The first thing I remember when I moved to Los Angeles was how diverse it was on every level: economic, social, cultural. I was driven to move there not because I simply fell in love with the Pacific Ocean – who doesn’t? I moved there because of the world of soccer I saw all around me across every intersection of life. Unlike my previous home, I did not have to teach anyone the value of soccer in the streets. Los Angeles knew. Los Angeles was already a place where it was stitched into the fabric of the communities. It haw everything : watch parties, recreational leagues, outreach programs, collegiate, semi-pro and professional teams, supporter groups. But for the past 10 years, the rich LA soccer blend was always missing one critical component. Today, that changed. Welcome, “Angel City”, the newest member of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
The majority-female ownership group (the largest ownership group in the NWSL) is comprised of members of Hollywood, media, sports, technology and venture capital, making it a unique blend of Los Angeles from Day 1, which happened to be USWNT legend Brandi Chastain’s birthday. What better way to announce a change is coming, than to do it on a day celebrating one of the most iconic women in soccer. The group, founded by Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman, venture capitalist Kara Nortman, media gaming entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, and tech venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian has secured the exclusive right to bring a professional women’s soccer team to Los Angeles to kick off in Spring 2022, the year sandwiched between the Olympics and the World Cup. The 12-year-old NWSL league has already awarded an expansion franchise to Louisville, Ky. They begin play Spring 2021. The Los Angeles-based team will become the 11th member of the NWSL.
Julie Uhrman, former CEO of the gaming console company Ouya, will be the team’s president. Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian led the investment group. According to the NWSL press release, the founding investor group also includes Serena Williams and daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr., actors Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner, and Eva Longoria, late night talk show host Lilly Singh, former US Women’s National Team players including Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Rachel Buehler, Shannon Boxx, Amanda Cromwell, Lorrie Fair Allen, Ronnie Fair Sullins, Joy Fawcett, Angela Hucles, Shannon MacMillan, Tisha Venturini Hoch, and Saskia Webber, Lauren Cheney Holiday and Abby Wambach, author and activist Glennon Doyle, Netflix VP Original Content Cindy Holland, tech entrepreneur and filmmaker Casey Neistat, Founding Board Member of Baby2Baby, Sabina Nathanson, Media Executive David Nathanson,Baby2Baby Co-President Norah Weinstein, and Bad Robot President and COO Brian Weinstein.
Change and community are hallmarks of the new franchise. They also officially announced a partnership with the LA84 Foundation, a leader in youth sport programs and public education about the role of sports in positive youth development. Additionally, Angel City is a supporter of the Play Equity Fund, the charity partner of LA84, dedicated to supporting programs and actions to ensure all kids have equal access to sport and structured play. Making community and outreach such a large part of the announcement today, is a beautiful way to enter the beautiful game. Especially at a time like this when developmental programs for youth have quietly lost funding and support. Earlier this summer, the U.S. Soccer’s Developmental Academy shut down operations citing financial constraints as the main reason. Today’s announcement brings a rejuvenated spirit to a coronavirus-altered pitch.
The founders and owners all rally behind the roles that sports play in social justice, gender equity to equal access to sport, and more. “Sports are such a joyful way to bring people together, and this has the power to make tangible change for female athletes both in our community and in the professional sphere” ~ Natalie Portman.