As prominent fixtures in the Seattle community, five major professional sports teams have united to support LGBT inclusion and equality.
The Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders, Storm and Reign have come together to promote inclusiveness and equality, and organizers on Tuesday said this is the first time a city’s professional teams have joined together for this cause.
“Sports has so many eyes on it, all the time anyways in this country,” said Megan Rapinoe, who plays for the Reign and is openly gay. “It’s obviously a very popular profession and it goes into pop culture and politics and many different things, so I think the opportunity to have a positive impact can be very tremendous.”
This week, the four teams currently in-season will each have a game dedicated to the LGBT community, with the Sounders’ match on Wednesday, the Mariners’ game on Thursday, the Storm’s game on Friday and the Reign’s match on Saturday.
Hudson Taylor, the executive director of Athlete Ally, said these issues often come to the forefront in a reactionary way when negative instances occur. Instead, he said, inclusivity should be discussed and encouraged proactively.
Given their high-profile status, the voices of these athletes and teams have the ability to reach thousands of fans, and they understand that.
Ed Goines, the Seahawks’ vice president of government affairs and general counsel, said the Seahawks organization is aware of its “very large platform,” and because of that, the team conscientiously selects what causes it stands behind.
“This support comes at a time when it’s needed most,” Taylor said. “Locker rooms continue to be among the least-safe spaces for LGBTQ youth.”
Athletes shouldn’t necessarily feel required to speak out, Rapinoe said, but they should understand that people are watching their actions and choices.
Some athletes are comfortable in that spotlight and others are not. Plus, she said, advocacy can take many different forms.
“I do feel obligated (to use my platform to speak out), but in all the right ways,” Sounders defender Brad Evans said. “I feel I have a duty to do what I think is right.”
As far as the environment created inside their locker rooms, Evans and Rapinoe’s teams share similar goals for inclusivity but in somewhat different settings.
Rapinoe said the Reign has “a big, gay locker room.” The Sounders work to create a supportive environment, but Evans said, “there’s no telling if somebody did come out, if that’s the right locker room, if we did it the right way, did we make it as safe as possible?”
If disrespectful language is used in the Sounders’ locker room, Evans said the players address the issue and make it clear that it’s not acceptable. Sounders players come from multiple continents and sometimes from “backgrounds where being gay is not just frowned upon but can be dangerous,” Evans said.
In Seattle, Rapinoe said people are accepting of individuals who are gay.
But then there’s the bigger question, she said, that society faces: “Are we really comfortable with our biggest male sports stars being gay?”
There’s an ongoing process, Rapinoe said, of making sure that teams have environments that are safe for all athletes. But that’s a cause Seattle’s teams are willing to stand behind.
“Not everyone is going to agree with every position we take,” Sounders FC owner Adrian Hanauer said. “That’s OK.
:But inclusiveness, specifically, seems like a no-brainer to me.”