A few days later, he and his wife, tennis legend Serena Williams, were watching the tournament final on TV. Their young daughter Olympia was running in the jersey of one of the team’s stars, Alex Morgan.
Loudly, Ohanian wondered if he could one day play professionally at Olympia, but Serena stopped him.
“Without missing a moment, my wife was like, ‘Not even pay her what she’s worth. And she was half joking, but not really.”
At that moment, Ohanian says he felt compelled to try to make a positive contribution to the world of women’s sports.
Twelve months later, “Angel City” has become a reality. Ohanian is a major investor in a new football venture in Los Angeles led by Hollywood actress and activist Natalie Portman.
The Women’s National Football League was formed in 2013 with just five teams, and four teams have since been added, and the league will hit a double digit in 2021 when Racing joins Louisville FC. The following season, Angel City would make 11 teams in the league.
According to Angel City president Julie Uhrman, the idea for this new team came while Portman was involved with Time’s Up, a movement founded in 2018 to combat sexual harassment.
“You can see that she’s behind the causes that really matter to her and that she’s doing meaningful work for those causes,” Orman told CNN Sports, adding, “She wanted to take her commitment to advancing women’s athletics, addressing equal pay and making it public and meaningful.”
In promotion for the launch of Angel City in July, Portman spoke about the challenges that have traditionally held back women’s sports. She was chatting on Instagram with someone who’s experienced her firsthand for the past 20 years – Williams.
“Our team has told me that only 4% of sports coverage for women’s sports, it’s crazy to be here in 2020 and that’s out of proportion,” Portman said.
The team, which has no official name yet – Angel City is nothing but a nickname – and won’t play until 2022. But it’s already clear that those behind the club are doing things differently.
For example, institutional investors are almost exclusively women, “I think you can basically count the number of clubs owned by women on one hand and maybe just two fingers,” Orman told CNN, “extraordinary.”
Listed on the club’s website are 31 institutional investors and only four are men; Alexis Ohanian is one of those weird guys.
Describing an early meeting with Orman and Portman and venture capitalist Kara Nortman, “The three sat down and said, ‘This is what we want to build, this is how we want to build it,'” and it was really important that from day one they had a majority-women’s team.
“I think we can talk about a lot of the difference in professional sports. And I think one of the ways we get real change is to not only prove that this is a great business that is going to generate a lot of money and a lot of interest and a lot of success, but it also shows that every part of How this organization is run can be different, if not more successful as a result.
“Not because it feels good, though it feels good, but because it is preposterous that it is not more natural.”
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 sport; They are also launching a club in an already saturated Los Angeles sports market.
Orman annoys the clubs they will soon beat in a city notorious for congestion, “Los Angeles is a market where there are already nine professional sports teams and [collegiate] Powers like the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles.
So even the idea of bringing another professional sports team here, which is the third football club here, is ambitious and big.”
But Angle City believe their new approach will beat the noise, creating a local and community club with global appeal. “We know that women’s football has been incredibly successful during the Olympics and the World Cup,” Orman says.
“The question is, why do they get such attention every four years? And I think the answer is because of exposure and awareness.”
Behind the major investors are a cast of Hollywood stars, including Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria and Jessica Chastain, as well as Serena Williams and 14 former players on the women’s national team. It is a group of women with tens of millions of followers on social media; They will use their collective platforms to shout it from the rooftops.
“There’s a general problem if you can’t see it, you can’t be,” Orman says. “If you can’t see it, you can’t follow through.” [If] You can’t cheer him up, you can’t make your friend a part of him, and so there’s a systemic problem that we have to fix and change.”
Orman continues, “We have a group of people who come from the entertainment space, the media space, the sports space, the technology space. We think of football as more than sport, and in fact we think of it as entertainment.”
Ohanian says the focus will be on social media storytelling to build the brand and it already appears to be working, “tens of thousands of people are very excited, [we’ve] The merchandise was sold to a team that does not yet exist.”
He compares women’s football to esports, which attracted massive investment five years ago, and concludes that the market significantly undervalues women’s football.
“These are players’ clubs, guys who attract hundreds of millions of fans all over 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 point of view, there’s no offense to esports, it’s more marketable to brands that want to align with consumer spending in this country.”
Speaking with Williams on Instagram, Portman noted that Angle City had already changed the conversation, “People are starting to think about how to do that in other sports as well.”
Women defend and uplift other women; Sisters do it for themselves. It’s a Los Angeles story that could have a Hollywood ending and a potential game-changer for women’s sports everywhere.