USTA Pride Month Spotlight: Ed Neppl
To celebrate Pride Month, USTA.com is spotlighting USTA administrators who are members of the LGBTQ+ community and the role that they play in making tennis a welcoming space for all. Rounding out the series is Chief Financial Officer Ed Neppl.
As Chief Financial Officer of the USTA, Ed Neppl (pictured, far left) has been one of the most prominent out voices in the organization for the better part of a decade.
In his role for over eight years, Neppl and his team manage the USTA's entire financial portfolio, which includes day-to-day aspects such as accounting, payroll and purchasing, to special projects including the fundraising for and the development of the $650-million renovation of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.
Neppl, who describes himself as a lifelong tennis fan, joined the USTA in 2012 after an extensive tenure in the NBC-Universal family for more than 10 years, which culminated with almost a half-decade as CFO of NBC Sports and Olympics.
"My husband and I had actually attended all four Grand Slams on our own before I even took the job with the USTA," he said. "After doing some of those major events with NBC, like the Beijing Olympics and the Vancouver Olympics, I was looking for what next big thing was.
"I like being associated with something that changed the way that people lived their lives. The US Open certainly fits that bill, and the USTA's mission of trying to grow tennis is the icing on the cake in terms of what we can do."
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin in his home state, Neppl's professional experiences have since taken him coast-to-coast. Tenures in Chicago and Los Angeles preceded his arrival in New York, and each experience played an important role in shaping the path of his life personally.
"It was very tough growing up in a tiny town in Wisconsin, but when I went to the University of Wisconsin, one of the the things I did is I became a resident assistant in the dorms," he recalled.
"To me, that was a really great experience in trying to build people skills, whether that was helping people work through roommate conflicts, or serious issues that some people may have. That role for me really taught me a lot in terms of how to interface with people, and the university is also really liberal. As I started to get into bigger and bigger communities, I was able to find more and more people like me, and that just continued on.
"I didn't really come out until the end of college, but I have always been very open and out all through my career. I think it's been important for me to be able to not feel like I had to hide something, and that I'm a better employee when I'm comfortable.
"I have to say that I think that's actually helped me, because I think that people have respected that that's important to me personally, and that's translated to me being a better employee."
Having noted how personal growth played an important role in his life to date, Neppl feels that similar activism by the LGBTQ+ community at large can play an important part in support of others who are now seeking equality, equity and justice across the country.
"In the current national climate, it's important to maybe think about how Pride can be introspective and acknowledging the need for empathy everywhere," he said. "As an LGBTQ+ person, part of Pride is aimed to try and change peoples' minds, or try to make people understand that we exist, and we have been the recipients of empathy.
"For Black Lives Matter, women's issues, all sorts of issues... I think we can appreciate the fact that we have been the recipients of empathetic people who have helped us along our journey, and that we should be reaching out and doing that for others in this time."
And over his past decade in tennis, Neppl has seen the relationship between the LGBTQ+ community and tennis develop firsthand, both individually—as his love for the sport dates back to when he "was hitting balls against the garage" in his youth—and through his present role in the USTA's senior staff.
"The ability to find another thing in common with somebody and to be able to get out and meet people is important," he said. "There are a number of clubs around the country that are really social networks for LGBTQ+ groups where people get out and play, and it's a great sport for kids to get out and move, too.
"I think tennis is a sport that embraces equality, and we continue to strive for it and struggle with it. I think our objective is to try and bring more and more diversity into the game, and it's all sorts of diversity."