The Sit Down: International Women’s Day with Constance Schwartz-Morini and Tracy Perlman

As many of you know, today is International Women’s Day: a global event that celebrates the achievements of women from all walks of life and locales around the globe. And I couldn’t think of a better way to recognize the strong women in my world than to turn over today’s blog post to Constance. Today, Con will be sitting down with a woman who’s not only one of her best friends, but also someone who is professionally at the top of her game: Tracy Perlman is the Senior Vice President of Football Communications and Marketing for the NFL, where she’s been for the better part of three decades. Tracy’s experienced it all at the NFL: human resources and programming, NFL Films and NFL Enterprises, sponsorship, marketing, entertainment, and now Football Operations. One of her latest and greatest projects was gathering that amazing cast of current and former pro footballers for the NFL 100 commercial spot that aired during this year’s Super Bowl. No easy task, but Tracy is a real inspiration and a wonderful example of how to succeed in business by working hard, living with integrity, and having a lot of heart. “Constance is truly one of my best friends and one of the greatest people I know,” Tracy says. “Her success is due to her tenacity and courage. I have learned a lot from her both personally and professionally and am proud to call her a friend who’s family.” That makes two of us, Tracy. —M.S.

Constance Schwartz-Morini: So, we first met way back in the 90s when we both worked together at the NFL.

Tracy Perlman: It was 1992. You were working at NFL Properties in the events department, and had this makeshift office in the 410 Park Avenue offices. I was working for the League in HR and they sent me up to your office to get some youth football “fact” books. We started working together at that moment and regardless of where you went after that, we continued to work together. Your path was so unique and so brave. When you went out on you own and then created SMAC with Michael, we found more and more ways to work together.  

CSM: We’ve always been there to support each other, which is so important for women to do in any kind of business. What has your experience been as a woman working in a male-dominated world?

TP: I’ve learned a lot from working with (Executive Vice President) Troy Vincent. Diversity allows for excellence. If you look at the football operations department, it couldn’t be more diverse. At last year’s owners meeting all of Troy’s senior staff was sitting on a panel presenting to the GMs and coaches. He said to them, “Look at this collection of people. They run the game of football and they couldn’t be more diverse. They are the best in the business and that is why I hired them.” 

CSM: The NFL was the best on-the-ground training I could have asked for. You’ve been there since the day after you graduated from college. How has it changed over the years?

TP: When I first started working at the NFL, it was very mom-and-pop and male-dominated throughout the leadership. Now we are a corporation where there are growing opportunities for everyone. We’re also a multimedia company with offices all over the world. The NFL is more than a sport; it’s a huge entertainment property. A lot of people ask me how I can stay at the same company for so long, but I’ve experienced everything you can experience at the NFL. I’ve always been a football fan and working mostly in marketing through my career felt right; I’d been booking the entertainment, handling promotions, working on movies, and the player marketing. Then Troy asked me to move to Football Operations two-and-a-half years ago. If I moved, I had to let go of the glitz and recognition on the entertainment side. It was something I really needed to assess, but it became clear that my future was in committing to the football community: assisting players and growing the game. Now I know I’m where I belong. My new role allows me to share my love for this game and the men who play it.  

CSM: So what’s a typical day like for you, if “typical” can even apply to what you do in a single day?

TP: I’m not sure there is a typical day. We spend our days representing the players and the game.  Building assets and value for the players; communicating their benefits; finding ways to help them build their brands and tell their stories. There are so many great men who play the game, and fans need to know the man under the helmet.  

CSM: You had a hand in that fantastic NFL 100 commercial during the Super Bowl. I just heard Peter Berg, who directed the spot, give you an awesome shout-out about how hard it was to coordinate all of those players to show up in the same city on the same day. I was so proud of the final result and of you

TP: It was my role to get all the guys committed. My first two calls were to Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders. They are both always honest with me. I pitched them the spot and told them we had to get 40 or so guys to L.A. in two weeks. Michael told me, “This spot proves that once it’s in your blood, it’s always in your blood.” Deion said, “Peezy, I’m in. What do you need me to do?” Once I had their commitment, my team and I divided the list and started calling everyone. One after another, the guys were committing: Mike Singletary, Jerry Rice, Odell Beckham Jr., LaDainian Tomlinson …  

CSM: The spot did a great job of highlighting player Sam Gordon, announcer Beth Mowins, and official Sarah Thomas.

TP: Women play a huge role in this game. These women have broken barriers and we wanted them to share in the moment.

CSM: What were some of the funniest moments on set that we didn’t see?

TP: There were so many. Marshawn Lynch eating the cake with both hands and offering it from his hands to the extras. Larry Fitzgerald becoming the quarterback for several shots because the extras couldn’t throw the football. LaDainian Tomlinson saying that when he could feel Ed Reed coming at him, his heart was racing like he was still playing.

CSM: What do you love best about your job?

TP: The personal interaction and communication. Helping someone understand all the things that are available to them. Reconnecting legends with the game they love. Getting current players to understand that our role is to serve them. Helping prospects on their journey. Giving fans an inside look.

CSM: What do you feel has been the key to your success?

TP: My work ethic. I’m reliable, dependable, ambitious, a team player. My integrity building up my team and transparency in communication are important to who I am and what I do. Also, never give up and follow your instincts. Lastly, you must take care of yourself. If you don’t, your work can become your life.

CSM: Life-work balance is so important. And knowing you as well as I do, I know it’s something you’ve worked very hard to achieve. You’re very committed to your yoga practice.

TP: I practice Bikram Yoga—it could be considered a bit of an obsession. It’s 26 postures and two breathing exercises for 90 minutes in a hot room (105°and 40% humidity). It builds strength and flexibility, and balances your mind and body. It’s a community, and I can practice in every city I travel to. The practice grounds me, and reminds me to take care of myself. For 90 minutes, everything else goes away. It teaches me patience and thoughtfulness, and has made me a better and happier person.

CSM: Aside from yoga, what are your other “must-haves”?

TP: Jeans in every color and style. Apples and decaf cappuccinos, every single day (and if you know me, you know why decaf). Facetime, because I have to talk to my niece and nephew all the time. And Netflix, because I need Ozark and the ability to watch shows on my time.

CSM: Who’s been the greatest influence in your life? 

TP: My dad. I have never seen someone work so hard for everyone else. Throughout my life, everything I have done is to make my dad proud. He’s the strongest person I know, and I aspire to be like him.

CSM: Do you have a motto or mantra you live by? 

TP: “What is my why?” And, “What is my purpose?” It makes me think before I act.

CSM: So what’s up next for the NFL and for you

TP: Professionally, the 100th season is launching, so there’s a lot to do and a lot to celebrate, but we must remember to grow the game. For me, it’s about taking care of and making more time for Jeff, my parents, my family, and my friends. And remembering not to let life happen, but to make it happen.