A pioneering sports bar that exclusively showcases women athletes on its TV screens recently celebrated its first anniversary in Portland, Oregon.
The Sports Bra, which opened in April 2022, provides a welcoming environment for anyone who wants to watch female athletes compete.
It is the brainchild of 43-year-old sports fan Jenny Nguyen, who had long been frustrated with the significant lack of representation and accessibility for women’s sports in traditional sports bars.
Nguyen’s bar even refuses to air men’s sports when live women’s games are unavailable and instead replays women’s matches.
Nguyen used to play basketball at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, but an ACL injury forced her to watch on the sidelines as a fan.
She noticed the discrepancy in what sports bars showed back in 2018 when she and her friends had to plead with a bartender to switch their smallest TV to the NCAA women’s basketball championship game.
Nguyen would joke about creating a space that caters specifically to women sports fans for years before she finally brought her vision to life. To set up her bar, she used her life savings of $27,000 and took out $40,000 in loans from friends and family.
She then launched a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter in February 2022 to ensure that her venture would have enough financial cushion in the succeeding months.
She initially aimed to raise $48,000, but a viral article on media platform Eater helped the campaign raise over $105,000 in just 30 days.
According to a survey conducted by SportsTV Guide, less than a quarter of sports bars (22%) reported that they show women’s sports on a daily basis.
Of the sports bars that refuse to show women’s sports on their TVs, 81% of operators listed “guests not being interested” as the biggest reason.
This is despite previous findings by Nielsen that 84% of sports fans are interested in watching women’s sports.
Nguyen’s establishment has so far proven to be a successful venture, generating $944,000 in revenue during its eight months of operation in 2022 alone, according to CNBC Make It.
With the bar’s rising popularity, it has attracted notable figures in women’s sports, such as basketball stars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi.
While The Sports Bra’s exclusive focus on women’s sports has earned praise from supporters, Nguyen revealed that it has also faced some criticisms online.
The negative feedback does not deter Nguyen, who believes spaces dedicated to women’s sports must be defended to counterbalance the overwhelmingly male-dominated sports culture.
The study, which covered 30 years of TV sports programming, revealed “little change” in the proportion of coverage during the period.
Still, women’s sports coverage remains challenged by limited airtime and an already packed schedule of men’s sports events.