Bleeding Blue ... And Green
Alum Wura Olusekun’s job is to make Boston Celtics fans happy — win or lose
Olusekun (center) and fellow Celtics employees built and installed garden beds at the Winthrop Street Community Garden in Medford, Massachusetts.
“On my way to school when I was younger, I used to pick up the newspaper Metro Boston at the local train station or at Dunkin’, flip to the sports section, and clip out pictures of the Celtics players like Ray Allen to use as a bookmark,” says Wura Olusekun ’16 MS. “Sports and education have really been the two foundations of my life.”
Now manager of community engagement for the National Basketball Association’s Boston Celtics, Olusekun works for the same team whose players’ photos used to mark which chapter she’d just read.
Olusekun grew up in Revere, Massachusetts, but declared herself a UConn sports fan at an early age. “It’s the biggest sports school in New England. I mean, BU and UMass are both big too, but basketball is my favorite sport.”
Her fandom continued even as a Rutgers undergraduate. New Jersey’s state university and UConn both competed in the Big East conference at the time, which guaranteed a matchup in Piscataway once a year. She’d sit in the front row in Husky gear. “People always used to get on me for that,” she says, laughing. “My junior year in 2011, when Kemba [Walker and UConn] won the championship, that was a very exciting time for me.”
When choosing a graduate school for her master of science in sport management, she says, “I had to go to UConn.”
For her capstone project, she launched a series of guest speakers and panel discussions titled “Beyond the Field” to discuss broader political and social issues in sports. Originally intended only for her final semester, the series continues two or three times per semester to this day.
Top athletes, journalists, professors, coaches, and other experts come to UConn to discuss everything from kneeling protests during the national anthem, to Title IX progress, to the debate over public funding for sports stadiums. Speakers have included Chaim Bloom, chief baseball officer for the Boston Red Sox, and Moushaumi Robinson, a gold medal winner in the women’s 4x400 meter relay at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
After graduation, Olusekun worked for the National Hockey League as an assistant for social impact, growth initiatives, and legislative affairs, then switched sports to work for Major League Soccer as senior coordinator for social responsibility.
Her current Celtics community engagement job helps run several programs and initiatives. When you see Celtics players reading to elementary school kids or volunteering at a local soup kitchen, that’s usually organized by her division. “We work with community organizers, politicians, daycares, hospitals,” she says.
The team’s “Heroes Among Us” recognizes notable locals at center court during a timeout each game. (The night before our interview with Olusekun saw a 15-year-old climate activist from Easthampton, Massachusetts, honored.) Last November, the Celtics announced a new partnership with Boston Medical Center’s mobile unit Curbside Care for Moms and Babies. The unit makes checkups and home visits to needier areas, so that expectant or new mothers don’t have to travel to the hospital, and even delivers groceries and household items.
“Women in the community say it’s saved their life or saved their baby’s life,” Olusekun marvels.
Last year, UConn’s Neag School of Education awarded her the 2022 Outstanding Early Career Professional Award, which is proudly displayed on her desk in Boston.
For students interested in pursuing a career in the sports world, Olusekun recommends using the campus environment for exposure to more than just the mainstays like basketball or football. “I had a classmate who was a rowing coach,” she says. “I was never interested in rowing, but then I started to pay attention.”
As of this writing, the Celtics command the best winning percentage in the NBA, with Vegas betting odds ranking the team as the favorite to win next June’s championship. Does that affect her job in any way?
“We set out to do this work so even if the team finishes the season 0-82, we’re still going to make people smile, give people the resources they need, and get the work done,” says Olusekun. “But it’s nice that we’re getting the job done both on and off the court.”
By Jesse Rifkin '14 (CLAS)
Photo by Scott Eisen/Boston Celtics