Future of Sports: Women Reimagining Pro Sports

April 16, 2021  • Sports & Society Program

Historically, positions of leadership and power in professional sports and organized sports in general have been occupied by men. What if pro sports were owned, designed and run by women? How might the experiences change or stay the same – the competition formats, the way athletes are treated, the storytelling themes that get elevated, and the cultural conversation around the value of sports and their intersection with critical issues in society?

Recently, we’ve been offered a look into that crystal ball. The success of the National Women’s Soccer League has been driven by a female commissioner with female celebrities as investors. Female athletes have brought the WNBA to new heights by leading the way on racial justice themes in sports. New women’s professional softball, volleyball and lacrosse leagues introduced by Athletes Unlimited look nothing like traditional men’s leagues.

The Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program explored these developments – and how the perspectives of women shaped them – in a Future of Sports conversation, in partnership with Axios Sports. Panelists took measure of the growth of women’s sports, where it’s headed, and how female-driven innovations could create new opportunities for the sports industry broadly. What can be learned about pro sports as women take control of their games?

Speakers included:

  • Julie Foudy, Angel City FC co-owner, ESPN broadcaster, former U.S. women’s soccer star
  • Angela Ruggiero, Sports Innovation Lab CEO, Athletes Unlimited advisory board member, former U.S. women’s hockey star
  • Aleshia Ocasio, Athletes Unlimited pro softball player

Future of Sports has returned in 2021 as a virtual, bimonthly conversation series by the Sports & Society Program that helps stakeholders think through key questions shaping the future of our games, the sports industry and its impact on society. Past events examined the future of football, a series on college athlete pay including the government’s role and the future of name, image and likeness rights, sports betting, athlete activism, coaching, and the U.S. Olympic movement. Contact Sports & Society Program Editorial Director Jon Solomon at with questions or inquiries.

Thank you to Axios Sports for its support as media partner of the Future of Sports series.