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Natalie Portman-led group gets LA pro women’s soccer team

Natalie Portman and some high-profile partners are helping bring women’s soccer to LA.

The National Women’s Soccer League awarded a group lead by the actress the rights to form a team franchise in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Other prominent founders of the team include actresses Uzo Aduba, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner, ​Eva Longoria ​and Lilly Singh​, as well as Reddit co-founder and husband of Serena Williams, Alex Ohanian, venture capitalist ​Kara Nortman, and OUYA founder ​Julie Uhrman.

Former soccer pros Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach and Lauren Cheney Holiday are also on board as investors.

The yet-to-be named team is currently called WFC LA/Angel City and details about the franchise are still developing.

‘I think it’s so important to have role models and and heroes that are women for kids – both boys and girls – to see. And, it´s just such an incredible sport in that it really is a team sport,’ Portman said in an interview with The Associated Press.

‘You see one woman’s success and all the others are cheering her on because one woman’s success is the whole team’s success.’

Portman’s relationship with women’s soccer began after she met several players through Becca Roux, the executive director for the USWNT Players Association.

‘We started going to games, and we quickly became really passionate fans of the sport,’ the 39-year-old actress told People. ‘But we slowly started seeing that it wasn’t getting the celebration it deserved.’ 

She saw an opportunity to expand the sport’s audience, noting how only 4% of sports coverage is dedicated to woman’s athletics. 

‘We just started thinking about, what if there was a team in L.A.? We’re the center of entertainment in this country for media,’ Portman remembers.

‘What can we do to change the way people are paying attention to this sport? Obviously, the players themselves have been incredible and have brought so much attention, but everything hasn’t always followed their success and their popularity.’ 

‘We started building this group, and then Alexis came on as our lead investor,’ she explained. ‘Then we started gathering a group of incredible people, majority women, to be in our ownership group. Now we’re going, and it’s really, really exciting.’

The group is partnering with the LA84 Foundation, a nonprofit formed after the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics that promotes youth sports. Angel City also announced its formal support of the foundation’s Play Equity Fund, aimed at helping kids in minority and underserved communities.

‘We believe these players need to be playing on one of the best stages in the world. But we also know that we have the power and the platform and the voice to make a meaningful impact in our community,’ gaming CEO Uhrman said. ‘And so it´s important for us to do that from Day 1. In the same way that we are building to put 11 incredible players on the field from Day 1.’

The NWSL, which began play in 2013, was the first professional team sport to return to action in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, with the Challenge Cup tournament in Utah. The semifinals are set for Wednesday.

‘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 in a statement Tuesday. ‘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.’

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