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The Woman Who Served On Obama’s Reelection Team And Is Now Shaping The NBA’s Biggest Stars

“Shut up and dribble” were the words journalist Laura Ingraham once used to rebuke the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James from talking politics in an interview. A sentiment that adds to a long history of silencing Black athletes and relegating their value to their athletic ability alone. Unwilling to be muted, the voice and activism of today’s Black world class performers remain an influential force for making change on and off the court. 

Alexys Feaster is a strategic advisor working behind the scenes to amplify player’s voices, provide access to resources beyond the sport, and detail a clear path on how they can engage both in their communities and on a national level as leaders in the social justice movement. After six years as Senior Director of Player Development at the NBA, Feaster is most known for her work in helping over 450 NBA players outside of the game by creating programs and initiatives to enhance their life skills and leadership development. 

After the 2011 NBA lockout stretched out for 149 days before the athletes and owners finally reached an agreement, Feaster witnessed how the league was supportive of its players and she saw an opportunity for her to make meaningful contributions to the organization. “I was really able to lean in and elevate the way that we provide [leadership] training programs and resources to NBA players who are 79% Black – they are oftentimes raised in single parent households and remind me so much of what I grew up around in southeast D.C.,” Feaster recalled. From how to stay out of debt, to transitioning into the life after basketball and tools to strengthen household and family ties, Feaster is the provider of invaluable counsel to the league’s growing list of superstars. 

Years later, her commitment to providing pathways for change and pioneering impactful initiatives was realized during the 2018 NBA Summer league when Feaster executed the league’s first ever voter registration drive – registering over 40 eligible players and incoming rookies. She continued that focus while recently sequestered in the NBA Bubble in Orlando, registering players, coordinating with teams and ultimately reporting a 96% voter registration rate amongst all eligible NBA players by the November 2020 presidential election. This number is viewed as the highest number amongst all professional sports leagues.

However, Feaster is no stranger to politics. Sitting at the intersection of sports, entertainment and social justice, Feaster leveraged her expertise within these arenas for Obama’s reelection campaign as the National Regional Surrogate Director. There, she led the strategy behind some of the biggest names speaking and performing during the campaign trail, including Jay-Z, Jon Bon Jovi and several athletes. “You saw all these different players from the NBA, NFL and Olympians do these different campaign speeches and really step outside their comfort zone,” recalled Feaster. “Not all of them have the knowledge and education to speak on political issues, so being able to prepare them for their advocacy was a huge highlight in my career there.” She was also the mastermind behind the creation of various political and social good digital campaigns including Alicia Keys’ “We Are A Powerful Force”, the NFL’s “Gotta Vote”, and Jay-Z’s “The Power of Our Voice,” among others.

Today, her commitment to championing athletes and entertainers to be the best version of themselves is the central purpose of her business, Kinship Advisors and Kinship Coaching. Through this venture, Feaster creates alliances with athletes, entertainers and organizations who are committed to personal and community development and strategic business expansion that creates a sustained impact in underrepresented populations.

Here, she shares advice for women entrepreneurs on how to lean into your natural strengths and follow the uncharted path to success.

Pass The Mic

Introduced to the power of mentorship growing up in the southeastern quadrant of Washington D.C., Feaster became a mentor at the local Covenant House. “I was able to see first-hand what access to knowledge, role models and educational resources can do for the Black community,” Feaster said. “And so that was always a guiding light for me. No matter what job I did, I tried to find the community element within it.” The experience within her community inspired her to shape a career path where she could influence change at a larger scale. One method she took to achieve this was leveraging her role as the NBA’s leader for player engagement around social justice work and the ambassador for Dream in Color (the NBA’s Employee Resource Group) to provide platforms to discuss issues affecting the Black community. Feaster created and hosted the conversation series “Where do we go from here?” as an outlet to discuss collective change after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. These conversations featured activists like Tamika Mallory and Van Jones, as well as Tamika Palmer, mother of Breonna Taylor. It is discussions like these, hearing the pain from a devastated mother, that drive Feaster’s passion to make a difference in Black communities; just like the communities she grew up surrounded by in Washington, DC.

Leverage Relationships For Greatest Impact

Feaster recognized early on in her career that being on the service-based side of a corporate environment – people, culture, growth and coaching – instead of the revenue generating side may not always be a top priority for executives most concerned with the bottom line. Her solution for demonstrating the value of her position was to focus on pinpointing opportunities that would add to the organization’s key objectives. For example, she believed that the families of rookie players attending the NBA Draft should have access to the necessary outlets so that they could look and feel their best in these new spaces. While some questioned the purpose, Feaster found ways to tie this idea to marketing initiatives with sponsored pop up barbershops and nail salons. “I was able to create these cool programs and experiences, by going to internal allies and collaborating across the building to see how this could be tied to the bottom line and give us the results that we need,” Feaster said.  

Recognize The Opportunity To Take A Leap

Feaster knew it was time to launch a business of her own when she could no longer deny the gap in the marketplace that her service would perfectly fit within. “There was such a clear void, and even though I was the person that was getting paid through the NBA to fill the void by coaching players off the court, I knew that you can only do but so much in those environments,” she described. “There was a space for culturally relevant people that looked like me to coach around business and transition.” Kinship, her brainchild, is a name aligned to her values of connection and family. “I want to be remembered as a person that connected people to anything and everything that they needed, someone who elevated people through coaching, through mentorship,” Feaster continued. “Someone who helped build community. Who built those spaces in the places where people can come together and congregate and collectively make a difference.”

Create The Soundtrack Of Your Life

“Your mental soundtrack is about asking, ‘what is the story that you’re telling yourself?’ and being aware of our inadequacies that we replay in our minds over and over,” explained Feaster. As someone who learned to recover from maneuvering through life on autopilot – wake up, go to work, strive to achieve goals and earn higher titles, then repeat – she discovered the importance of pressing pause to reflect on her purpose. This meant digging deeper to find new ways of doing things and changing the channel on mindless habits of consuming. “To me, that’s the importance of a mental soundtrack. Through coaching you’re helping people to get to that space or to whatever space they want to be in. But with the understanding that how they’re feeding their mind, both subconsciously, consciously and through outside noise, it does affect how you maneuver through life.”

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