With an all-time high in membership, tremendous support from both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), a full menu of member programs and new youth-based national community service initiatives, the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) has experienced unprecedented success under the corporate leadership of President & CEO Arnie D. Fielkow.
After six years spent in public service helping rebuild his adopted hometown in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, former New Orleans City Council President Fielkow returned to the sports industry as NBRPA Chief Executive Officer in 2011. Fielkow was additionally named President of the official alumni association for professional basketball (comprised of former NBA, ABA, Harlem Globetrotters and WNBA players) in 2013.
Under Fielkow’s leadership, the NBRPA has grown its membership by over 70 percent to an all-time record of former NBA, ABA, Harlem Globetrotters and WNBA players. Fielkow has helped strengthen the mutually-beneficial partnerships enjoyed with the NBA and NBPA, including a four-year extension to its historic 20-year partnership with the NBA in 2012 and a renewal of its long-time relationship with the union. In addition, Fielkow opened a new membership category to the NBRPA when former WNBA players were welcomed into the official alumni association for professional basketball in 2013.
With Fielkow at the helm, the NBRPA expanded its charitable focus into a two-pronged mission to assist former professional basketball players in their transition from the playing court into life after the game, while also positively impacting communities and youth through basketball. This new community mission directly led to the creation of the NBRPA’s touring youth basketball and life skills program – FULL COURT PRESS: Prep for Success – which impacts more than 2000 at-risk youth annually in partnership with the National Police Athletic/Activities League and National Urban League.
The NBRPA has also expanded its annual events under Fielkow’s leadership, including NBA All-Star Weekend. This star-studded basketball celebration now includes additional community service initiatives alongside traditional events celebrating NBRPA Members’ place in the history of the game, such as the nationally-televised NBA Legends Brunch. The Legends World Sports Conference has also grown as the preeminent annual learning and networking event for former NBA, ABA, Harlem Globetrotters and WNBA players during Fielkow’s time in office and spotlights key former player issues each summer. In addition, Fielkow oversaw the launch of a new third signature event in 2014 – the Legends Fantasy Weekend – which raised more than $130,000 for the NBRPA’s Dave DeBusschere Scholarship Fund and other charities as a philanthropic fundraiser that includes a fantasy camp, gaming tournament and black-tie honors gala.
Fielkow, twice elected as New Orleans Councilman-at-Large post-Katrina, possesses an extensive background in government, professional and intercollegiate athletics, as well as in law. He helped rebuild the hurricane-ravaged City of New Orleans and introduced legislation to improve education, economic development, public safety and youth recreation in New Orleans. From 2007-2011 citizens named Council President Fielkow “Best New Orleans City Councilmember” according to Gambit Weekly. Fielkow also was identified as one of New Orleans Magazine’s 2006 “People to Watch” and “Favorite Local Politician” in 2008. In 2009, Council President Fielkow was branded “New Orleanian of the Year” and “Second Most-Admired (Male) New Orleanian” by readers of New Orleans Magazine.
Prior to running for public office, Fielkow served as Executive Vice President of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints from 2000 to 2005. In this capacity, he served as the top senior management official presiding over all administrative/business departments, including marketing, sales, regional development, governmental affairs, community relations, business media relations and youth programs.
Fielkow was instrumental in enhancing the team’s influence – internationally, nationally and locally – throughout Louisiana and the entire Gulf South. Upon joining the Saints, Fielkow immediately restructured the Saints business and marketing efforts, with an emphasis on increasing the club’s ticket, suite, sponsorship and special event sales.
Under his leadership, the Saints sold out 36 consecutive games and established then-club records in both season ticket sales, as well as total attendance. The Saints were also successful in reaching a virtual sellout of the 137 Superdome box suites and tripled corporate sponsorship revenues through the Patron Saints Partners program that Fielkow established. He also created and implemented one of the most comprehensive regional sales operations in all of professional sports, with a sales and customer service presence that spanned over a four-state area. Since beginning this effort in 2000, regional sales jumped from 8 percent to 30 percent of the club’s overall business revenues.
In addition to his administrative duties, Fielkow also led the club’s efforts in facility negotiations with the State of Louisiana. A landmark 10-year agreement was reached with the State in 2002, which helped solidify the club’s finances and also provided for the construction of a state-of-the-art indoor practice facility at the Saints’ headquarters. This agreement, which provided for $187 million in total inducements for the Saints over a decade, was overwhelmingly approved by the Louisiana legislature and signed into law by former Louisiana Governor Mike Foster in April of 2002.
Fielkow initiated a number of innovative business/marketing/community projects, including the NFL’s first Fan and Community Advisory Boards, Saints-led international trade missions to Central America, marketing partnerships with the Harlem Globetrotters and the PGA’s HP Classic of New Orleans, Football 101 mini-camps for the team’s female fan base and the Hispanic community, a Business Breakfast series with the top 200 business leaders in New Orleans and the Gulf South, Draft Day and Monday Night Football cruises, and a Saints ticket sales Radio-thon.
Fielkow also oversaw tremendous growth in the Saints youth programming, highlighted by its involvement in the NFL’s Junior Player Development program and the administration of summer youth clinics throughout greater New Orleans. Teaming with the NFL and the Orleans Parish School Board, the Saints were instrumental in returning tackle football to the city’s public middle schools.
Prior to joining the Saints, Fielkow was involved in Major League Baseball’s player development system and served as President and General Counsel for the historic Southern League of Professional Baseball Clubs. During his six-year tenure as President of the Southern League and the AA Association, Fielkow helped oversee the construction and renovation of six new ballparks and introduced marketing and business programs that catapulted the Southern League into the upper echelon of Minor League Baseball.
Previously, Fielkow served as Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel of the Continental Basketball Association, then the official developmental league of the NBA. During his tenure with the CBA, Fielkow negotiated new player and referee development agreements with the NBA and helped the Association reach record attendance levels. He also introduced and administered several new programs, including a national television agreement with ESPN2, a CBA national radio contract, and a multi-game exhibition series involving former Los Angeles Lakers’ great Magic Johnson. Fielkow was also elected to the Board of Directors for USA Basketball.
During his career, Fielkow has won a host of awards and honors. In 2007 he won the Anti-Defamation League’s A.I. Botnick Torch of Liberty Award, was selected to receive the prestigious 2004 TOP Award (“Ten Outstanding Person”) by the Family Service of Greater New Orleans and in 2003 was awarded the Sanchez to Sanchez to Smith Award by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Fielkow began his professional career as a practicing attorney in Chicago, and co-founded the law firm of Grossman, Solomon, & Fielkow, P.C. As part of this practice, Fielkow was elected Commissioner of the NCAA Division I North Star Conference (later renamed the Mid-Continent Conference), the last all-female Conference at the Division I level, and was successful in securing the conference’s first-ever automatic bid to the NCAA Division I basketball tournament. A member of the Illinois and Wisconsin Bar Associations, Fielkow has authored several legal and sports-related articles/publications, including “Civil Rico: The Insurers Fight Back” and “CBA: A World of Opportunity”, and is a frequent public speaker at national and local sports industry events.
Fielkow currently serves on the Board of Directors for USA Basketball and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. While in New Orleans, Fielkow immersed himself in the community, serving on the Board of Directors for Greater New Orleans, Inc., United Way, Each One, Save One, the World Trade Center, Audubon Commission, The Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, Touro Synagogue and the National Conference for Community and Justice. He also co-chaired the Sports Cluster for GNO, Inc. and was an executive committee member of the Super Bowl XXXVI Host Committee and the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Local Organizing Committee. A native of Appleton, Wisconsin, Fielkow is a 1981 graduate of the University of Wisconsin – School of Law and earned his B.A. degree with honors (Phi Beta Kappa) from Northwestern University.
An avid sports fan, Fielkow played tennis on the collegiate level and was selected to the silver-medal winning United States men’s basketball team at the 15th Maccabiah Games in Israel. He and his wife, Dr. Susan Fielkow, have three sons, Justin, Michael and Steven, and two daughters, Yana and Svetlana.