“There’s no reason that every other club doesn’t have a social media manager who looks like us — male, female, Black, Brown, whatever,” the Head of Twitter Sports said on a bonus episode of “The ETCs.”
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For Twitter’s Head of Sports, the mission is simple.
“I just want more people who look like us to have the opportunities that I have,” TJ Adeshola told Boardroom’s “The ETCs” podcast on a special episode this week.
“A Drake album will drop and then you’ll see all these social media managers from teams, leads, clubs tweeting out these lyrics. And if you like pull back the curtain and you look at who’s tweeting out the lyrics, they look very different though. You know what I mean?”
TJ’s journey to Twitter resembles just about everybody else’s with the company: wholly unique and ultimately satisfying. Fresh out of the University of Georgia, he had a “dream job” at ESPN that included shuffling through overdraft fees to make ends meet and wondering where the next step was inside a Disney conglomerate. Eventually, he jumped ship.
And with that, his quest for inclusiveness began to make strides.
“It took a while for me to, like, de-corporatize myself,” TJ says with a laugh. “Once I learned that the culture (of Twitter) was very much allowing of you being your true self that’s when I really took off.”
In his earliest days of Twitter he would rely on the sect of Twitter that seemingly sets the most trends, and the corner of the platform that he most closely related to: #BlackTwitter.
“There’d be meetings where we’d be talking about marketing to a specific segment of the audience and I would say, ‘No, that’s wrong. Like, I can show you on Twitter,’” he said. “I would legitimately pull up tweets from people within Black Twitter and I would say, ‘Yo, we’re gonna get dragged if we don’t do this the right way.’ So to feel like the power of Black Twitter or of the culture coming to meetings with me each and every day. That’s a powerful feeling.”
During his ascent up the ladder within Twitter, TJ was always armed with that cultural knowledge, and when he took the position of Head of Twitter Sports, he had a chance to wield it even more prominently and consistently. Now, with activations like the live “Tweet Suite” pop-up that features at major events around the country, TJ can get more of his favorite tweeters in the same place and help spur relationships that extend far outside the bounds of the app.
“The objective is to say, yo, you’re really dope on Twitter. And I don’t know if NBA Twitter would be the same without you,” TJ said of the digital camaraderie the platform enables. “Actually I do know NBA Twitter would not be the same without your pull-ups in the Finals with us or pull-ups to All-Star Weekend with us.”
For the Super Bowl, the Tweet Suite included the likes of Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks, Fox Sports’ Joy Taylor, comedian Druski, former NFL star Victor Cruz, infamous #NBATwitter account @nba_paint, and more. But for the NBA All-Star Game, the Tweet Suite made sure to have a special group invited — and the results were astounding.
TJ noticed a group of HBCU interns working hard all weekend, and when he was made aware they didn’t have tickets to the actual All-Star Game itself, a plan was set in motion: At the end of the work week, the group was surprised with tickets to the Tweet Suite. And then, the magic really began.
“Druski pulled up, Taylor Rooks pulled up, Maria Taylor pulled up, AJ from 106 & Park pulled up. It was a who’s-who, and people were excited come to the Suite and just interact with the HBCU students. And it was such a vibe, dog. It was Black, it was beautiful. It was lit,” TJ said. “Our CFO, Ned Segal, pulled up. Cards were exchanged. Numbers were exchanged. And the hope is that some of those students, we can bless with internships after the fact. To bring it back full circle, if I can’t impact the community in really meaningful ways, my job is trash, you know?”
Adeshola’s impact on social media as a whole has been undeniable, and that’s not lost on him. Neither is the desire to continue to make online spaces and the workplaces behind them more diverse and inclusive.
“The responsibility is twofold: One is, yes, the content should inclusive,” he explained. “We have a responsibility to make sure that it feels that way. But two, the teams that are publishing this content, the teams that are covering hoop, they should be reflective of the people that they’re covering.”
And if TJ has his way, that change will continue.
As he concluded:
“I have the luxury of walking through these league hallways, these partner hallways. And oftentimes I leave disappointed because there’s, it’s not that there’s one person that looks like us many times. There’s nobody who looks like us. I look at the timeline; I’m like, ‘Yo, you sound like my cousin, though.’ You know what I mean? I have a burning passion to make sure that those dynamics change. There’s no reason that every other club doesn’t have a social media manager who looks like us — male, female, Black, Brown, whatever. And that’s the case fresh outta college. You can find like young people who understand brand voice, and if they don’t understand it today, you could teach it to ’em and they understand it tomorrow. But there’s no excuse for this shit to look the way it does, man. It’s very monolithic. It’s very homogenous. And that shit gotta end, bro.”