NWSL awards expansion team rights to star-studded ownership group in Los Angeles
The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) announced that a majority woman-founded group led by Academy Award-winning actress and activist Natalie Portman, technology venture capitalist Kara Nortman, media and gaming entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, and tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian who led the investment through his firm Initialized Capital, has secured the exclusive right to bring a professional women’s soccer team to Los Angeles to kick off in Spring 2022.
While the team’s official name and venue partner will be announced before the end of the year, the group has formally coined itself “Angel City” in honor of its planned home in Los Angeles.
Led by consortium President Julie Uhrman, the founding investor group 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 twelve representing Southern California 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, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and FIFA World Cup Champions 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.
In response to fan-driven demand for an NWSL team in the region and inspiration from the USWNT 2019 performance on-and off-the-field, the founders undertook the endeavor to secure the rights to the group: “We took this as an opportunity to listen, talk to players, union reps, presidents and owners to develop a totally new playbook of how to build a professional sports team where mission and capital, entertainment and sport, were equally important,” Founder Kara Nortman said.
“The growth trajectory of the NWSL is incredibly exciting, but we also need to be strategic and thoughtful about how fast we expand and the communities we partner with,” NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said. “We’ve long sought the right partner in LA considering the NWSL fanbase that already exists in the region and the massive interest in women’s soccer in general. Those factors, along with an incredible ownership group make this an ideal situation and we couldn’t be more thrilled to move forward.”
“I am proud to be a part of this wonderful group working to bring a women’s professional football club to Los Angeles, ” Lead Founding Investor Alexis Ohanian said. “Chiefly, because I’m a fan of the game, but also because I believe there is massive potential for the sport and it’s been undervalued by too many people for far too long. As someone who spends hours kicking around a football with my two-year-old daughter, I want her to have a front row seat to this revolution. I’m personally investing on behalf of my family because creating more opportunities in women’s sports is important to my wife and me, and we want to be a part of making a better future for our daughter.”
The founders say they are energized by the opportunity to work with the NWSL to build a club from scratch, to do things differently and to drive further dialogue about the issues impacting the LA community, as well as those that have negatively impacted women’s sports for decades.
“We come together with a collective passion for bringing about change, ” Founder & President Julie Uhrman said. “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.”
“In 2014, we established the Play Equity Fund, the only nonprofit focused on Play Equity as a social justice issue,” said Renata Simril, President & CEO of the LA84 Foundation. “The Play Equity Fund is committed to driving access to sports for underserved communities, including communities of color, girls, the physically challenged and developmentally disabled. We couldn’t be more excited to partner with this incredible group of women upon the launch of their new undertaking. They are dedicated to making a positive impact for those who need it most.”
The founders and owners also plan to use the platform to amplify issues such as social justice, gender equity and equal access to sport.
“Today we take an exciting step by announcing the first women majority-owned and led ownership group,” Founder Natalie Portman said. “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. 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 tangible change for female athletes both in our community and in the professional sphere.”