Athletes Unlimited, ESPN Reach Agreement for Pro Softball, Lacrosse

Athletes Unlimited and ESPN have reached a new multi-year rights agreement for pro softball and lacrosse. In all, more than 160 live games from the innovative player-centric women’s sports organization will air exclusively on ESPN platforms over the next two years.

At least 90 Athletes Unlimited events will be televised on linear networks over the two years of the deal, including 34 on ESPN or ESPN2 and 56 on ESPNU. The remaining games will be available to stream on ESPN+. In addition, ESPN will have international rights for these competitions to air on TSN in Canada, ESPN Latin America, and other platforms.

The third championship season of Athletes Unlimited Softball will run from July 29 to August 28, returning to the Chicago area at the Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont, Ill. In all, 60 players will be competing (full broadcast schedule below).

Athletes Unlimited Softball will expand this year to include a new two-week competition that will provide more playing opportunities and compensation to athletes, and more pro softball for fans. The new competition – AUX Softball – will take place June 13-25, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Title IX on June 23. AUX Softball will feature 42 athletes playing 18 games in San Diego, with ESPN carrying all 18 games exclusively live on its networks (full broadcast schedule below).

In addition, on May 4 during the espnW Summit in New York, ESPN will carry live coverage of the Athletes Unlimited Softball Draft, as part of its live stream of the Summit events. The Draft will announce the initial group of college players who will be invited to join the championship season in Rosemont.

The second season of Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse will take place this summer, with the dates and location to be announced.

Jon Patricof, CEO and Co-Founder of Athletes Unlimited, said: “We are proud to collaborate with ESPN to solidify Athletes Unlimited Softball and Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse as two of the major pro sports leagues in the U.S. This deal establishes our presence as a major force in the pro sports landscape in the U.S., while serving as yet another reminder of ESPN’s commitment to women’s sports.”

Added Burke Magnus, ESPN President, Programming & Original Content: “ESPN is excited to expand its relationship with Athletes Unlimited and be part of their innovative approach to women’s professional sports. We are looking forward to showcasing these world class softball and lacrosse athletes as part of our longstanding commitment to women’s sports.”

In addition to game coverage, ESPN and Athletes Unlimited will collaborate to create Going Pro: Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse. This four-part series will air on ESPN+, the industry-leading sports streaming service, and will follow four Athletes Unlimited lacrosse players as they compete as professionals for the first time, experiencing challenges and lessons learned during their rookie season. The upcoming series focuses on Britt Brown, Mira Shane, Ella Simkins, and Izzy McMahon. The episodes chronicle how lacrosse has shaped their lives, performances on the field week-to-week, leadership and team-building challenges faced, and their efforts to diversify lacrosse and bring the sport to new audiences.

To date, a total of 31 players from 2021 – including 12 Olympians from four countries – have re-signed with the league for the 2022 Athletes Unlimited Softball season. Of those players, 27 will also participate in AUX Softball. For the first time in Athletes Unlimited’s history, 15 players have been offered and signed two-year contracts, signaling a long-term commitment by the athletes and league to professional softball.

Founded in 2020 with the launch of a professional softball league, Athletes Unlimited has since introduced professional volleyball, lacrosse and basketball leagues. Each Athletes Unlimited league features a range of scoring innovations to bring athletes and fans a unique and intense version of sport. Individual athletes earn points based on both team wins and individual performance and become the champions in team sports. Points are earned on every play and the leaderboard changes constantly. In addition, the teams change each week, with the top four athletes in the standings serving as captains and drafting their teams. At the end of the five-week season, the player with the most points is crowned as individual champion.

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