams has every excuse to rest on her laurels, but if she did, she wouldn’t be Serena Williams.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion seamlessly balances her aces on the court with her advocacy off of it. The latest example comes courtesy of Nike, which revealed its Nike Athlete Think Tank initiative on Thursday.

Williams is one of 13 founding member athletes — all women — sharing “their experience and insight” with the powers that be at the Swoosh, according to Nike’s official release. The athletes and Nike are working together on “identifying community organizations around the world that Nike, in partnership with Charities Aid Foundation America, will fund for $1.3 million across 20 grants on their behalf.”

“We initiated the Nike Athlete Think Tank to turn insights into action,” Global VP/GM of Nike Woman Whitney Malkiel said in a statement. “Our greatest strength has always been our partnerships with the world’s best individual athletes. For the first time, we’ve united a collective of female icons that span across sports and countries to help us shape strategies that will improve the experience of all girls and women in sport.”

The other athletes working alongside Williams are Ada Hegerberg, Angela Davis, Bebe Vio, Dina Asher-Smith, Deyna Castellanos, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Nafissatou Thiam, Sabrina Ionescu, Scout Bassett, Shalane Flanagan, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Simone Manuel.

In February, Nike became an equity investor in the WNBA and emphasized its “commitment to women’s sport.”

Williams has broken barriers for women in sports essentially since she first picked up a racquet, but the tennis icon is pivoting into venture capital and intentionally allocating her investments toward empowering underrepresented groups.

Earlier this month, Williams announced that her Serena Ventures raised $111 million for an inaugural fund meant to boost early-stage startups in femtech and fintech as well as other avenues.

“In an ecosystem where solo women founders receive 2% of venture funding and Black founders receive 1.2%, we break the mold,” Serena Ventures explains on its official website. “We don’t require founders to come from historically underrepresented backgrounds, yet 76% of our portfolio founders do. We bet on the best founders, period.”

Separately, Williams, Michael B. Jordan and MaC Venture Capital awarded $1 million to the Black-owned business TracFlo, founded by Morehouse College alum Khalid David. Watch Boardroom’s exclusive footage below.

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