Matthew Stafford and wife join Angel City ownership: ‘We fell in love’

Matthew Stafford’s four young daughters have seen their dad win a Super Bowl and set three franchise passing records as the Rams’ quarterback. He and his teammates have been seen cheering and booing, praised and berated.

But what they had never seen last May were female athletes competing in the same way in a sold-out stadium. That changed when Stafford and his wife Kelly took the girls to an Angel City game on Mother’s Day.

“It was our first experience and we kind of fell in love,” Stafford said.

So much so that the family recently bought part of the team, becoming the latest members of a massive ownership group that includes more than 100 investors, from Alexis Ohanian and America Ferrera to Abby Wambach and Serena Williams.

“I thought it was really special and really cool for my daughter to see females,” Kelly Stafford added. “It was very special.”

“We left that first game and I was like, ‘How cool would it be if we could be a part of this?’ ” he continued. “We didn’t even hesitate. We both jumped at the chance.

The Staffords are not alone. In the past four years, new investors in the NWSL have won three Super Bowl quarterbacks in Stafford, Patrick Mahomes and Eli Manning; tennis champions Williams and Naomi Osaka; Olympic basketball gold medalists Sue Bird and Candace Parker; NBA All-Stars James Harden and Tony Parker; NHL All-Star PK Subban, and World Cup Champions including Wambach, Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Carli Lloyd and Joy Fawcett.

What they share is a deep understanding of professional sport and a desire to support women’s football.

The reasons are simple. For starters, NWSL franchises are cheaper, with Angel City paying a $2 million franchise fee to join the league in 2020, according to published reports. St. It cost Louis City’s owners 100 times that amount to enter MLS a year earlier.

But supporting women’s sport also conveys a message of gender equality and opportunity, allowing investors to do well financially while also doing good socially.

Angel City FC players walk on the field after an NWSL soccer match at BMO Stadium in May 2022.

(Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

“If there’s anything they want to show our girls, it’s there. And that he accepts that there are people like his father. Because it’s a nice thing and it’s a fun thing.”

– Kelly Stafford, why they joined the Angel City ownership group

“In addition to the financial returns sought, many athlete investors see investing in the NWSL as a kind of message, a way to participate in what they believe is an important cause, the growth of women’s sports.” said David M. Carter, professor of sports business at USC and principal of the Sports Business Group, a consulting firm. “Many athletes are looking for a return on investment and a return on purpose.”

That’s why Harden invested in the MLS Houston Dynamo and its NWSL sister club, the Dash, said Baird Fogel, head of Eversheds Sutherland’s Global Sports Practice and Harden’s legal counsel.

“The phrase is called impact investing,” Fogel said. “Obviously, giving back is what many of these people care about. But many of them are looking at social and other reasons, including the advancement of women’s sports. It is very difficult for anyone to become a professional athlete, especially for women where the chances are much less. So they are trying to change that.

“Sports is doing something that can benefit a community or a city, where they know it can help bring people together.”

That convinced the Staffords — who have a long history of supporting community and social justice causes — to put their money behind Angel City. The couple’s four daughters, ages 2 to 6, grew up watching their father play in the hyper-masculine NFL, but were not exposed to women’s sports. Being in a stadium full of people cheering on female athletes made the Staffords want to expose their daughters.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford celebrates with his family after winning the Super Bowl title.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford celebrates with his family after winning the Super Bowl title at SoFi Stadium in February 2022.

(Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

“I never thought I would have four girls. I’m a straight tomboy,” said Kelly, who played basketball and football in high school. “So it killed me inside, once I had all the girls, to know that they loved sports, but I don’t know what they can do with it. And now, with Angel City and people investing in women’s sports, you feel like this tide will turn and our kids will benefit. I’d say that’s the main reason we did it.

“If there’s anything they want to show our girls, it’s there. And that he accepts that there are people like his father. Because it’s a nice thing and it’s a fun thing.”

It is not a profitable thing. But that can change.

Although Angel City has more than 16,000 season tickets and sponsorships worth more than $45 million — 10 percent of which must be reinvested in community projects — the team did not turn a profit in its first season. There are no NWSL teams yet.

Still, Angel City — which had a $115 million valuation in April 2021 before playing a game or signing a player, more than double that of any team in league history — expects to turn a profit in the next three to five years. .

Investors, on the other hand, are playing the long game.

“Take a drive around any suburban community on a Saturday or Sunday and look at the playgrounds. Who is playing? “You see tens of thousands of young girls playing soccer,” said Andrew Dolich, who has served as a team manager for four major U.S. sports leagues and now runs a sports consultancy in Los Altos, Calif. A kind of opportunistic investment is happening now. ».

It’s a big reason why Reddit co-founder Ohanian, Angel City’s lead investor, is so bullish on the sport — even though he, too, was primarily drawn to the opportunities and example the NWSL offered his daughter Alexis Olympia.

And those benefits can extend beyond the playing field. According to research by the Women’s Sports Foundation – founded by Billie Jean King, another Angel City investor – 96% of women working as executive-level managers in the corporate world played competitive sports growing up.

That’s the kind of return on investment the Staffords are hoping for.

“Everything that comes out of it financially is obviously just baking,” Matthew said. “For us it was to be part of a team led by a powerful, strong and intelligent woman. It’s something very fun for our family.”

“Not just for our daughters,” Kelly added, “but for girls who love sports as much as I do. This opportunity is there for them.”

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