Alexis Ohanian didn’t mince words when describing his job as Angel City FC’s controlling owner and how one might avoid the pitfalls of conventional decision making.
“I just try to think, ‘what would Dan Snyder do in this situation?’ And how do I do the exact opposite?” Ohanian spoke about the embattled Washington Commanders owner on Sunday at the Sportico Sports Summit at SXSW in Austin, TX. “If I can live my life in this position, doing the exact opposite of [Snyder], I think things will turn out really well.”
The former executive chairman of Reddit mentioned Snyder, who has been accused of poor business practices and sexually harassing female employees, while reemphasizing his commitment to making his National Women’s Soccer League club one of the most equitable and innovative in all of pro sports.
Ohanian is seeking to change the thinking and approach to financing in women’s sports.
“The problem with a lot of women’s sports organizations is the default mindset that historically many of them have been run (with) is charity,” the Seven Seven Six founder added. “We heard these conversations early with the NWSL, and it needed to change because it’s insulting.”
Ahead of its inaugural season, leadership behind Angel City FC (ACFC) is looking to set a new standard for the NWSL as the league moves forward amid the fallout of its own sexual abuse scandal after five coaches were ousted this year for non-soccer reasons.
The female-driven expansion club—founded by a mix of athletes, celebrities and businesswomen—strives to be a trendsetter, aligning with social impact missions of corporate partners while not being afraid to take a progressive yet sometimes unpopular business approach.
Backed by Pepsi Co.’s Gatorade and food service provider DoorDash, the Los Angeles-based club claims to have already broken league records, with $35 million booked in sponsorship revenue and more than 14,000 season ticket holders.
“I would say that Angel City has more sponsorship revenue today than two hands worth of men’s professional sports teams,” co-founder and president Julie Uhrman said. “We believe our kit is the highest grossing of any women’s team in the U.S.”
ACFC has one of the most star-studded ownership groups in pro sports, headlined by founding investor and actress Natalie Portman. With about 100 investors overall, the NWSL club also has partners with deep expertise in backgrounds including venture capital, emerging media and community building. Uhrman says the club aims to leverage its bevy of connections to eventually become a “halo brand” that offers not only quality soccer for fans but additional products and services as well.
“We don’t view Angel City as a football club,” she said. “We view Angel City as a platform.”
ACFC begins its campaign with the NWSL Challenger Cup preseason tournament on Saturday.