Suns' Nash invests in new women's league
SAN FRANCISCO -- All-Star Steve Nash is known on the basketball court for peerless vision that allows him to see plays before they develop.
Off the court, Nash is visualizing the success of the Women's Professional Soccer league more than a year before it starts. He's becoming an investor and part owner of the new venture.
"I look at my childhood and realize how many athletes I had to look up to," Nash said in a phone interview. "I look at the opportunity to put some of these wonderfully talented athletes who are dedicated and committed and put them in a setting to inspire a whole generation below them."
The deal to bring on Nash and Jeff Mallett, a former president and chief operating officer at Yahoo Inc., as investors for the eight-team league was to be formally announced Tuesday by the San Francisco-based league.
Before Nash became a two-time NBA MVP, he won the British Columbia soccer MVP award while in high school. His college days were spent at longtime women's soccer power Santa Clara.
"I think it will have ripple effects for a long time," Nash said. "I'm looking forward to it getting off the ground. I want to be a big fan and hopefully watch them not only entertain but inspire lots of young girls and kids in general."
Nash comes from a soccer family. His father, John, played professionally in South Africa, and his sister, Joann, was the captain of the University of Victoria soccer team. His brother, Martin, plays professionally for the USL First Division's Vancouver Whitecaps.
As the father of 3-year-old twin girls, Nash wants to help the growth of women's soccer in his adopted country. The investment from Nash and Mallett will fund the ongoing development of the league and is specifically earmarked for new media ventures and initiatives.
"I really just want to be a super fan and watch this league grow," the Phoenix Suns star said. "If I can help spread the word and help get access to some of my fans and help this women's league take off in this country, I'd be happy to do that."
Women's Professional Soccer plans to debut in spring 2009 with teams expected in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Jersey/New York, St. Louis and Washington. The league looks to add an eighth team before the launch, with possibilities including the San Francisco Bay area, Cary, N.C., Philadelphia and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Commissioner Tonya Antonucci said she hopes having a "quintessential soccer dad" such as Nash will help attract other fathers to follow the league.
"Having Steve Nash involved is tremendous for our league given the cachet that comes with such an accomplished professional athlete," Antonucci said. "Steve brings such a passion for the game. By endorsing us and putting his money in our league, it shows he believes in the promise of what we're doing. He wants to get involved beyond just investing. He wants to make sure this launch is a successful one."
Mallett, who was already an adviser to the fledgling league, was responsible for bringing Nash on board.
Mallett played in the Canadian national program and was the general manager of Yahoo's partnership with FIFA for the men's and women's World Cups.
He also has been involved in Major League Soccer and believes the women's game in the United States has an advantage over the men's game. He thinks it will have a better chance to attract the best players in the world, such as Brazilian star Marta.
"It has been a challenge because soccer fanatics like Steve and I, when the TV is on we're watching Tottenham versus Chelsea," Mallett said. "Some folks gravitate to the best of the best, and I think the women have a chance of attracting people like Marta and some of the best global talent to form the best league in the world."