Yesterday, Minnesota’s new pre-professional women’s soccer team announced it would be named Aurora FC, in honor of the “ephemeral beauty of the northern skies of Minnesota.” Considering the name isn’t a mouthful like “The Washington Football Team” or as racist as the Redskins, this announcement might seem totally unremarkable … except this team name was chosen by the team’s 3,080 community owners.
The Minnesota Aurora FC’s existence is entirely thanks to a $1 million community investment campaign that required a $100 minimum investment from each contributor and concluded in December 2021. The team is funded by 3,080 investors from 48 states, 8 countries, 2 military bases, and an embassy, according to a news release.
While the idea of crowdfunding small projects is hardly novel, Minnesota’s successfully crowdfunded women’s sports team offers a glimpse into a more democratic, women-centric, and equitable sporting future, in which fans of all genders and ages no longer have to beg shadow-lords to throw money at a sport that “doesn’t seem that profitable.” Instead, with the leadership of a few founders driven by the love of fandom, sports fans can financially manifest teams into existence. Sure, there are endless complications and roadblocks to that ideology in relation to established leagues already rolling in dough. But this model, instead, points to the possibility of a new abolitionist era of sports where fans, not whomever has the most money and feels like picking up a new hobby via a multi-million dollar franchise, control the narrative.
Let’s look at how seamlessly the Minnesota Aurora’s branding process went, proving that community collaboration can result in a pretty-breathtaking harmony between fans and founders when fans are given the time of day. The team said its new brand identity was produced by a collective of the team, designers, and community owners. The founders worked with the designers to draft start with a long list of names that felt “Minnesotan” in some way, while the community owners submitted their own list of over a hundred names. After the team narrowed the selection down to 14 names, the owners went through two rounds of voting, and saw three final brand concepts before putting the name to a final vote.
Unquestionably, this process was in stark contrast to the head-scratching selection of the Los Angeles Rams’ universally loathed colors and logo in 2020—which somehow managed to look more like the rival Los Angeles Chargers’ lightning bolt than a ram’s horn. The Rams’ redesign was done without much, if any, input from the fans and led to a situation in which even former players blasted the new design.
When fans—the individuals who care about the team purely for the love of sport, not for profit—are also the owners, they aren’t systematically shut out of conversations pertaining to visuals like logos and colors or hard discussions on racism and domestic violence. Their input is not only valued, but actually shapes the decisions the team makes. Our current sporting climate allows for only the loudest, richest, and often whitest voices in the room, which is typically a small group to begin with, to be heard and acknowledged.
Of course, the Aurora FC is just one team (and a pre-professional team at that), but this new model of sporting offers a glimmer of hope that sports fans like me—those fans who’ve been ignored by men’s football and basketball in the past or been told that there just isn’t any money to be made in [insert women’s sport here]—can dream their own teams into existence. I’d personally love a New York City competitive professional dance team or a league where trans athletes are welcome without question or hesitation. Here’s to a future where the top down dictatorship and systemic ass-kissing of shitty billionaire owners is soon a thing of the past.