A full-fledged sports bar
On a recent Friday in Portland, Oregon, it seemed to the eyes of the world that a real sporting event was unfolding. There were cheerleaders and news cameras; they even cut a basketball net. But in fact, it was all to celebrate the opening of a sports bar, and Jamie Orr was on the front line. “It feels like a very monumental day,” she said, “not just in Portland, but for women’s sports.”
That’s because it’s not just any sports bar; it’s the first in America to exclusively show women’s sports on all of its televisions.
If you’re primarily a male sports fan, it wouldn’t even occur to you that a bar wasn’t showing the league game or the sound was muted. But that’s exactly what happened in 2019, when Jenny Nguyen and her friends wanted to watch . “It ended up being just a spectacular game,” Nyugen told correspondent Luke Burbank.
The game was one for the ages, but the audio stream was non-existent, at least in the bar where Nyugen and his friends were watching. “Someone said to me, ‘Yeah, it would have been better if the sound was on!'” she said.
And so, Nguyen had a thought, that kind of thought you might have after a few beers but never follow through, “I said something like, the only way we’ll ever be able to watch a women’s TV show , like, in all its glory, it’s if we had our own place.”
Nyugen and her friends even had a name for this still legendary bar that she dreamed of opening one day: The sports bra. “You know, it makes sense, reverse a few letters. I was like, I know what the slogan will be: we support women!” she laughed. “It was a big joke.”
But the joke turned serious after the #MeToo movement and the pandemic caused Nyugen to look for a way to impact the culture, in any way possible: “The whole country was going through a phase of reprioritizing this which was important.”
However, Nyugen’s mother, who she worked for at their family real estate company, was dubious: “I yelled at her and said, ‘This is not good. With COVID and the labor shortage ‘work, it’s not going to work.’ But she said to me, she said, ‘Mom, you can’t stop me. I do.'”
And she did, raising over $100,000 on Kickstarter. Along the way, she and the bar became something of a media sensation. But the hardest part of managing the sports bra might actually be finding televised women’s sports to play at the bar.
Nyugen said, “Only 4% of all sports on TV are women’s sports. So when you have that kind of a gap, there will be problems.”
But changing that could be part of Nguyen’s plan.
In the 50 years since the landmark Title IX legislation, millions of girls have had access to athletics. So it’s not that women don’t play sports; it’s that the networks tend not to broadcast them.
Nyugen said, “I ask a lot of networks and streaming services and all those things, questions that they’ve never encountered before. So a lot of it is almost, like, taking your machete and cutting through the brush. It’s tough, and it’s a chore.”
That evening, however, there was no shortage of content. It was the NCAA Women’s Final Four Semifinals. The sports bra would be packed and the volume would be turned up all the way.
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Story produced by Anthony Laudato. Publisher: Chad Cardin.