It feels too good to be true. There’s a new trend sparking in the sports entertainment industry and we hope it catches. Two new sports bars are dedicated to showing only women’s sports on their big screens and one of them in our home city of Seattle!
It’s not just about changing the channel. It’s about changing and, dare we say, upsetting an industry that’s been male dominated for too darn long.
The Sports Bra - Sports Bar & Restaurant
The Sports Bra in Portland, Oregon, opened in April 2022 as the first ever women’s sports bar, and it’s on a mission is to elevate women’s sports and female athletes the same way traditional sports bars do with men’s sports. From women’s March Madness, gymnastics and the LPGA tour, to college swimming, volleyball and soccer - the Sports Bra will show it.
The walls at The Sports Bra feature photos of female athletes and autographed equipment, and everything served at the restaurant is either owned, operated, or made by women. So their business isn’t just leveling the playing field, it’s also ensuring women are represented and supported across industries.
Rough & Tumble - Seattle's Pub for Women's Sports
Rough & Tumble opened in Seattle, Washington, in December 2022 by founder Jen Barnes. The idea to open a space that prioritizes women in sports took hold when Barnes wanted to watch her team, the OL Reign, compete in the women’s soccer semi-final. But no sports bar in the area was playing it. Surely she couldn’t be the only one frustrated by the vacuum of women’s sport on television. So she made it happen herself.
The sense of community created by Rough & Tumble runs deep. Just as spectators of men’s sports get to share in the emotional experience of wins, losses, close calls, and disputes, the patrons here enjoy the camaraderie and company of fellow fans.
These two sports bars are going all in on the idea that audiences want to see more women’s sports, but the sports broadcasting industry needs to catch up. It’s been over 50 years since the passage of Title IV and yet a 30 year study by the University of Southern California and Purdue University found that “95% of total television coverage as well as the ESPN sports highlights show Sports Center focused on men's sports in 2019.”
One glaring challenge facing The Sports Bra, Rough and Tumble, and any future female sports bar is the lack of televised women’s sports in general.
2022 was a glowing year for female athletes with increased visibility and viewership from Women’s March Madness, the WNBA Finals, the National Women’s Soccer League Championship, and the Beijing Olympics. We even saw the launch of the Women’s Sports Network, the first-ever streaming network dedicated to showing 24/7 coverage of women’s sports.
Research shows that advertisers and broadcasters would be wise to lean in on this reality. Women’s golf in particular will have a record-breaking 500 hours of the LPGA Tour broadcast on television, but there is a long way to go to ensure the screens at women’s sports bars can give their customers the sports they want to watch. We aren’t just talking about broadcasting live women’s sports in their entirety either. The USC/Purdue study found that 80% of sports news and highlights devoted zero minutes to women's sports.
In an industry where we talk a lot about growing the game of golf, especially for young girls and women, it is imperative that places like The Sports Bra and Rough and Tumble exist. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, one of the reasons girls drop out of sport is a lack of positive role models. Unless girls see themselves, their interests, and their sports represented and respected rather than only seeing men idolized for their athletic prowess, it’s a tough sell to keep them engaged.
The Sports Bra is kid-friendly until 10pm so young girls can experience the elevation of female athletes and even dream of having their picture or golf shoes hanging on the wall one day.
So, why is this only trending in the Pacific Northwest? We hope business owners in the rest of the country (and the world) will get on board and give women’s sports equal or, at the very least, a little more exposure.
We can’t wait to see this trend spread. If you’re in Portland or Seattle, you know where to host your next happy hour. Let’s fill their seats not just with women or women’s sports enthusiasts, but bring your sports-fanatic male friends, partners, and children of all genders to see and experience the joy of sport and friendly competition.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and we would love to see this trend spread like wild.