The National Lacrosse League (NLL) has announced that Jessica Berman has been named Deputy Commissioner and EVP of Business Affairs. Berman joins the NLL from the National Hockey League, where she has spent the last 13 years, most recently as Vice President, Community Development, Culture & Growth. She becomes the first woman to hold the title of Deputy Commissioner at any professional sports league in North America. Berman will oversee all of the league’s legal affairs and transactions, manage team services, and assist the Commissioner with the NLL’s overall growth strategy.
“It takes the brightest and best to build great leagues and teams and, we are very proud to welcome one of the brightest, best and most progressive minds in sports business to the National Lacrosse League,” Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz said. “Her wide-ranging background fits exactly with the growth trajectory we are on, and her addition to our veteran team is a perfect cultural fit and win for the league, our member clubs and for the sport of lacrosse.”
“Jessica Berman has been an invaluable member of the NHL league office for more than 13 years,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “As a colleague it is easy to recognize that she is whip-smart, enthusiastic and collaborative and we wish her all the best as she takes on this new role.”
“I would like to thank both Nick for this opportunity and Gary and the NHL for putting me in a position where I can help make a difference both with the NLL and the sport of lacrosse,” Berman said. “Lacrosse is constantly mentioned as ‘fast growing,’ and I am looking forward to helping accelerate that pace, especially given all the work that has gone into helping the NLL expand and increase market share under Nick’s tenure.”
Berman was Vice President, Community Development, Culture and Growth at the National Hockey League, as well as Executive Director of the NHL Foundation. In that role she participated in the design and execution of the League’s strategic corporate social responsibility goals, initiatives, policies and programs in the areas of importance to the League, the NHL Clubs, the NHL’s business partners and the hockey community generally, with a particular focus on ensuring the initiatives are properly aligned with the League’s overall objectives and strategy. Prior to that position, she was Vice President & Deputy General Counsel for the NHL. She was a member of the collective bargaining team for the 2012 NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement, which involved crafting the League’s labor strategy, negotiating with the NHLPA to draft the agreement, as well as analyzing the impact of the proposed changes. Prior to working for the NHL, Jessica was an Associate in the Labor & Employment Department at Proskauer Rose LLP. At Proskauer, she represented employers in collective bargaining, mediations, arbitrations and litigations.
Jessica graduated from Fordham University School of Law where she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Fordham Sports Law Forum and an Associate Editor of the Urban Law Journal. She graduated from the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology with an undergraduate degree in Sports Management and Communications with distinction. She was a 2014 member of Sports Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” class, and in 2015 she was presented with the Burke Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Board of Directors of the Burke Medical Research Institute and Burke Rehabilitation Hospital for her commitment to helping people with brain injuries.
The NLL is North America’s largest professional lacrosse league, ranking third in average attendance for pro indoor sports, with 13 teams in key markets across North America. The NLL experienced substantial growth last season with nearly a million total ticket sales, a 28-percent increase from 2017-18, and 60 percent of ticket sales were from people who never played lacrosse. Digital viewership also rose significantly through Turner and B/R Live, showing substantial increases in total unit sales (up 151 percent from last year), average unique viewers (+27 percent) and average minute audiences (+14 percent). Sponsorship revenues are projected at a 29-percent increase from 2018 to 2019. With the addition of Berman, the NLL will continue to focus on increasing its North American footprint through her strategic leadership.