An on-camera host and analyst for Sports Illustrated, Ashley Nicole Moss says with pride that she is the first Black woman to hold her position in company history. “But the bigger honor,” she adds, “is knowing I won’t be the last.”
Olympic-gold-medal-winning volleyball player Haleigh Washington also hopes to see the sports world become more inclusive, and is doing her part to make that dream a reality, serving on the advisory board for the grassroots-focused League One Volleyball. “There is always an opportunity for more,” she says. “Not only do I want to be more, but I want to make more available. My guy Walt Whitman said it best: ‘Oh me! Oh life! … That you are here—that life exists and identity, that the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.’”
The two are among the honorees on Forbes’ 2023 30 Under 30 list in the Sports category, highlighting the industry’s all-star athletes, inventive founders and accomplished professionals. Candidates—who had to be 29 or younger as of December 31, 2022, and could not have been previously named to a Forbes 30 Under 30 list—were reviewed by a panel of judges featuring some of the sports world’s biggest players: Malcolm Jenkins, an entrepreneur and former NFL star; Ted Leonsis, the owner of sports teams including Washington’s Capitals and Wizards; Tyler Tumminia, former commissioner of the Premier Hockey Federation; and Chiney Ogwumike, a WNBA player and basketball analyst for ESPN, as well as an alum of the 2021 30 Under 30 list.
Many of the honorees are making sports more accessible. Soccer player Midge Purce helped the U.S. women’s national team achieve a landmark equal-pay deal and cofounded the Black Women’s Player Collective to create “a more beautiful game.” Canadian Olympian Sarah Nurse is the first female hockey player to land on the cover of EA Sports’ NHL video game while Arike Ogunbowale is an investor in a media startup focused on women’s sports and has called on members of the media to properly pronounce the surnames of her fellow WNBA players, who often don’t get the same level of respect as male players or players with more European names. Ashley Ward is one of only a handful of women who direct game broadcasts—and, at 27, is believed to be the youngest director in ESPN’s history.
The 2023 30 Under 30 list itself shows how representation is changing in the sports world: Of the nominees selected by the judges, 16 are women, and 17 identify as people of color. And the honorees are breaking new ground in other ways as well.
Anna Leigh Waters is the top-ranked player in the ascendant sport of pickleball—at just 15. Dillon Rosenblatt is CEO and cofounder of Autograph, which has become a major force in the nascent NFT space, while Kat Marquez plays a key role for Gen Z’s app of choice, TikTok. Jason Bergman and Shehryar Khan lead MarketPryce, a platform that connects college athletes with potential sponsors now that the NCAA allows them to profit off their name, image and likeness. Phil Chang is helping the Los Angeles Lakers step into the 21st century by embracing analytics while Jessica Murfree is looking further into the future with her research on the effects of climate change on sport.
Other luminaries from the 2023 list include Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, two-time NHL MVP Connor McDavid and record-breaking runner Sydney McLaughlin.
Moss, the Sports Illustrated host, could be speaking for many of her fellow honorees when she reflects to Forbes that her journey “has been far from traditional.”
“Like most women in the industry, I’ve been told I had to fit into a box to be successful; however, my power has always lied in being unapologetically authentic, and my goal is to inspire and empower women to possess the same,” she says, adding: “As my career grows, I look forward to continue breaking barriers, not just for myself but for the women who will follow me. The deeper meaning behind holding a door open for someone is to make their destination to the same or similar place just a little bit easier than it was for you.”
This year’s list was edited by Brett Knight and Justin Birnbaum. For a link to our complete Sports list, click here, and for full 30 Under 30 coverage, click here.