Premier Ultimate League, New PUL Foundation Add 16 New Board Members

The PUL is charting a new direction with a governance overhaul.

The PUL logo.

After announcing a substantial increase in equity-specific expenditures and a commitment to focus more on racial equity in the organization, the Premier Ultimate League has announced an overhaul of its governance structures with a slate of new board members and the formation of the PUL Foundation (PULF), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

Along with announcing nine board members for the PUL Foundation, the PUL also announced eight additional people being added to its existing board. The PULF will be governed by Leah Tsinajinnie, Meagan Brown, Julia Johnson, Allysha Dixon, Hannah Leathers, Chip Chang, Val Pinillos, Kaitlynne Roling, and Sydney Harris.

The PUL is adding Janel Venzant, Malika Smoot, Danielle Tran, Elise Rasmussen, Chupzi Lema, Rena Kawabata, Strat Stratton, and Isaiah Bryant1 to its board of directors, joining a group of team representatives and Executive Committee members. The new board members were introduced on the PUL’s Twitter.

The PUL Foundation board members.

“We turned over 50% of the original PUL Board of Directors and added seven new BIPOC and one white person to the Board through an open application and interview process,” wrote the league in an update on its website. “For the PULF board, three of four original officers stepped down, and we added eight new BIPOC Board of Directors, and retained one white director.”

“In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many other Black and Brown folks by the police, the league began to recognize that racial equity in our league, our leadership and our sport had been largely overlooked and not been given the appropriate priority when ‘building our bike,'” said PUL Commissioner Bonesaw Kepner. “With that lens, we stepped back and again reassessed our budget and allocation of resources to first turn our league into an anti-racist organization and then work to ‘build our bike.’

“For some specifics, that meant looking at how and if our staff would be re-hired for the “off-season” months and a pivot of what our duties and scopes of work would be. Julia Johnson, for example, who had been hired to be the League Administrator (mostly working on league operations) was transitioned into a new role of Equity Manager for the remainder of 2020. Some of her responsibilities have been — often in coordination with Hannah Leathers and the Executive Committee — to find and hire and coordinate with an outside consulting company (nINA Collective) to do a full equity assessment of our organization and practices; working with the Governance Committee to execute the reorganization of our Board structure – which had previously consisted of 2 reps from each team, only one out of 24 of whom was Black – and the recruitment of new at-large BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) board members.”

The specific relationship between the PUL and the PULF is still being determined, though there is an eye on the Foundation becoming the umbrella organization for the league with an eye on expanding its mission.

“In 10 years, the Foundation will be working in other sports,” said PUL Equity Manager Julia Johnson. “The PUL is going to continue to be its top program, and we really hope that the PUL can be a model for what can happen at the professional sports level.”

For now, the Foundation will focus on supporting the PUL and handling governance issues and racial equity development, like trainings and policy creation, especially once the PUL returns to the field. “We were finding that it was hard for the Board of the PUL to stay grounded because there were so many opportunities out there,” said Johnson.

The two boards held a virtual retreat last weekend with some combined sessions and some split out between the two organizations. The focus continues to be on the governance of the organization and ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion at the core of the league.

“How can we get ultimate advancing in a way that prioritizes racial equity? Because there are lots of ways that ultimate is trying to advance that does not do that,” said Johnson.

“We will continue to spend money on transforming our organization towards becoming anti-racist and anti-oppressive between now and the next time we’re able to take the field,” the PUL wrote on Twitter.

There was no 2020 PUL season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2021 season is still in doubt. Johnson said that the league will prioritize community safety and won’t consider playing altered versions of the game or wearing masks during competition. “We’re not going to step on the field until it’s completely safe to do so,” she said.

The latest COVID-19 vaccine news has been promising, with Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca all announcing 90%+ efficacy from their phase 3 trials and seeking governmental approval for distribution. Health experts believe that enough people could be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, bringing back relatively normal life, by the middle of 2021.

So far, neither the PUL nor other ultimate organizations have set a clear timeline for a return to competition. “At some point before the end of the year, we’ll announce a more concrete timeline,” said Johnson.

“Even when we return to play and have a ‘real’ season, the operations of the league will happen as an extension of the Foundation’s mission, grounded in racial, gender and socio-economic equity,” said Kepner.


  1. who previously served as a team representative 

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

  2. Kelsey Hayden
    Kelsey Hayden

    Kelsey Hayden is an Ultiworld reporter, covering the Premier Ultimate League and Western Ultimate League. She is originally from Goulds, Newfoundland, and currently resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She plays with a women's club team, Salty, and coaches an open club team, Madhouse. You can follow Kelsey on Twitter (@hikelseyhayden).

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