We don’t see Padme Amidala — as either the Queen of Naboo or as its senator — engage in too many sports in the live-action Star Wars films. She is forced into an arena battle in Attack of the Clones, but that didn’t seem to be an officially sanctioned sport. She might be into volleyball, but considering her husband’s strong feelings about sand, she’d probably forego that. Regardless, the woman who played the iconic Star Wars character is making a big splash in the sports world. Natalie Portman has recruited a long list of Hollywood celebs and sports legends to found an American women’s soccer team.
The new Los Angeles-based soccer team Angel City FC made their NWSL debut on Saturday, March 19 in a tied match against the San Diego Wave. Natalie Portman started the team with the help of the anti-sexual harassment campaign Time’s Up, made up of women in the entertainment industry. When she first had the idea for Angel City, according to The Guardian, Portman approached venture capital executive Kara Nortman, for help in figuring out how to even begin putting together a team. With the help of Nortman and other initial investors, Portman built up a list of owners that now numbers over 100, the majority of whom are women. Among the more well known owners are Serena Williams, Jennifer Garner, Christina Aguilera, Billie Jean King, James Corden, Eva Longoria, Abby Wambach, Rachel Zoe, and Jessica Chastain.
The concept behind Angel City is apparently more than just giving Los Angeles the womens’ soccer team it lacked, or filling the coffers of its owners. Portman told the Guardian she started seeing the need for Angel City when hearing soccer icon Abby Wambach speak at a Time’s Up conference about how women’s soccer players lacked things like the retirement plans their male counterparts were offered. Beside Wambach, Natalie Portman said she was greatly inspired by her son. In an email, Portman told The Guardian, “Watching my son idolize players like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan the same way he did Lionel Messi or Karim Benzema, I realized that amplifying female athletes could rapidly shift culture.”
So far, the team Natalie Portman helped found seems to have gotten off to a spectacular start. Freya Coombe was lured away from New York/New Jersey’s Gotham FC’s and is now Angel City’s head coach. The first player they signed was Christen Press, a striker who has been a part of two World-Cup winning teams. With Angel City Press is now the highest paid player in NWSL history. Angel City has sold 16,000 season tickets, and has attracted $35 million in sponsorships.
Natalie Portman says her goal with Angel City is to “make women’s soccer as valued as male soccer is throughout the world.” But the organization’s good work goes beyond that laudable goal. Angel City puts 10% of what it gets from sponsors into the Los Angeles community through projects like planting local gardens, delivering food to those who need it, and donating sports bras to young players.