PODCAST: S4:EP8–Blair Neelands, Portland Timbers

Join us for S4:EP8 of the Sports Philanthropy Podcast as Blair Neelands, Sustainability and Outreach Coordinator for the Portland Timbers, sits down with our host, Roy Kessel, to discuss how her early careers ultimately led her to find her passion for working in sports and the current work she is doing for the Timbers.

Blair Neelands is the Sustainability & Outreach Coordinator for the Portland Timbers and Thorns Football Club (PTFC) where she manages civic engagement programs and leads environmental sustainability initiatives. Since 2019, she has organized and executed two iterations of the club’s annual StandTogether Week, which mobilizes hundreds of volunteers to serve the local community alongside athletes and staff. She established the club’s first green team and is currently working with leadership to improve the organization’s sustainability strategy.

Blair’s love of sport runs deep. Growing up, she played basketball, soccer, and softball. Unfortunately, her childhood dream of playing basketball for Pat Summit disintegrated due to a forearm injury. Instead, she joined the U.S. Army as a public affairs specialist, serving five years with a 12-month tour in Afghanistan. After the military, Blair worked in communications for a small electric cooperative in northern Virginia, but eventually realized she wanted to work in sports. She enrolled at the University of Central Florida to earn an MBA and Master’s in Sports Business Management and spent 18 months focused on the role of sport in social change as a graduate assistant for Dr. Richard Lapchick, a human rights and racial justice activist. By the end of the program, she believed wholeheartedly in sport as a catalyst for change.

Blair is originally from San Luis Obispo, California. She has a wife, Dani, and a two-year-old fur baby named Ralph. When she’s not calculating carbon footprints or watching soccer, she is cheering on the LA Dodgers and Washington Mystics.

The Portland Timbers are an American professional soccer club based in Portland, Oregon. The Timbers compete in Major League Soccer (MLS) as a member club of the league’s Western Conference. The club was founded in 2009 when the city of Portland was awarded an expansion berth to Major League Soccer. The Timbers have been a beloved part of the Portland sports landscape since their early beginnings in the original North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1975, launching the era of “Soccer City USA” in the Rose City. The Timbers play at Providence Park, one of the most exciting and authentic soccer environments in the country, and have sold out every league match since joining MLS in 2011 and have a Season Ticket Waiting List of more than 10,000 fans.

Blair Neelands joins our host Roy Kessel on S4:EP8 of the Sports Philanthropy Podcast


  • 00:00 Introduction
  • 00:45 Blair’s Background
  • 09:45 Role at Portland Timbers
  • 16:25 Scheduling & Planning
  • 22:40 Volunteering
  • 24:00 Stand Together Initiative
  • 26:35 Biggest Challenges
  • 30:45 Data & Communication System
  • 34:25 Sustainability in Sports
  • 36:25 Upcoming Initiatives
  • 43:25 Conclusions
  • 44:10 Blair as Commissioner of MLB


Kelsey Donnolo

Kelsey Donnolo

Sports Philanthropy Network

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