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Thursday, December 9, 2021
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Naomi Osaka’s Ownership Stake In North Carolina Courage And The Connecting Of Women’s Sports

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The tired cop-out excuse for the limited growth of women’s sports has long been: if the opportunity is such a profitable one, and sexism is the reason men aren’t investing in women’s sports, where are the women to step forward?

Naomi Osaka is merely the latest to declare: here I am!

Osaka became the first investor in the Courage under newish owner Steve Malik, who bought the team and relocated them to North Carolina from their Western New York roots. And she is merely the latest example of women stepping forward to take advantage of the developing economy that is the women’s sports landscape.

“The women who have invested in me growing up made me who I am today and I cannot think of where my life would be without them,” Osaka said. “My investment in the North Carolina Courage is far beyond just being a team owner, it’s an investment in amazing women who are role models and leaders in their fields and inspirations to all young female athletes. I also admire everything the Courage does for diversity and equality in the community, which I greatly look forward to supporting and driving forward.”

There are a multitude of reasons why Osaka in the women’s soccer orbit matters. Osaka’s efforts off the field on racial justice fit within the NWSL’s mission in this regard. And there’s the star factor, too: Osaka only amplifies the reach of her new team — Osaka is north of 824,000 Twitter followers, for instance, while the Courage are at 34,000.

But the bigger new reality is one where women’s sports, at an individual level, aren’t silo’d. Every day, men’s sports benefits from this networking effect. Sports shows, that overwhelmingly cover men’s sports, mean there’s a basic literacy of the sports fan that includes Mike Trout and Steph Curry and Pat Mahomes.

Naomi Osaka and Jess McDonald aren’t in that network. And even those who follow one might not be well-versed in the other.

But this isn’t even the only WTA star to invest in an NWSL team in the past 12 months! A collaborative effort, one that effortlessly integrates Breanna Stewart and Nneka Ogwumike into NWSL Draft coverage, has Megan Rapinoe active on the WNBA broadcasts, and sees NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird working with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, it all serves to lift the collective women’s sports leagues who are, without fail, far younger than their male equivalent circuits, and changes the overall landscape with every partnership.

And as the great Caiti Donovan, founder of SheIS, points out, a stubborn group is coming along for the ride, as opportunities for women grow in professional sports.

Better late than never, I suppose.

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