A few days later, he and his wife, tennis legend Serena Williams, were watching the tournament final on television. Their young daughter Olympia was running around wearing the jersey of one of the team’s star players, Alex Morgan.
Ohanian loudly wondered about the possibility of Olympia going pro one day, but Serena cut him off.
“Didn’t miss a beat, my wife was, until they paid her what she deserved. And she was half-joking, half-truth, but not really.”
In that moment, Ohanian said he felt he had to try and make a positive contribution to the world of women’s sports.
Twelve months later, ‘City of Angels’ has become a reality. Ohanian is the lead investor in a new football project in Los Angeles led by Hollywood actress and activist Natalie Portman.
The national women’s soccer league was established in 2013 with just five teams, four have been added since, and the league will double in 2021 when Racing Louisville FC joins. Next season, Angel City will become 11 teams in the league.
According to Angel City President Julie Uhrman, the idea for the new team came about while Portman was involved in Time’s Up, a movement founded in 2018 to combat sexual harassment.
“You can see that she’s really behind causes that matter to her and that she’s done meaningful work for those causes,” Uhrman told CNN Sport, adding: “She wants to fulfill its commitment to advance women’s sport, to address pay equity and to be open and meaningful.”
Advertising for the launch of Angel City in July, Portman spoke of the challenges that have traditionally held back women’s sports. She spoke on Instagram with someone who has experienced it firsthand for the past 20 years – Williams.
“Our team told me that only 4% of sports coverage is in women’s sports,” said Portman, “it’s crazy that we’re here in 2020 and it’s too much. symmetric.”
Swim against the current
The team doesn’t have an official name yet – Angel City is just a nickname – and they won’t be playing until 2022. But it’s clear that the people behind the club are doing things differently.
For one, the founding investors are almost exclusively women. Unusual.”
Listed on the club’s website are 31 founding investors and only four are male; Alexis Ohanian is one of those odd men.
He describes an early meeting with Uhrman, Portman and venture capitalist Kara Nortman, “the three of them sat down and said, ‘this is what we want to build, this is how we want to build it. ‘ and that’s really important to them since day one of having a women-owned team.
“I think we can talk about a lot of disparity in professional sports. And I think one of the ways we’ve had real change is not just proving that this is a great business. great will generate a lot of money and a lot of attention and a lot of success, but it also shows that every bit of the way this organization is run can be different and as a result, if not more successful. .
“And not because it feels good, even though it feels good, but because it’s irrational that it’s not more normal.”
The club knows they are trying to swim against the tide, and not just because they hope to change the perception of women’s professional sports; they also launched a club in an already saturated Los Angeles sports market.
Uhrman discards the clubs they will soon be standing shoulder to shoulder in a city known for its congestion, “Los Angeles is a market where there are already nine professional sports teams and [collegiate] powers such as the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles.
So even the idea of bringing another professional sports team here, the third football club here, is a big, ambitious idea. ”
But Angel City believes their novel approach will cut through the noise, establishing a local, community, clubhouse with global appeal. “We know women’s football has succeeded beyond imagination in the Olympics and World Cup,” Uhrman said.
“The question is why do they attract such attention every four years? And I think the answer is down to exposure and perception.”
Behind the main investors is a supporting cast of Hollywood stars, including Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria and Jessica Chastain, along with Serena Williams and 14 former players of the US women’s national team; it’s a group of women with tens of millions of social media followers; they will use their common platforms to scream from the rooftops.
“There’s this general problem that if you can’t see it,” Uhrman said, “you can’t be it. If you can’t see it, you can’t track it. [If] you can’t cheer for it, you can’t make your friends a part of it, and so there’s a systemic problem that we have to fix and change. ”
Uhrman continued, “We have a bunch of people coming from the entertainment space, the media space, the sports space and the tech space. We’re thinking about football bigger than sport, in fact, we’re thinking about it. think of it as entertainment.”
Ohanian said the focus will be on social media storytelling to build the brand, and it seems to have worked, “tens of thousands of people were excited, [we’ve] sold out of merchandise to a group that did not yet exist. ”
He compared women’s soccer to e-sports, which attracted a rush of investment five years ago, and concluded that the market was undervalued in women’s football.
“These are clubs of gamers, young men that attract hundreds of millions of fans around the world. [But] The average American doesn’t know who the best League of Legends player is, while Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan are already cultural icons.
“From a marketing standpoint, there’s nothing offensive about esports, they’re much easier to market to brands that want to match consumer spending in this country.”
In a conversation with Williams on Instagram, Portman commented that Angel City has changed the conversation, “people are also starting to think about how to do this in other sports.”
Women are defending and elevating other women; the sisters are doing for themselves. It’s an LA Story that could have a Hollywood ending and it’s a potential game-changer for women’s sports everywhere.