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Remembering Our Friend and Colleague, Yolanda L. Jackson

It is with very heavy hearts that we share the news about the passing of our former Women’s Sports Foundation colleague, friend, and athlete advocate trailblazer, Yolanda L. Jackson.

Yolanda joined the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) in 1989, and for more than two decades worked tirelessly to help women athletes in all sports become more visible to the public, media and corporate community. At a time when very few organizations were promoting the tremendous achievements of women in sport, Yolanda represented the Foundation in strategically advising global brands on how best to harness the power of female athletes in their advertising and events. She also presented educational and developmental seminars to equip athletes with the knowledge and tools to advocate for themselves. From these experiences, Yolanda helped establish the Foundation’s athlete ambassadors function, a key cornerstone of the Women’s Sports Foundation to this day. She was also instrumental in launching our WSF Athlete Advisory Panel, a select group of elite athletes who help us champion our mission, reach and inspire girls, and provide expert insight.

As the Foundation recognized the need to have a broad, influential reach, Yolanda spearheaded the creation of the WSF International Committee. This paved the way for the Foundation’s acceptance into the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the highest status granted to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), allowing us to participate in the work of the U.N. WSF was the first sports NGO to gain this status. Yolanda represented WSF as a frequent presenter at the International Working Group (IWG) on Women in Sport World Conference, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) conferences on women in sport, where she spoke passionately about female athletes as role models and leaders in and out of sports.

In recognition of Yolanda’s innate passion for championing female athletes, WSF created The Yolanda L. Jackson Give Back Award in 2001. Each year, the Foundation recognizes an athlete who, like Yolanda, exemplifies what it means to be a role model and knows the importance of giving back to inspire future generations. Recent recipients include Olympic sprinter and bobsledder Lauryn Williams, Rugby Hall of Famer Phaidra Knight, and professional rock climber Sasha DiGiulian.

“Yolanda, or Yo as we all knew her, was a pioneer, a generous mentor and a remarkable woman,” said WSF Founder, Billie Jean King. “Her undying loyalty to those around her and her lifelong commitment to making sure everyone knew women’s sports and female athletes had a powerful future, will forever be part of her amazing legacy. She was a dear friend and she will be missed.”

Throughout her career, at WSF and beyond, Yolanda advised, nurtured and promoted hundreds of female athletes in close to a hundred different sports. Athlete advocate, strategist and friend, her legacy will remain etched in the hearts of many.

Rest in peace, Yolanda.