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Seattle Sounders release Bruce Lee kits for 2023 MLS season

The new kits honor the martial arts legend in the 50th anniversary of his death.

SEATTLE — The dragon is in Seattle just in time for the 2023 Major League Soccer (MLS) season.

With under two weeks before the Seattle Sounders FC opens its new season, the club unveiled its "Bruce Lee kit," honoring the martial arts legend in the 50th anniversary of his death. Sounders FC said it will donate the proceeds from the first 30 days of the Bruce Lee kit sales (up to $50,000) to the Bruce Lee Foundation and Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.

The club said the sunbeam yellow accent in the kit symbolizes "the center of everything" and is associated with nature, balance and heroism. The hand-drawn dragon represents strength and power, according to the club. 

Lee's signature stamps the bottom of each jersey, including the dragon symbol, and the back of the neck features Bruce Lee's Core Symbol, an insignia created by Lee as a representation of his martial art form, Jeet Kune Do.  

Lee died at 32 years old in 1973, months before "Enter the Dragon" was released in August 1973.

The Sounders said it is honoring Lee with its 2023 kits because he shares the club's values of harmony, self-expression, inclusion and action. 

“Just like Bruce, Seattle is defined by duality," said Han Eckelberg, in a video posted to the Sounders FC's Twitter account. "Rain and shine. Industry and nature. Yin and yang. Everything must be met with harmony and balance."

Seattle opens its 2023 season at Lumen Field on Feb. 26 against the Colorado Rapids. The club is coming off making history by becoming the first MLS team to ever appear in the Club World Cup. 

"In the water that is blue," Eckelberg said later in the video. "In the life that is green. The Dragon is Seattle. The best of all of us.”

Sponsor controversy 

The Sounders' jersey sponsor, Providence, features prominently on the front of the Bruce Lee kit. The club's choice for a new sponsor, replacing Zulily, on the front of the has drawn backlash from fans since the Jan. 20 announcement. 

Providence, a Catholic nonprofit health care system, does not cover most abortion-related services due to a religious objection, according to the Washington Department of Health's (DOH) website. DOH pays for abortion services for people with Providence health plans, due to Providence being part of the state health insurance market.

Nine Providence-affiliated facilities were part of a lawsuit filed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson in February 2022 for allegedly failing to ensure low-income Washington residents received discounts they were legally entitled to. 

The lawsuit alleged Providence instructed employees to not "accept the first no" from patients. The hospitals allegedly trained staff to encourage employees to continue pressing patients for payment even if they say they aren't able to pay. Employees are allowed to discuss financial assistance if patients decline to set up a payment plan. 

Emerald City Supporters, the largest Sounders fan group, posted an open letter to the team's leadership on its website titled, "What happened to our shared values?"

The Sounders shared a statement with KING 5 on Jan. 25 indicating that the team has had conversations with supporter groups and the alliance council and will continue that dialogue.

"Following Friday’s announcement," the statement begins, "our club has been actively listening to feedback from members of the Sounders community and engaging with our supporters groups and Alliance Council. We’ve held honest and productive conversations with these groups, and we’re continuing that dialogue in the coming days. Openness and transparency are key pillars of our Democracy in Sports ethos, and we always welcome direct discussion with our fans.

"We continue to be proud of our relationship with Providence and all that it can do for our region. From our earliest collective conversations, this partnership was always about a combined organizational commitment to area youth and making communities healthier places to live.

"We also need our community to know that our club values remain unchanged. We believe that every woman has the right to make healthcare decisions for themselves. Our club is also unwavering in its support for the LGBTQ+ community, and we are committed to making Washington the safest and most inclusive place to live, work and play, especially for transgender and gender-diverse youth. We are resolutely dedicated to these beliefs."

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