Seattle's five professional sports teams announced they will join forces to support LGBTQ equality for Pride Month during a joint press conference on Tuesday.
While Pride-themed games have dotted schedules across the country this June, this is the first time that a city’s professional teams have coordinated their events, according to Athlete Ally, a nonprofit working for LGBTQ inclusion in the sports community.
“Today the Seattle sports community is telling the world that athletes, coaches, fans and officials, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should have equal access, opportunity and experience in sports,” said Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally.
For Taylor, the press conference “marks an unprecedented effort where a city’s entire professional sports roster stands together to champion LGBTQ inclusion and equality.”
Seattle is home to five major professional teams: the Seahawks, Mariners, Storm, Sounders and Reign.
While the Seahawks are not in season, the other four teams have coordinated back-to-back Pride games, starting with Sounders' match against Orlando City SC, Wednesday night. The four-game slate will conclude Saturday, with the Reign’s Pride match, ahead of Seattle Pride’s main parade on Sunday.
Ginny Gilder, co-owner of the Seattle Storm, found that the joint effort indicated more than just the teams coming together.
“I think one of the things that’s best about sport in a community like Seattle is it is at heart a community builder,” she said.
“Acknowledging and appreciating our differences actually affirms our humanity, making it possible for all of us to own the fullness of our individual identities, and that serves as a source of connection.”
Adrian Hanauer, majority owner of the Sounders, saw the platform his team holds as a reason to get involved.
“We have to take leadership roles on issues,” he said. “Not everyone is going to agree with every position we take — that’s OK. But inclusiveness specifically seems like a no-brainer to me.”
Each team will individualize its Pride game, whether through donating a portion of ticket sales to scholarship funds or by adding rainbow-themed giveaways.
In addition, each team is partnering with Athlete Ally. A number of athletes from Seattle will join the organization as "Professional Ambassadors," including Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm, James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners, and Brad Evans of the Seattle Sounders FC.
“Every movement, every beginning starts with something like this,” said Evans.
While the Seahawks are not currently in season, Ed Goines, general counsel and vice president, joined the press conference to indicate the team’s support.
“Our iconic arches on CenturyLink Field will continue to be lit in rainbow colors,” he said.
For athletes like Megan Rapinoe of the Seattle Reign FC, seeing the teams unite meant even more.
“For someone who’s gone through it, this means the world to gay athletes, whether they’re out or not,” she said.
“I feel very thankful to be a part of such a city and a sports scene in this city.”