Tennis star Naomi Osaka has purchased a stake in the North Carolina Courage, a professional women’s football team.
The Courage, formed four years ago, compete in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), the highest level of women’s football in the United States.
“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 in the club statement.
“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.”
According to The Athletic, Osaka held talks with league commissioner Lisa Braid before investing in North Carolina.
“First of all, they have the biggest youth-to-pro soccer club in all of the country (boys and girls) with over 13,000 players,” Osaka said. “Last year, Nike and I launched the Play Academy by Naomi Osaka which has the goal of keeping young girls active in sports (statistically they drop out earlier than boys and I see no reason why we can’t fix that), so that was a great shared interest off the bat.
“Then we spoke about their current and existing plans to address racial inequality in the community, including initiatives to improve lives of underprivileged kids in the area.”
Osaka’s investment in the NWSL follows a wave of high-profile investment throughout the league
Like Osaka, a three-time Grand Slam champion, the North Carolina Courage has enjoyed success from the off. The franchise has won the NWSL title twice and are reigning American champions.
Osaka’s investment in the NWSL follows a wave of high-profile investment throughout the league. The 23-year-old joins fellow tennis icons Serena Williams and Billie Jean King as investment partners in women’s football.
Angel City FC, the expansion franchise backed by Williams and King, are set to enter the NWSL in 2022.
“I am thrilled to welcome Naomi as an owner of the North Carolina Courage,” club owner Steve Malik said. “Naomi embodies the values we have been striving to cultivate at our club, and she brings an invaluable viewpoint on topics beyond sports. I cannot think of anyone better to help us as we continue to make a difference in our community and inspire the next generation of women.”
The 2021 NWSL season is set to begin on 9 April.