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Richie hopes one way the league can do better will be to proactively target people like her who viewed games on TV but didn’t take the next step and buy tickets. She said her main reason for not going was “not necessarily being approached.”

“So part of what I want to think about is how do we reach out to people and engage them versus assuming or putting the burden on them to come and grab us,” she said.

“I feel like there’s a terrific product to work with, and that makes the job so much easier. It’s not without its challenges, but a lot easier than a tough sale.”

Richie’s hiring is historic as she becomes the first black woman to be in charge of a professional sports league, a distinction she doesn’t take lightly.

“I do take the notion of being a role model very seriously, a role model for women, a role model for African Americans,” she said. “That is, in fact, a big reason of why this opportunity is so interesting and important to me.”

Ackerman was the WNBA’s first president, hired in August 1996 _ a year before the league began play. Orender replaced Ackerman in April 2005 and announced in the beginning of December she was stepping down to start a marketing and media strategy company. Her last day on the job was Dec. 31, and NBA vice president Chris Granger assumed her duties in the interim.