This year’s Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame inductees include a Riverhead grad who serves as VP for LA Chargers
Two local individuals who have made an impact off the field of professional sports will be honored by the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame in May.
Riverhead High School alumnus Ed McGuire, executive vice president of the Los Angeles Chargers, and Jen Sabatelle, EVP of communications at CBS Sports, are among 26 people who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at East Wind in Wading River on Thursday, May 18.
Mr. McGuire and Ms. Sabatelle have been game-changers in their respective fields.
“Ed has been intimately involved in the growth of an NFL franchise,” Hall of Fame president Chris Vaccaro said. “Spending so much time with one team is rare, and building a career on the business and finance wing of any pro sports team is a challenging, rewarding and exciting experience. We’re thrilled to honor Ed with induction to the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame for all he has achieved in football.”
Mr. Vaccaro had similar sentiments for Ms. Sabatelle, who he called “a powerhouse.”
“She has risen through the ranks in PR and communications, and her influence on the strategy at CBS Sports is incredible,” he added. “From Shoreham-Wading River to the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame has a nice ring.”
Mr. McGuire also had great influence in his career in sports.
Like many athletic-minded kids growing up in Riverhead, Mr. McGuire wanted to be a professional athlete. He played on the Riverhead High School baseball and football teams, but he realized his limitations.
Still, there were other avenues open for him to participate in pro sports. He attended St. John’s University, where he earned a degree in athletic administration. During his final semester, Mr. McGuire was intern with the U.S. Football League office in New York City. In 1987, he became a player personnel analyst in the NFL office and eventually a leading expert on the league salary cap and collective bargaining agreement. The CBA was created between the league and NFL Players Association in 1993.
“We tried to think every possible scenario, but you have no idea when you create a document from scratch and the teams and agents immediately are trying to find loopholes in the cap,” Mr. McGuire said. “My first couple years at the NFL was to try to close these loopholes with the next CBA and negotiating with the union. It was really an interesting view for me to see how teams were doing everything possible to try to keep on pushing money into future years.
“It could not have been better timing for me to learn salary cap and the rules so intimately.”
Mr. McGuire mentioned that NFL senior VP of labor relations Peter Ruocco, a founding father of the cap and CBA, was a mentor.
“I had really great mentors and people that have helped me during the years,” he said. “Just really had a great, training ground. Better than I could have gotten anywhere else, which helped me land the role with the Chargers.”
Now 61, Mr. McGuire joined the Chargers as coordinator of football operations in 1998 and has remained a vital part of the club since. He is the Chargers’ chief negotiator and manages the team’s salary cap.
“When I went to the Chargers, you’re trying to then find ways to manipulate the cap again,” he said. “But the league has done a really good job over the last 25 years where it’s sort of very much a black and white document. There’s very little gray in the collective bargaining agreement any longer.”
To say that Mr. McGuire loves his job would be an understatement.
“I’m one of the lucky people who hasn’t seen one morning where I’ve gotten up and said I don’t want to go to work,” he said. “It’s a passion. It’s not a job. It’s something that I love. I realize how fortunate when I say that because I’ve been with the team 25 years.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Ms. Sabatelle has cast a giant shadow in her profession. She grew up around sports. Her father, Thomas, a 2014 Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame inductee, was Sachem High School athletic director. Her family life and schedule revolved around competing in various sports, attending games and watching them on television.
“I don’t remember a time when sports were not the main focus of my life,” she told IC View, the magazine of Ithaca College, in 2011. “When I went to college, the focus shifted from the playing field to working toward a career in sports television.”
Two years after graduating from Ithaca College, Ms. Sabatelle secured a job with the NFL in 1996, working as a liaison between teams and broadcast networks. That led to CBS Sports, where she was coordinator for programming and marketing.
After serving as senior vice president for eight years, Ms. Sabatelle was named to her current position in January 2021. Her responsibilities include supervising media relations at CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network, including corporate communications, social media and the promotion of all personalities and programming.
“When I got my first chance in sports, I hoped that if I worked really hard and did a good job, someone would notice, regardless of my gender,” Ms. Sabatelle said in 2011. “I am thankful that I get to work every day in a business that has captured my attention since I was a little girl and that I get to do it alongside the best men and women in sports.”
Ms. Sabatelle was not available for an interview with the Riverhead News-Review.