Kara Nortman’s path to proudly owning knowledgeable ladies’s soccer group started in Vancouver, British Columbia, when she went on the lookout for a ladies’s soccer jersey through the 2015 Women’s World Cup. Nortman discovered some, finally, with out gamers’ names on the backs.
“I just didn’t understand why it was so hard,” Nortman mentioned. “I was trying to get people to take my money. Why could nobody take it?”
A Southern California native from a sports-driven household, Nortman, a enterprise capitalist, quickly turned dedicated to ladies’s soccer, following the highest division within the United States, the National Women’s Soccer League, and speaking concerning the sport with anybody who would pay attention — together with the actress Natalie Portman, whom she met at a fund-raiser. Both quickly turned energetic supporters of the U.S. ladies’s group’s combat for equal pay, and after final summer time’s Women’s World Cup, they determined it was time to contain themselves extra personally within the sport.
“Natalie texted me three times, just one line: ‘Let’s bring a team to L.A.,’” Nortman mentioned.
On Tuesday, their dream turned a actuality when the N.W.S.L. introduced that it might develop to Los Angeles in 2022, with a group bankrolled by an possession group that features not solely Nortman and Portman, but additionally the tennis star Serena Williams and her husband, the tech entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian; the media guide Julie Uhrman; and greater than a dozen former members of the U.S. ladies’s group.
The Los Angeles group, which mentioned it might launch its title and stadium plans earlier than the tip of the 12 months, would be the solely group within the N.W.S.L. to be owned virtually totally by ladies. The possession group of 33 folks additionally contains a number of ladies of shade, together with the actresses Uzo Aduba, Eva Longoria and America Ferrera, and the talk-show host Lilly Singh.
Perhaps befitting such a various possession group — which additionally contains the World Cup winners Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Abby Wambach — the group got here into being in a nontraditional method. The homeowners selected a mission earlier than approaching the league, then consulted members of the U.S. ladies’s nationwide group and their gamers affiliation to higher perceive the wants of girls’s professionals. The mission was clear from the beginning, mentioned Uhrman, the membership’s president: “Champions on and off the field.”
Part of that motto, she mentioned, can be embracing the combat for pay fairness for girls by bolstering media protection of the league, securing new sponsorships and, in the end, creating stronger income streams via elevated viewership.
“It’s our goal to have women’s professional soccer players make a living only playing women’s professional soccer,” Uhrman mentioned.
Becca Roux, the manager director of the United States Women’s National Team Players Association, mentioned the mixture of feminine buyers, former ladies’s professionals and folks of shade on the brand new group’s board of administrators had the potential to be game-changing steps for not solely the N.W.S.L., however for different main leagues. Williams and Ohanian’s 2-year-old daughter, Olympia, can also be listed as an investor.
“We’ve seen other athletes — mostly men — join ownership of sports teams in recent years, but not so much women because they often didn’t make enough money in their careers to buy into a sports franchise,” Roux mentioned.
Many challenges stay for the N.W.S.L. The league’s new commissioner, Lisa Baird, has helped stabilize the league since taking on earlier this 12 months, and helped appeal to a number of deep-pocketed sponsors to assist underwrite its summer time match. But the N.W.S.L. additionally requested and acquired a loan from federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program this spring to cover the salaries of its players, who despite a recent raise still earn as little as $20,000 a year.
There are nine teams in the N.W.S.L. and a 10th, in Louisville, Ky., is set to join in 2021. The N.W.S.L. kicked off its eighth season late last month amid 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 nationally televised game on Sunday afternoon.
Plans for a coaching staff and players of the new Los Angeles team, which for now is called Angel City, will become more concrete in 2021, league officials said. But the work for change off the field will start sooner, through a partnership with the LA84 Foundation’s Play Equity Fund, which promotes access to sport for young athletes, particularly those of color.
“You just need a ball, some dirt and some grass, which makes it the most played sport in the world,” Nortman said. “Getting access to soccer and other sports into those communities is critical.”