Traci Otey Blunt
Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for the NFL
When Traci Otey Blunt was part of the marching band at Tennessee State University, she wasn’t just cheering on her hometeam; she was laying down the foundation that would lead to a successful career that combined her love of football and public relations.
As Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for the NFL, Otey Blunt leads communications strategies across key areas within the league, including current affairs, community initiatives — such as domestic violence prevention programs, operations, NFL media, government affairs, health and safety, and social responsibility.
She worked for 10 years as President of BET founder Bob Johnson’s Urban Movie Channel and headed corporate communications and public affairs at Johnson’s RLJ Companies. Otey Blunt has also worked on a number of political campaigns, including serving as deputy communications director and director of African American media for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Otey Blunt earned her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, cum laude, from Tennessee State University in 1990. Her list of accolades are incredible (and always growing): she has won the ColorComm Circle Award (2017); PR Week’s “Champions of PR” list (2017); the Innovative Woman in Media Award from The Spectrum Circle (2016); The Washington Business Journal’s In the Spotlight (2015); Named by The Network Journal as one of America’s “Top 25 Most Influential Black Women in Business” (2014); and was awarded the Women of Legend & Merit honor by Tennessee State University (2013). “My mom always taught my sister and me — whatever the opportunity if the door was cracked open it was our responsibility to kick it open and make something happen,” Otey Blunt said. “So we did.”
What sparked your love for football?
I’ve been watching football for as long as I can remember. One of my favorite memories is my first Super Bowl experience at the Rose Bowl – Super Bowl XIV – where the Los Angeles Rams lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers and one of “Charlie’s Angels” (my favorite TV show at the time) sang the National Anthem. My love for football continued because as a flute and piccolo player in Tennessee State University’s Aristocrat of Bands, I sat in the front row of every home (football) game for four years. I had another chance to attend Super Bowl XXXIV, where the Tennessee Titans (shhhh: my favorite team) lost to the then St. Louis Rams in Atlanta. I am a true fan of the game and am excited to be working at the National Football League – this is my dream job come true!
In your career, you’ve done everything from leading political campaigns to overseeing marketing campaigns. How is this role at the NFL uniquely suited to your skillset?
Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work across various business sectors including working in the government, on political campaigns, and in the corporate sector. I’ve worked at the local, state, and federal levels in both the government and on political campaigns and have worked in senior roles at two global public relations agencies. In 2008, at the end of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign where I served as a deputy communications director and director of African American media, I met Bob Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET).
Bob brought me on to lead corporate communications and public affairs at The RLJ Companies, the holding company for 16 of his diverse business ventures following the sale of BET. In 2014, Bob tapped me to launch his new African American streaming service called Urban Movie Channel, where I served as President. I believe that the 10 years working with Bob, whom we all know is an extremely successful businessman, equipped me with the business acumen, insights, and skills needed for the corporate communications position I hold today. I currently lead the NFL’s communications strategies for current affairs/rapid response, business operations, NFL Media, government affairs, health and safety, and social responsibility.
Where does your work ethic come from?
My mom, Raynetta! My mom always encouraged us to do the best that we could with what we had. She taught us (I have a younger sister, Lisa) to take advantage of every opportunity that was presented to us – even if it was something out of our comfort zone – she raised us to take on every challenge before us and to never allow anyone to tell us we couldn’t be successful at what we set out to achieve.
The NFL has been criticized for its handling of social justice issues and domestic violence. How does your role work to heal these wounds and promote conversation around these topics?
In this role, I’m in the position to start a conversation within our building around these important issues. A large part of corporate communications and public relations is education. My team is responsible for educating our audiences on not only the importance of these issues, but the league’s efforts around them. For example, the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative started almost one year ago to highlight the remarkable work players and teams do in the social justice space. Our priority areas are education and economic advancement, police and community relations, and criminal justice reform. My team’s job is to tell the story of that important work and to communicate with the public on the player’s and NFL’s efforts.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
My mother’s sage advice — “Always ask for what you know you have earned and what you deserve – you’re starting at no, so if you don’t ask you won’t get.”
How have you been inspired by women working in the sports industry, both as players and behind the scenes?
I’m inspired everyday by women who paved the way for me to be able to work in the sports industry and on whose shoulders I stand. These women are fearless, bold, intelligent, and strong!
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