Lisa Feigenbaum must own an NBA record.
The Connecticut native had no idea what she was getting herself into when she applied for a job with the Sacramento Kings five years ago. The following 24 hours were a whirlwind, landing an interview and then landing a job before the next sunset.
Gotta be a record.
“It was the best thing that could have happened to me,” Feigenbaum said recently from her office in Sacramento, just a day after the team held its seventh annual Equality Night. “It forced me out of my comfort zone. And I think if I hadn’t done that, I may have never lived up to my potential.”
Part of that living up to potential has been the doors she’s opened living as an out gay woman while working for the team. When she arrived at the Kings, she didn’t know of any out LGBTQ people on the Kings staff. Now there are at least seven, holding a range of different jobs in various departments throughout the building.
Now as a vice-president of sales — after earning a couple promotions — she very much understands her role as an out woman in an executive role: She is living proof that LGBTQ people and women can advance and succeed in professional sports.
“It’s been so cool to work for a place and be given that platform,” Feigenbaum said. “That’s what I hear at NBA meetings and at conferences, my gay peers are just jealous. Not everyone has this type of platform, or this support.”
That’s sobering for Feigenbaum. While she sees all of the support around her in Sactown, she tries to remain ever cognizant that everyone isn’t so fortunate.
It elevates the importance of the Kings’ Equality Night that much more for her. This season’s edition took place earlier this month and featured an arena covered in rainbows, rainbow Kings T-shirts, drag queens, honored guests, partnerships with local LGBTQ groups, a thoughtful discussion and a DJ. The Kings also included an hour-long lunch conversation for team employees, addressing LGBTQ inclusion in sports, that was well-received by the staff.
A huge part of the meaning of Equality Night for Feigenbaum is what it means to the team’s LGBTQ employees, some of whom may not yet be comfortable being out.
“When you see the team is supporting it, and in a big way, it makes you feel safe in your job.”
Part of that this year was a video the Kings produced highlighting seven of the team’s out employees:
“I love working for this organization for so many reasons,” Feigenbaum said, “and their acceptance of me being gay is one of them.”
Feigenbaum wants to help other LGBTQ people, as well as other women, find their way in the male-dominated world of professional sports. She said falling into both categories each presents their own challenge, but she’s not letting either of them stop her from her goals.
“I will always find 15 minutes to talk to somebody who’s reached out, who might just need a conversation about validation and some advice,” she said. “And that advice, I don’t think it’s a one-size-fits-all mode. But i just won’t accept excuses for anyone, and I want to help them get that monster out of their head. They can get to where they want to be.”
Her tough love has worked. Last year she was nominated for an internal MVP Award - standing for Mission, Values and Philosophy. Her nomination came from Franco Guillardo, another LGBTQ employee and currently special assistant to the executive board.
“[Lisa] guided me and gave me the confidence to go for a new position within the company,” Guillardo wrote. “It is thanks to her that I was able to push myself out of my comfort zone and believe that I could achieve the next step.”
Feigenbaum isn’t sure what her next step is. Whatever it is, she knows it will be with a company that supports her true self.