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Capitals star Alex Ovechkin investing in NWSL's Washington Spirit

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Alex Ovechkin, longtime star of the Washington Capitals, is investing in the future of women's sports, and doing it in the city where he's spent his entire 16-year career. 

Ovechkin is investing in the Washington Spirit, the NWSL's DC franchise. In an interview with ESPN, Ovechkin said that he and his wife love going to Spirit games, and his drive to support women's sports and the DC community led him to get involved.

"I think it's important to support women and women's professional athletes — not just in the United States, but all over the world," Ovechkin said to ESPN. "It was also important for me to support the D.C. community. I support everybody in this town. Me and my wife love to go watch a soccer game, watch football, and baseball. We all win. If I have this opportunity, I think it's very important for me to do it, because it also shows we care."

Lesson from mom inspired him to invest

Ovechkin also told ESPN that his parents, who are both athletes, inspired him in different ways to invest in the Spirit. His father was a soccer player for the Dynamo, and got him into the sport. His mother, Tatyana, won two Olympic gold medals for Russia as a basketball player and taught him the lesson that "it doesn't matter if you are a man or a woman, you should be able to chase the same goals as a professional athlete." 

That lesson from mom is helping Ovechkin make a vital statement about the importance of women's sports, and Spirit captain Tori Huster is grateful she passed that down to her son. 

"I think that's amazing," Huster said to ESPN about Ovechkin's investment. "I'm sure his mom passed on not only her athletic ability, but an understanding of an even playing field right off the bat. Every male athlete I've ever spent time around, worked out with, or played pickup with — if they didn't see the value already, once you are in and around playing them, and you're putting in just as much work as they are, they understand the importance of evening the playing field. I'm sure that's what his mom did. I think it's cool that years later, he's a grown man now, and he still sees the value in it. He's also supporting a team in his city — a city that loves him."

Ovechkin joins other famous investors

Ovechkin is the latest high-profile athlete or celebrity to invest in a NWSL team, which has become an increasingly popular status symbol over the past year. Naomi Osaka invested in the North Carolina Courage in January. Emmy-winning ESPN sports reporter Sarah Spain and Kendall Coyne Schofield, member of the gold medal-winning US women's national hockey team, both became investors in the Chicago Red Stars in March. 

Angel City FC, the Los Angeles franchise that's due to start play in 2022, has one of the highest concentrations of celebrity owners in all of sports. Their ownership list is a laundry list of famous actors, athletes, and executives, including Serena Williams (along with her husband Alexis Ohanian and daughter Olympia), Natalie Portman, Jennifer Garner, Billie Jean King, and Lindsey Vonn. 

The Spirit already had several big name investors before Ovechkin joined. Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Dominique Dawes and former first daughters Jenna Bush Hager and Chelsea Clinton all became investors in February. 

Spirit majority owner Steve Baldwin is encouraged by the movement among sports stars and celebrities to support women's sports. 

"I think this is the time," Steve Baldwin, the Spirit's majority owner, told ESPN. "We deal with a situation where 99 percent of sponsor dollars goes to men, and 96 percent of media coverage goes to men's sports. You kind of need an army within your community to help take women's sports to another level. What we're doing in women's soccer can really change the game, and really change the world in many ways."

VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 22: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals plays soccer before their NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena October 22, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is investing in the NWSL's Washington Spirit. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

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