September 27, 2023
Fueled by a passion for the game, Tykera Carter helps WNBA achieve new highs across digital platforms
WNBA associate manager of digital and social content elevates league's digital platforms
After hustling and bustling in Brooklyn and Minneapolis on consecutive nights to document a pair of WNBA playoff games, Tykera Carter silenced her phone so she could sleep a little later than usual.
It was a rare off day. She was tired.
The extra rest was well deserved for the affable 27-year-old Carter, who is a rapidly rising star in the digital media world. A former Sacred Heart women’s basketball player and Hashtag Sports Creators of Color cohort member, Carter has made an immediate impact in her role as the WNBA’s associate manager of digital and social content and in her new job as the sights and sounds cultural reporter for HBCU GO Sports.
Within a two-week span in mid-September, Carter covered basketball and football games in Washington, D.C., New York, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Columbia, South Carolina — all with a grateful heart and a cheerful spirit. Carter loves what she does, the people she meets on a regular basis and the stories she gets to share.
“It’s been amazing,” Carter told The Next. “I am super blessed to work in sports and use my passion to tell stories in a way that’s engaging and inspiring. It’s fun and I enjoy the grind. It’s nice to be thought of as a well-respected person that people feel comfortable in wanting to speak with me. I’m glad they are also interested in the work. Plus, who can complain about getting paid to travel to experience the game I love so much…It’s truly special.”
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Carter’s team was responsible for helping the WNBA set new highs across WNBA digital platforms, which included record growth in social media engagement. Across all @WNBA social media handles, the league generated a record 373 million video views this season, up 96 percent from the 2022 season. The 20 million total actions/engagements and 1.1 million hours watched increased by 65 percent and 42 percent, respectively, from last season.
This season, the WNBA began with 1.3 million Instagram followers. By the time the regular season ended, the number of followers on the WNBA Instagram account swelled to 1.9 million. The relaunched WNBA app with exclusive series content, behind-the-scenes content and league and game coverage saw downloads up nearly 400 percent. The WNBA website had a 21 percent increase in average time spent per visit during the regular season.
“The social media numbers just prove that there’s major interest in the WNBA,” Carter said. “We’re glad to be able to give people what they want to see. At the end of the day, it’s not just me — it’s everybody from our social media strategist to our digital team making sure we’re doing our part to have the players in our league seen. Having this opportunity means everything, especially as a former player.
“I know that one day the ball will stop bouncing for me. My goal has been to always be around sports as a reporter or as an advocate in the space communicating with different women and shining a much-deserved spotlight on them. I am lucky that I get to do both. People don’t understand the grind of what these WNBA players put on the floor night in and night out. These are [the] greatest athletes in the world and only a small amount get to do what they do, which gives you a deeper appreciation of their hard work.”
The secret to Carter’s success is simple.
“I am human,” Carter said. “I take a lot of pride in being personable and getting to know you. I always have a smile on my face, and I am going to find a second to speak to you to see how you’re doing. I am a homey person who treats everybody with respect. I am genuinely interested in learning about others, which fuels my passion. The human-interest angle of a story specifically helps to drive engagement. I am blessed to be able to bring that to life.”
It’s one reason she enjoys the fun of highlighting women’s basketball and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In her role with HBCU GO, Carter takes fans deep inside the traditions and experiences that make HBCU football games special by showcasing the sights and sounds of each contest. One of her favorite stories was letting viewers understand all the hard work behind the scenes that goes into collegiate cheerleading.
“When you go on these HBCU campuses, you instantly feel welcomed,” Carter said. “You also feel the culture, too. It’s important to shed light on the positives of the gameday atmosphere that happens on these campuses.”
“My role is to go beyond the game and give an understanding of the fans in attendance. It’s special to see all the alum who come back to the HBCUs because they make it a point to connect through fellowship. They take a lot of pride [in] keeping connections alive through fraternities and sororities. I am enjoying learning something new each time I cover a HBCU football game.”
Carter has been more than prepared for her opportunity.
She’s worked in sports media since graduating from Sacred Heart with her bachelor’s degree in 2017 and master’s degree in 2018. Carter’s voice has been heard calling games on the Northeast Conference Network and on NBA G League broadcasts, where she was a color commentator for the Westchester Knicks.
Carter also provided color commentary for Howard University’s men’s and women’s basketball programs as the only woman in that position in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference during the 2019-20 season.
Those experiences prepared Carter for the transformational experience of hosting the WNBA’s inaugural pregame show in advance of the highly anticipated Commissioner’s Cup clash between Las Vegas and New York. She had a blast providing fans with an elevated gameday experience and a comprehensive preview of the contest. Carter’s boss Lucy McCalmont advocated for her to step more away from her comfort zone and into the opportunity.
“For my boss to trust me with the opportunity meant everything,” Carter said. “She knows I’m into broadcasting and have experience with it. I truly enjoyed doing the pregame show because I not only represented myself but also the W. Anytime I get to talk hoops, I’m in heaven. My previous experiences [prepared me] because I’ve already been able to build and have the reps. It’s becoming a little more natural for me now to just be prepped and ready for whatever on-camera opportunities come my way.”
Of course, once the bright lights flicked off, Carter was back to her social media grind, bringing fans all the player stories, personalities and unique sounds that deepened engagement of the Liberty’s Commissioner’s Cup victory. Her love and passion for women’s basketball shine brightly in everything she does.
Carter’s former sports information director at Sacred Heart, Ajah Hawley Alexander, invested in her and nurtured her gift for storytelling and broadcasting. In addition, Carter credits fellow media and social media colleagues Monica McNutt and Ari Chambers for helping her. They introduced Carter to members of their networks, which has resulted in other meaningful connections. They also helped Carter endure the challenging moments of doubt and frustration as she continued to climb the ladder of success.
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“I learned along the way that you never know who you’re going to cross paths with and how long they will be with you,” Carter said. “Be a good person. Everybody’s journey is different, and you can’t pay attention to other people on social media. Stay the course and advocate for yourself. I didn’t do that much (when I was younger in my career) because I was too shy to speak and negotiate my worth. I am still learning to do that. I have also taken time to reflect on my career. I am learning to keep finding grace with myself and having the mindset to continue to be my best self every day.”
Carter has absorbed the information and applied the lessons. Now, her goal is to continue to pay it forward.
LaTyra English, a recent North Carolina Central graduate from the NBA HBCU Fellowship program, shadowed Carter her during a regular season game between the Liberty and Mystics in June at the Barclays Center. That moment was significant for Carter, who took pleasure in providing an inside look at what she does.
“When you’re passionate about something, it shows in everything you do and it elevates your work,” Carter said. “My parents always told me that you represent your family name and I always want to make them proud each day I get to showcase what I love doing. It’s been great to know that I am making an impact, but I know there’s more I want to accomplish.”
Written by Rob Knox
Rob Knox is an award-winning professional. A member of the Lincoln (Pa.) Athletics Hall of Fame, Knox currently serves as the Senior Director of Strategic Communications for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. In addition to having work published in SLAM magazine, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington Post, and Diverse Issues In Higher Education, Knox enjoyed a distinguished career as an athletics communicator for Lincoln, Kutztown, Coppin State, Towson, and UNC Greensboro. He also worked at ESPN and for the Delaware County Daily Times. Recently, Knox was honored by CSC with the Mary Jo Haverbeck Trailblazer Award and the NCAA with its Champion of Diversity award. Named a HBCU Legend by SI.com, Knox is a graduate of Lincoln University and a past president of the College Sports Communicators, formerly CoSIDA.