A group of mostly women founders and investors led by Portman will form a franchise in the City of Angels, which has the second largest sports market in the U.S., the National Women’s Soccer League announced in a release on Tuesday, July 21. The freshly minted team will be known for now as WFC LA/Angel City, and is planning to reveal their official name later this year. It was created, in part, with the goal of increasing interest in and media coverage of women’s soccer, People Magazine reports.
Women’s sports in general receives only 4% of sports media coverage, despite the fact that 40% of all sports participants are female, one study found. This is something the Los Angeles and Portman hope to change.
"We just started thinking about, what if there was a team in L.A.? We're the center of entertainment in this country for media," Portman tells People. "What can we do to change the way people are paying attention to this sport? Obviously, the players themselves have been incredible and have brought so much attention, but everything hasn't always followed their success and their popularity."
By creating this new team, Portman says she hopes to give L.A. youth a group of strong women to look up to, and to inspire future generations of strong athletes. "I see what an important role sports have in children, in terms of what they spend their time doing and their friendships,” she told People. “To celebrate women at the same level as the way we celebrate male athletes is culture-shifting."
The world of soccer is already ripe with heroines who identify as female. For example, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan have been vocal on the issue of equal pay, and were involved in the lawsuit the U.S. Women’s National Team filed in March 2019, alleging gender discrimination evidenced, in part, by lower rates of pay compared to the men’s team. Portman and Angel City seem to want to build on the strong foundation these badass ladies in soccer have already laid.
Portman isn’t doing it on her own. There’s a long list of high-profile folks involved, including: lead investor and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian; venture capitalist Kara Nortman; OUYA founder Julie Uhrman; and actresses Uzo Aduba, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria and Lilly Singh. More than a dozen former soccer players are also investing, including Mia Hamm, Lauren Cheney Holiday, and Abby Wambach.
“I am proud to be a part of this wonderful group working to bring a women’s professional football club to Los Angeles,” Ohanian, who’s married to tennis player Serena Williams, said in the NWSL release. “Chiefly, because I’m a fan of the game, but also because I believe there is massive potential for the sport and it’s been undervalued by too many people for far too long. As someone who spends hours kicking around a football with my two-year-old daughter, I want her to have a front row seat to this revolution. I’m personally investing on behalf of my family because creating more opportunities in women’s sports is important to my wife and me, and we want to be a part of making a better future for our daughter.”
Angel City is set for a spring 2022 debut. They’re also hoping to do some good by partnering with LA84 Foundation, a nonprofit that supports sports programming for girls and underserved communities in L.A.
In a letter, co-founder Uhrma says that the team is committed to “think[ing] differently about ownership, ticketing, partnerships, and community collaboration.” In a launch video, the team promises they’ll be “rewriting the script, righting the wrongs, and building a women’s football club that lives up to the name Angel City.” Of course, more details and specifics have yet to come out, but it does sound like a team worth of the title 'angel.'
I know I’ll be one of the first in line to buy an Angel City foam finger, come 2022.