Most Influential

Most Influential, Sports: Sandy Gregory

Sports executive, activist

By Danny O’Neil January 22, 2024

Sandy Gregroy

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

Music made a difference.

Sandy Gregory saw that very clearly when she visited Gus Williams following his stroke.

“You could just see the way he responded,” she says. “He started bouncing his leg, kind of singing along.”

Gregory first met Williams at USC. This was 1972, and she was working in the school’s sports-information department, and he was a basketball player. Their paths crossed again in Seattle after she went to work for this new startup called the Seahawks and he became the starting point guard on the Sonics team that brought the city its first sports championship.

They stayed friends, and Williams became a regular at the golf tournaments of Seahawk players like Jacob Green and Kenny Easley, events Gregory helped organize. In fact, Green was the one who alerted Gregory to the fact that Williams had suffered a stroke in 2020, and then Sandy Gregory did what Sandy Gregory has been doing for more than 40 years now: She looked for ways to help.

She was an original Seahawk, hired six months before the team played its first game, and no one had a bigger role in weaving that franchise into the fabric of this region. She spent decades doing everything from arranging charity appearances to coordinating events to getting items signed for benefit auctions and people in need. As the team became an institution, she also kept the franchise connected to its former players.

The Seahawks think of themselves as a family, and if that’s the case, then Sandy Gregory is the den mother. Ten years ago, when she found out a couple of former players were struggling with medical bills, she came up with a fund that took the money the team collected in fines from its current players and distributed it to those former players who could use it.

When Gregory heard about Williams’ situation following his stroke, it occurred to her that Williams could use some assistance. So could Sonics legend Slick Watts, who’d also suffered a significant stroke.

That franchise had moved, but the spirit of the Sonics had not. Gregory, who’d retired from the Seahawks in 2018, reached out to Tod Leiweke, CEO of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, who immediately recognized those players as essential parts of the Seattle sports family.

Pretty soon Sandy was working with Eric Pettigrew, a former state representative, and Kristen Raftis, who’d worked with United Way and now HealthPoint. The Sonics Legends Fund became a certified charity in 2022, able to receive taxdeductible donations with the mission of getting that money to ex-players in need.

The first grants went to support Watts, who lives with his son, Donald, and Williams, who’s living at a nursing home in Baltimore where he now has a caregiver spending three hours a day with him, reading letters and playing music, which really makes a difference. You should see the way his leg bounces as he tries to sing along.

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