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Angel City becomes first women’s sports team to partner with Crypto.com

(APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

Angel City FC is partnering with Crypto.com, the first cryptocurrency platform to officially join forces with a women’s sports team.

As part of the deal announced Tuesday, the cryptocurrency and financial services platform will act as the Los Angeles-based NWSL club’s official cryptocurrency and NFT partner. The new collaboration will promote and support education around cryptocurrency as well as access to NFT development, providing ACFC players with the opportunity to build their own creations.

Julie Uhrman, Co-Founder and President of Angel City Football Club, tells Just Women’s Sports that the club’s ownership group, which includes venture capitalists, product, entertainment and tech entrepreneurs, is especially excited about the prospects of NFTs. Uhrman says they’re “incredibly valuable, especially for sports teams.”

“It’s another opportunity to authentically connect fans with their favorite players, with their favorite teams and with their favorite leagues,” she said.

Angel City also incorporated NFTs into their their July crest launch, fractionalizing the club’s emblem into 5,000 digital assets, which were gifted and sold to investors and fans as a way to foster a sense of communal ownership in the team.

“With Angel City, we wanted to find a way to increase our connection with our community and fans and found that NFTs were a perfect way of doing that,” Uhrman said.

Another key component of Angel City’s partnership with Crypto.com is financial education.

“It’s important to us to make sure that we are empowering women in all parts of their lives,” said Jess Smith, Head of Revenue at Angel City. “And if you look at the current landscape, and you look at the data behind women and engagement with NFTs and Web3 and cryptocurrency, they’re behind the men in adaption to this.”

The expansion club aims to close the growing gender disparity within crypto by providing their players and the community with the education and means needed to participate in the market.

“Crypto.com is the leader as far as creating an exchange, so we want to educate our community and fan bas e… and really just help people understand the space,” Uhrman said. She also sees the NFT side of the relationship as an opportunity to empower players “to become creators, to create community through their creations and to have ownership of the product or of the item that they create.”

As the first deal of its kind, the collaboration also serves as a decisive moment for women’s sports. Angel City takes great pride in being a part of that progress.

“This partnership is a turning point for women’s sports and signifies the growing recognition of the power and influence they yield,” ACFC Leading Founding Investor Alexis Ohanian said in a statement.

While this may be Crypto.com’s women’s sports debut, the platform has already made its mark on the Los Angeles sporting community, signing a 20-year rights agreement to rename Staples Center, which hosts the Sparks of the WNBA, the Lakers and Clippers of the NBA, and the NHL’s Kings.

ACFC said the company’s commitment to Los Angeles will be central to their evolving relationship.

“[Crypto.com is] really looking at the culture of Los Angeles and the creators that exist and how the world looks to L.A. for what comes next,” Smith said. “You can expect this partnership to be representative of that and how we bring those worlds together through our platform with them.”

Though the joint venture is just getting off the ground, ACFC hopes to have a broad impact on the space, with Uhrman saying her ultimate goal would be to play “a critical role in seeing women equal 50 percent of investors in cryptocurrency.”

She hopes Angel City players, who are already savvy at building personal brands, will harness NFTs to build a community and create ownership over a product, which in turn can “significantly [impact] their yearly income in a positive way.”

Angel City, which begins play in the NWSL in 2022, previously announced their inaugural home kits in November. Among the club’s many initiatives is a first-of-its-kind Players Fund, which pays ACFC players a percentage of all home ticket sales. The club announced last week that it had already sold 13,200 season tickets for its debut season.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

One former player contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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