Ciara brings attention to female ownership in sports with new deal
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, the NFL’s highest-paid player, and his wife, Ciara, have made headlines. This time, the famous Seattle couple is highlighting futbol, not football. They are joining the Seattle Sounders FC owners group.
Wilson, who has been investing in various projects in Seattle since he moved there in 2012, saw the investment in a Major League Soccer team as a way to continue creating a winning culture in Seattle. “Seattle means so much to me and Ciara.,” he said in a statement. “We’re fired up about being part of the Sounders for a long, long time, having ownership in the Sounders and continuing to build that winning culture… we want to bring the best soccer players in the world right here to Seattle.”
Ciara said in a statement, “it’s an honor to join the Sounders team and have the unique opportunity to represent female ownership within major league sports. The team has already done some amazing things, but I believe the best is ahead and we’re excited to be part of that.”
Indeed, this deal makes Ciara one of the few current female owners of a major professional sports team. In a tweet, Ciara highlighted how few female team owners exist among the major professional sports leagues. She’s right. In addition to current female owners, the rest of the Sounders owners group includes rapper Macklemore and his wife, Tricia Davis; Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and his wife, Anu; and former Microsoft exec Terry Myerson and his wife, Katie. Ciara expressed her hope that by the time her daughter, Sienna, becomes an adult, there will be more opportunities for women to own professional sports teams.
After all, the number of black women who own professional sports teams is even smaller. That group includes Khalia Collier, the owner and general manager of the St. Louis Surge women’s pro basketball team. She took ownership of the Surge in 2011, at the age of 23.
“Owning a team equivalent to a minor league baseball team easily requires an initial investment of $250K – 500K.,” Collier said to The Undefeated. “There are black women are able to do that right now. Just be ready to save and build.” Collier said much of her time is spent behind the scenes – building corporate support, attracting fans, and portraying women’s pro basketball as entertaining and athletic, not a charity cause.
Evelyn Magley became the first black woman to own a male professional sports league in 2018, when she and her husband, former NBA player David Magley, established The Basketball League. She later acquired the North American Premier Basketball league.
“It was a vision to have a different league based on godly principles that reaches out to the community through the form of basketball,” she told The Undefeated. Like Collier, part of her management strategy is helping her players to build marketable skills outside of playing basketball. Currently, TBL hosts 10 teams, and may grow to 14 in the 2020 season. Most of the players are 18-23.
Sheila Johnson, co-founder of BET, became part owner of the WNBA’s Washington Mystics in 2005. She also owns a stake in the Washington Capitals (NHL) and the Washington Wizards (NBA).
Before Johnson, there were several black female owners of Negro Leagues baseball teams. In 1922, Olivia Taylor owned the Indianapolis ABCs after the death of her husband, C.I. Taylor. Effa Manley owned the Newark Eagles in the 1930s. Later, Hilda Bolden-Shorter ran the Philadelphia Stars. Lastly, Minnie Forbes the last living owner of a Negro Leagues baseball team; she owned the Detroit Stars from 1956 to 1958.
The investment made by Ciara and Russell Wilson to join the Souders ownership group was not disclosed, but looks it will return more than good will. The Sounders are among the league’s most successful teams – winning the US Open Cup four times and the MLS Cup in 2016. The average attendance for Sounders game was around 40,000 – the second highest in the MLS. That same year, the team was valued at $240 million – making it the third most valuable franchise in major league soccer.