The National Women's Soccer League announced the new team on Tuesday, introducing the world to the only team in the NWSL to be owned almost entirely by women.
Amid the US Women's National Soccer Team's continued battle for equal pay, a group of powerful women is ushering in a new era in American sports. Led by media consultant Julie Uhrman and actress Natalie Portman, a "wolfpack" of incredible, badass women have now launched a new women's professional soccer team in LA. The National Women's Soccer League announced the new team—being called “Angel City" until it gets an official name later this year—on Tuesday, introducing the world to the only team in the NWSL to be owned almost entirely by women.
#NWSL is coming to the City of Angels 🤩— NWSL (@NWSL) July 21, 2020
Expansion group hails from Hollywood, technology, venture, media and sports sector, including fourteen former @USWNT players: https://t.co/iRVQdNRQw2 pic.twitter.com/Wza7AjLTLD
Aside from Uhrman and Portman, other part-owners of the team include the likes of Serena Williams, her two-year-old daughter Olympia (now the youngest owner in pro soccer and pro sports overall), Lilly Singh, Jennifer Garner, Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera, Eva Longoria, and venture capitalists Kara Nortman and Alexis Ohanian (who you might recognize as Williams' husband). According to The New York Times, befitting the diverse ownership group of 33 people, Angel City came into being in a non-traditional way. The owners decided on their mission "Champions on and off the field" before approaching the league. They then consulted members of the US women's national team and their players' association to understand their needs and concerns.
Part of that motto, Uhrman explained, would be embracing the fight for pay equity for women by boosting media coverage of the league, securing new sponsorships, and creating stronger revenue streams through increased viewership. "It's our goal to have women's professional soccer players make a living only playing women's professional soccer," said Uhrman. They're definitely on the right track as the group includes a staggering 14 former USWNT soccer players as part-owners: 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.
Very proud Jr. made the cut in the hype video, too pic.twitter.com/KyXvhoJc4v— Alexis Ohanian Sr. 🚀 (@alexisohanian) July 21, 2020
Wambach—a two-time Olympic gold medalist and World Cup winner—revealed the story of how the group came to be in an Instagram post announcing the launch. A couple of years ago, I spoke to a group of women about the fear and anger I felt when I retired from soccer and realized that my hustling days were just beginning. I had to start over and recreate my entire career just to pay my bills, she wrote. Natalie Portman was in the audience that day. As Natalie listened, she became infuriated by the inequity between the men’s and women’s experience inside of professional sports.
She had a crazy idea: Why don't we start our own team and do it differently -- with the respect and equality and celebration these women deserve? The answer: Money. The way a team is traditionally bought is that one or two ridiculously rich men buy it, Wambach continued. So Natalie reimagined this Old Boys Club system. She wondered: What if -- instead of ONE rich man buying the team -- a PACK OF WOMEN band together to start one? THEN NATALIE GATHERED HER WOLFPACK. I always dreamed, while I was playing, that I’d one day be part of founding a professional soccer team that operates by New Rules. That dream faded after retirement. Today -- with the vision and power of this new Angel City Wolfpack -- that dream comes back to life for me and many of my former teammates.
The group has already announced a partnership with the LA84 Foundation to support its Play Equity Fund with Uhrman saying in a statement that "we come together with a collective passion for bringing about change. Change for our players, change for our fans, and change for our community. Change that begins today. In addition to announcing the rights to an LA NWSL team, we are thrilled to officially announce our partnership with the LA84 Foundation to help us build out our community relations foundation from the very start. To kick off our relationship, WFC LA/Angel City is now a formal supporter of the Play Equity Fund. The Play Equity Fund is committed to leveling the playing field to help ensure that all kids across Los Angeles have access and the opportunity to experience the transformational power of sport."
Portman, who has long been outspoken about pay inequality in Hollywood, said in a statement that the group hopes to make a tangible change for female athletes. "Today we take an exciting step by announcing the first women majority-owned and led ownership group. I am thrilled by the opportunity to partner with this incredible group of people to bring a professional women’s soccer team to Los Angeles. Together, we aim to build not only a winning team on the field but also to develop a passionately loyal fan base," she said. "We also hope to make a substantive impact on our community, committing to extending access to sports for young people in Los Angeles through our relationship with the LA84 Foundation. Sports are such a joyful way to bring people together, and this has the power to make a tangible change for female athletes both in our community and in the professional sphere."