Kara Nortman’s path to owning a professional women’s soccer team started in Vancouver, British Columbia, when she went looking for a women’s soccer jersey during the 2015 Women’s World Cup. Nortman found some in the end without the names of the players on the back.
Born in a Southern California family of sportsmen, Nortman, a venture capitalist, soon devoted herself to women’s football, following the top division in the United States, the National Women’s Soccer League, and talking about the game with anyone who wanted to listen – including the actress Natalie Portman, whom she met at a fundraiser. Both soon became active supporters of the US women’s team’s fight for equal pay, and after last summer’s Women’s World Cup, they decided it was time to engage more personally in the game.
“Natalie sent me three text messages, one line:” We bring a team to Los Angeles, “Nortman said.
Tuesday, their dream became a reality when the NWSL announced expand to Los Angeles in 2022, with a team financed by a group owned which includes not only Nortman and Portman, but also tennis star Serena Williams and her husband, tech entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian; media consultant Julie Uhrman; and more than a dozen former members of the American women’s team.
The Los Angeles team, which said it would release its name and stadium plans later this year, will be the only NWSL team to be owned almost entirely by women. The 33-person group also includes several black women, including actresses Uzo Aduba, Eva Longoria and America Ferrera, and talk show host Lilly Singh.
Perhaps befits such a diverse group of properties – which also includes the winners of the Mia Hamm World Cup, Julie Foudy and Abby Wambach – the team was born in a non-traditional way. The owners decided on a mission before approaching the league, so they consulted members of the United States women’s national team and their association of players to better understand the needs of women’s professionals. The mission was clear from the start, said club president Uhrman: “Champions on and off the pitch.”
Part of that motto, he said, would be to embrace the struggle for women’s fairness by strengthening the league’s media coverage, ensuring new sponsorships and ultimately creating stronger revenue streams through an increase in the audience.
“Our goal is to make women’s professional footballers earn their living only by playing women’s professional football,” said Uhrman.
Becca Roux, executive director of the United States National Women’s Team Players Association, said that the combination of female investors, former women’s professionals and black people on the new team’s board of directors had the potential to change things not only for NWSL, but for other important championships. Williams and Ohanian’s 2-year-old daughter, Olympia, is also listed as an investor.
“We have seen other athletes – mainly men – joining the ownership of sports teams in recent years, but not so many women because they often didn’t earn enough money in their career to buy a sports franchise,” said Roux.
Many challenges remain for the NWSL The new league commissioner, Lisa Baird, has helped stabilize the league since she took over earlier this year, and has helped attract numerous sponsors in her pocket to help support her summer tournament . But the NWSL also requested and received a loan from the federal government’s salary protection program this spring to cover the wages of his players, who despite a recent raise still earn little $ 20,000 a year.
There are nine teams in NWSL and a tenth in Louisville, Ky., It is scheduled to join in 2021. The NWSL kicked off its eighth season at the end of last month in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic with a so-called bubble tournament in Utah. The semifinals of the event, the Challenge Cup, will be played on Wednesday. The league will crown a champion with a game broadcast nationally on Sunday afternoon.
Plans for technical staff and players for the new Los Angeles team, which is now called Angel City, will become more concrete in 2021, league officials said. But the work to change the field will begin earlier, through a partnership with the LA84 Foundation’s Play Equity Fund, which promotes access to sport for young athletes, especially those of color.
“You just need a ball, some ground and some grass, which makes it the most popular sport in the world,” said Nortman. “Getting access to football and other sports in those communities is crucial.”