Last week we went over the XFL Stadiums, this week we’re turning our focus to the XFL Presidents. We are not ranking each person, rather we are listing them in alphabetical order of their home franchise. With the Summer Showcase about to wrap up, the team names coming and the draft in October, we thought this would be a good time to go over each of the Team Presidents.
XFL Dallas – Grady Raskin
Raskin began his 22-year sports career as an intern for MLB’s Texas Rangers in 1996 and soon worked his way up to Director of Advertising Sales. In this role he sold corporate partnerships for three sports entities owned by Tom Hicks (Texas Rangers, Dallas Stars, and Mesquite Rodeo), as well as the newly-constructed American Airlines Center. He was elevated to VP of Business Development for the Rangers and Stars in 2007. Upon the sale of the teams in 2009, moved to the Rangers exclusively. Raskin rejoined the Stars in 2012, serving as Vice President of Corporate Partnerships, managing all partnership sales and activations. Over his career, he has experienced two Western Conference Championships and a Stanley Cup Championship, and two American League Pennants.
A graduate of George Washington University with a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in sports management, Raskin was a three-year letterman on the university’s Division I baseball team.
XFL Houston – Brian Michael Cooper
Cooper, who most recently served as a partner in the Houston and Denver offices of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP and as a member of the firm’s Entertainment, Media and Sports Practice, will be responsible for the team’s fan engagement and business operations, including ticket sales, corporate partnerships, marketing, content, communications, community relations, and the game day experience.
Cooper has more than 20 years of experience as a sports attorney, agent, executive and advisor, guiding clients through all aspects of sports business transactions, and is a four-time Super Lawyers Texas Rising Star. Before returning to his law practice in 2017 at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, he served as Director of Sports Programming for DISH Network. Cooper served as Senior Associate Athletic Director at Rice University from 2010-2013, and as President of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers from 2008-2010. The Vipers are the NBA G-League affiliate of the Houston Rockets.
Before joining the Vipers, Cooper spent six years as an attorney at Haynes Boone LLP in Houston from 2002-2008, where he worked on matters for the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation. For his work in Houston sports, he received the Outstanding Service Award from the Houston Bar Association’s Entertainment and Sports Law Section in 2009 and 2012, along with the HBA ESL Chairman’s Award in 2014. Cooper began his legal career at Proskauer LLP in New York, where his clients included the NBA, NHL, ATP, and MLS.
XFL Los Angeles – Heather Brooks Karatz
Brooks Karatz comes to the league from LAFC and Banc of California Stadium.
Her responsibilities will include responsibility for the team’s fan engagement and business operations, including ticket sales, corporate partnerships, marketing, content, communications, community relations, and the game day experience.
“Vince McMahon and I are thrilled that Heather is our first team president,” Jeffrey Pollack, XFL President and Chief Operating Officer said in a statement. “She knows Los Angeles inside out, played a key role in one of the most successful launch efforts in professional sports, and will help us build a fanbase and get it right.”
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to launch a team that is authentic to Los Angeles,” Karatz added. “The XFL’s mission is to put the fan above all and bring new thinking, not only to the game, but to how we engage fans and their families, connect with the community through a love for football, and manage every aspect of our operations. Starting from scratch means our perspective can be fresh and I can’t wait to get started creating a new team for the LA market and entire community.”
Before joining LAFC in January 2017, just as the team broke ground on the Banc of California Stadium, Karatz was the General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Relativity Sports where she represented more than 300 professional athletes across the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball. She also worked as an attorney for the National Hockey League and as a law clerk for the NFL Management Council. Karatz began her legal career as a labor and employment attorney at Hunton & Williams, LLP (now known as Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP).
XFL New York – Janet Duch
A New Jersey resident, Janet received her B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Janet’s experience within the industry made her hiring a no-brainer. Before joining the XFL, Janet was the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for On Location Experiences, a hospitality organization. Before that, she worked inside Madison Square Garden for 18 years as a Senior Vice President for both the New York Rangers and Knicks. Janet helped innovate the in-game experience for fans like entertainment, merchandise and other initiatives.
“I believe when it comes to what New York fans want from their teams, it is hard work, grit, heart and community tradition,” Janet stated. “We want to appeal to all of our fans.”
What makes her valuable? Janet’s experience has been rewarded in many ways. She was named to the Sports Business Journal’s 40 under 40 list in 2015, as well as same in the Leaders in Sports’ list. In a league looking to start fresh after their initial 2001 run, Janet’s unique skill set gives the New York team and the XFL as a whole something to build on.
Janet is ready and willing to grow the New York XFL team from the ground up. Her determination and desire are what got the attention of the XFL, and she is excited to show fans, and the league, what she is capable of.
XFL St. Louis – Kurt Hunzeker
Hunzeker will be responsible for the business operations of the St. Louis team, including ticket sales, corporate partnerships, marking, community relations and game day experience. He will also be responsible for maintaining fan engagement.
“I’m thankful for this incredible opportunity to be part of the team that is bringing football back to town,” Hunzeker stated. “The XFL team in St. Louis will be the first modern professional football team born in and exclusively for this great city. Each neighborhood is proud to be a unique subset of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area, and I’ve been blessed to live in quite a few. I pledge to work with Coach Hayes to make this team an integral part of this terrific, sports-loving community and look forward to bringing reimagined football and fan-centric fun to the Dome in 2020.”
Prior to joining the XFL, Hunzeker was the Vice President of Marketing Strategy and Research for Minor League Baseball. In 2015, Hunzeker was responsible for identifying potential partners and was in charge of providing marketing plans for over 160 teams. He utilized several campaigns to get people invested, including “It’s Fun to Be a Fan” and “The Fun Cup”, celebrating the heritage and contributions of each team’s Hispanic communities. Prior to joining MiLB, Hunzeker spent five years in St. Louis as a Senior Director of Brand Marketing for Rawlings Sporting Goods. He became a huge part in the integration of sabermetrics in the selection process for the Gold Glove Award in baseball.
Between MiLB and Rawlings, Hunzeker was also an adjunct professor in 2014 for Maryville University’s School of Business in St Louis while also serving as a member of the St. Louis University Sports Business Advisory Board from 2011-2014.
XFL Seattle – Ryan Gustafson
Washington native, Gustafson was previously the Seattle Sounders VP of Business Strategy and Development. While with the Sounders, Gustafson led all planning for the organization revenue-generation initiatives that included ticket sales, corporate partnerships and suites. Gustafson joins head coach and general manager Jim Zorn as the leadership for the yet-to-be-named Seattle franchise.
“I’m excited to help bring the XFL to the Pacific Northwest and build a team that makes a lasting impact in our community,” said Gustafson in a press release. “I’d like to thank Adrian Hanauer and the entire Sounders family for the chance to be part of such a great organization. Growing up less than ten miles from CenturyLink Field, and with a love of all things connected to Seattle sports, I know how special fans are here, and I’m grateful to the XFL leadership for this truly unique opportunity.”
XFL Tampa Bay – Josh Bullock
Bullock comes to the XFL from the University of South Florida. He had been the senior associate director of athletics and the senior director of development since March 2018. Before USF, Bullock, 46, had been the Tampa Bay Rays’ vice president of corporate partnerships for more than seven years.
Bullock told the Tampa Bay Times he wasn’t looking to leave USF, but he was drawn to the uniqueness of the XFL job. He’ll oversee the team’s business operations (e.g., ticket sales, corporate partnerships and marketing and communications) and fan engagement.
“Opportunities like this just don’t happen in sports, to be part of building a professional sports franchise, to come in at the ground floor and be able to roll up your sleeves and really have impact,” he said. “There’s so many advantages to doing it this way, where your voice can be heard. There’s not a whole lot of pre-existing rules and regulations. There’s very little baggage to kind of sort through to get something going.”
XFL Washington DC – Erik Moses
Moses recently directed the Sports and Entertainment Division of Events DC, where he worked to attract major events. He also led Events DC’s corporate partnerships initiative that connected the organization with brands such as PepsiCo, Lyft and the DC Lottery.
Before the 2009 merger that created Events DC, Moses was CEO of the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission. In addition to navigating the merger with the Washington Convention Center Authority, Moses oversaw the completion of construction at Nationals Park, the development of the Military Bowl, and the creation and launch of the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic, and was the catalyst behind the public-private partnership which developed the Skate Park at RFK Stadium.
Moses also served as the Director of the District of Columbia’s Department of Small and Local Business Development, and began his career in private practice with Dow Lohnes PLLC. He then joined America Online, Inc. where he served as legal counsel and as a director of business development.
Moses is currently an adjunct professor in the Sports Industry Management Program at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies.