Alex Morgan, Sue Bird, Chloe Kim, and Simone Manuel have eight Olympic gold medals between them—and they’re just getting started. The four just launched TOGETHXR, a new sports and lifestyle media company for women. Their mission is to turn the spotlight on the next generation of superstars and watch them shine.
Women’s sports have never been more popular than they are right now, but most professional leagues struggle to get regular media coverage. Roughly 40% of sports participants are women, but just 4% of total sports media coverage goes to women’s sports, according to a 2018 report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “That, to me, is shocking, because [it’s] something that can be easily changed,” two-time FIFA World Cup champion Alex Morgan tells SELF.
Growing up, Morgan was used to seeing men’s sports on TV all the time. But, outside of the Olympics, women’s sports were nonexistent. “I didn’t really realize that just because it was normal didn’t mean that it was right,” she says. It wasn’t until the U.S. Women’s National Team came back from the 2011 World Cup—where they finished second to Japan—and started regularly selling out stadiums that Morgan recognized the discrepancies between men’s and women’s soccer. “Financially, the opportunities [for men] are different … access to top teams and top leagues is different … Everything [is] different,” Morgan explains.
Sue Bird has similar stories from her nearly 20-year basketball career, during which she’s won 4 WNBA league titles, 4 Olympic gold medals, and 4 FIBA World Cup championships. But even basketball-obsessed American sports media wasn’t covering the WNBA in the early days of her career. “I knew when I turned the TV on to watch highlights from the day, I wasn’t seeing women,” she tells SELF. “It upset me, but it was just like, ‘OK, that’s the way it is.’”
Bird’s frustration with the lack of women’s sports coverage has only intensified since then; the 2018 UNESCO report was particularly eye-opening. “The piece of the pie we have is so small,” Bird says, referring to that 4% figure. “When there’s such a small piece … you almost have to fight with one another to get it. I’m glad that we’re now at a point where [female athletes] all kind of look at each other like, ‘Wait, what? That’s not the problem here. The problem is we need a bigger piece.’”
TOGETHXR’s founders don’t just want the next generation to get a bigger piece of the pie—they want a whole new pie. Women’s sports need better coverage, which means completely changing how things are done. “It’s easy to stay in the past and feel comfortable, and I think that’s what a lot of [sports] networks have done,” Morgan tells SELF. “Not only is that not fair, it’s not the right thing to do—financially or in today’s world.”
That’s exactly why TOGETHXR focuses on young athletes and storytellers who are already changing the game. The centerpiece of today’s launch is a photo series featuring the founders from photographer Raven B. Varona. Additionally, docuseries are another key part of the platform. The first, Fenom, follows 17-year-old boxer Chantel “Chicanita” Navarro on her path to the Olympics. Kaikaina, a Hawaiian word meaning “little sibling” or “little cousin,” focuses on a group of young Hawaiian surfers. This series set to premiere in April 2021. Upcoming projects will feature softball player Maya Brady, Olympic bronze medal-winning fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, and sports journalist Taylor Rooks. There’s long-form streaming content in the works, too.