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28th WISE Women Of The Year Awards Luncheon To Honor Four Women At Annual Event

Ayala Deutsch and Michele Kajiwara

Women in Sports and Events (WISE), the foremost career and leadership development organization for women in the business of sports, will host its 28th WISE Women of the Year Awards Luncheon at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City on March 19, 2024 honoring four recipients of the WISE Women of the Year award. 

The 2024 recipients are: Ayala Deutsch, Executive Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, National Basketball Association; Kate Johnson, Director and Head of Global Sports & Entertainment Marketing, Google; Michele Kajiwara, Senior Vice President, Premium and Events Business, Crypto.com Arena & Peacock Theater; and Renee Chube Washington, Chief Operating Officer, USA Track & Field.   WISE members across North America had the opportunity to nominate women for their accomplishments and significant contributions to the business of sports, and the honorees were selected by the organization’s National Board.

“WISE is thrilled to honor four women who personify what it means to be a leader in our industry,”

said Kathleen Francis, National Board chair and president of WISE. “Ayala Deutsch, Kate Johnson, Michele Kajiwara, and Renee Chube Washington are not only paving the way, but they are also making a way for other women. We look forward to celebrating each of the honorees at our annual luncheon and the great work they do.”

The 2024 WISE Women of the Year honorees:

Ayala Deutsch, EVP and Deputy General Counsel, NBA

Ayala Deutsch is responsible for managing commercial legal affairs and intellectual property matters for the NBA and its affiliated leagues, including the global acquisition, protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. She joined the NBA in 1998 and was named to her current position in January 2016, after serving as senior vice president and deputy general counsel and senior vice president and chief intellectual property counsel.  A former associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in New York, Deutsch previously served on the Trademark Public Advisory Committee of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, was an adjunct professor of sports law at Cardozo School of Law and president of the International Trademark Association. She is a member of the Advisory Board of the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law and Policy at New York University School of Law where she received her J.D. in 1989.

Kate Johnson, Director and Head of Global Sports & Entertainment Marketing, Google 

Kate Johnson is responsible for developing and executing Google’s strategic approach to sports and entertainment marketing partnerships across its many business verticals. Prior to joining Google, she served as vice president of global partnership marketing at Visa, where she oversaw the company’s global partnership portfolio, including its partnerships with the IOC, FIFA, the NFL, and other verticals. Johnson began her career in sports marketing at IMG’s Global Consulting Group, where she worked in New York, Vancouver and London, building and executing sponsorship marketing platforms for a variety of clients. Recognized as one of the Most Powerful Women in Sport by Adweek in both 2022 and 2017, Johnson is also a recipient of the 2017 Sports Business Journal 40 Under 40 Award and the 2017 Leaders Under 40 Award. She serves as an IOC Commission Member for Marketing and Digital Media and is a former professional rower and Olympic medalist. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Johnson is an advisor to the Women’s Sports Foundation, Gatorade Women’s Board, the University of Michigan Sports Management Program, and the Youth Sports Alliance.

Michele Kajiwara, SVP, Premium and Events Business, Crypto.com Arena & Peacock Theater

Michele Kajiwara oversees over 2,400 premier seats and more than 150 private and event suites at Peacock Theater and Crypto.com Arena — home of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks. Both venues are owned and operated by AEG, the largest sports and entertainment company in the world.  She leads a team of premium executives in all areas of sales, service, analytics, database marketing, hospitality and event management, and serves as an executive leader of several AEG employee network groups including AEG’s Women’s Leadership Council, AEG Global Partnerships Inclusion Council, and AEG’s Asian and Pacific Islander employee network group. Kajiwara joined AEG in 2003 and began her career in entertainment with New Regency Productions and then moved to New York to join Chelsea Piers. She holds a BA from the University of Southern California and has served on the board for the Association of Luxury Suite Directors for more than 10 years, including four as president. She is the recipient of numerous industry awards including being named to Sports Business Journal’s Game Changers and Variety’s Dealmakers Impact Report. 

Renee Chube Washington, Chief Operating Officer, USA Track & Field

Renee Chube Washington joined USATF in June 2012 and as COO manages the organization’s record $40 million budget and 68-person national staff, as well as working with the CEO to develop and implement corporate strategy and direction. Washington has broad cross-enterprise oversight of all departments. Since being appointed COO, USATF has awarded six U.S. Olympic Team Trials, secured the World Athletics Indoor and Outdoor Championships on U.S. soil for the first time, participated in three Olympic Games and ten World Championships. Prior to USATF, Washington’s career spanned various corporate and government roles including time with Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation, CICOA (a private, nonprofit agency advocate for the aged), as a staff attorney in the State of Indiana office of the Attorney General, and in several roles in the U.S. Department of Labor. She was named a 2017 Sports Business Journal Game Changer and a Cynopsis Top Women in Sports in 2019. A graduate of Georgetown University Law and Spelman College, Washington and has dedicated time to various causes including the Junior League of Indianapolis, Wishard Memorial Hospital, the Girl Scouts, American Cancer Society Guild, and numerous educational, cultural and political causes. 

In conjunction with the 28th Annual WISE Awards Luncheon, the WISE/R Symposium will take place on March 18th, the day prior to the luncheon, in New York City.  The WISE/R Symposium is the sports industry’s leading personal and professional development event for women. Built by women, for women, it is the first event of its kind to focus exclusively on the unique hurdles that women encounter in the business of sports.  Additional information about the 28, 2024 Annual WISE Awards Luncheon and the WISE/R Symposium can be found at www.wiseworks.org

About Jerry Milani

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Jerry Milani is a writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 30 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and as a freelance professional. His PR clients have included Wizard World and FAN EXPO, which produce pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America, USA Wrestling, the National Lacrosse League, Strat-O-Matic Media, the Pacific Life Open and Pilot Pen Tennis tournaments and dozens of others. Milani is also the director of athletic communications for Caldwell University. He is a proud graduate of North Rockland High School and Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at Jerry (at) JerryMilani (dot) com.

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