The Sports Bra builds community through support of women’s sports
The tried and true formula of big-screen TVs showing the biggest NFL or MLB games works for many sports fans, but as Jenny Nguyen says, it doesn’t work for all sports fans.
So when she started her own sports bar in Portland, she made it her mission to make a small but impactful change.
“We would have exactly what a sports bar would be.” [does]”All we would do is change the channel,” Nguyen said. “For me, it was just like, ok, if we just switch channels, let’s just pick a sports bar and swap those two letters. And that gave birth to the idea that sometimes the smallest changes make the biggest difference.”
Nguyen opened the world’s first sports bar to air exclusively women’s sports: The Sports Bra.
The idea has been worked on for years. She started with a fun idea among friends to break down the hurdles of trying to watch women’s sports in a typical bar, not always feeling safe, begging the staff to turn on a women’s game and watching those games on a silent TV .
“I remember hugging a friend and saying, ‘That was the best game I’ve ever seen,’ and she said, ‘You know, it would have been so much better if the sound had been on,'” , said Nguyen . “Out of frustration, I said, ‘The only way we’re ever going to see women’s sport in its full glory is if we had our own space.'”
That moment was in 2018. In the years that followed, the fictional sports bra was just an inside joke among her circle of friends.
“We’d have this fantasy place that we’d reference, and we’d be like, ‘Oh, Sports Bra, you know, there’s going to be gymnastics,’ or, ‘Oh, Sports Bra, you know,’ “They’d have gluten-free buns for our burgers,” Nguyen said.
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In April 2022, The Sports Bra became a reality, offering a welcoming setting for all sports cocktails like the Title IX and an unrelenting rule: Women’s Sports Only.
“You know, we get calls all the time like… ‘Are you guys showing the Lakers game?’ And we’re like, ‘Who are the Lakers?'” Nguyen said.
It was a gamble, but The Sports Bra quickly became a success. This is part of a nationwide pattern as the number of women watching sports has skyrocketed.
A report by Samba TV released late last year gave an insight into annual viewership growth. Women’s March Madness 2022 viewership increased 81% year-over-year, WNBA Finals grew 171%, and the National Women’s Soccer League Championship saw a 435% increase year-over-year.
Women’s sports also resonate well with younger audiences. According to the report, 39% of Gen Z sports fans say they watch more women’s sports.
“By having access to more content, people get more attention to things they don’t have.” [before]whether it’s through social media, through more streaming services, or through big network deals,” Nguyen said.
However, what is not calculable is the community that develops and how people who feel safe and seen gather in this bar, increase the fan base and expand cooperations.
“When you don’t have to fight for it, when you don’t have to defend it, and it’s open and welcome, that creates the freedom of energy to just dream bigger,” Nguyen said. “It’s almost like a launch pad for possibilities. You can come here and see what’s happening right now. What’s next now? For example, let’s dream bigger.”
Nguyen hopes that The Sports Bra’s success will inspire other locations in the future and that her example of disrupting the status quo in sports will inspire others to do the same.
“I’m just very, very optimistic about the future of women’s sport. It’s going to take a lot of work, but we’re all here for it,” she said.
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