NWSL community celebrates Pride Month
A look at how clubs, players and fans are celebrating Pride Month
NC Courage players Lynn Williams, Meredith Speck, and Taylor Smith wear Nike Equality BeTrue Tees before the North Carolina Courage's Pride Night match. (Photo credit: Andy Mead for isiphotos.com)
NC Courage players Lynn Williams, Meredith Speck, and Taylor Smith wear Nike Equality BeTrue Tees before the North Carolina Courage's Pride Night match. (Photo credit: Andy Mead for isiphotos.com)

By Meg Linehan

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, and there have been league-wide celebrations thanks to special game days and events, new gear and more. From Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage players sporting Nike Equality t-shirts to rainbow scarves, players and fans can wear their Pride more than ever before. This season, some NWSL players are even pledging their support all season long by joining Playing for Pride, a North Carolina-based fundraising initiative for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

FC Kansas City kicked things off a little early in May with their Out at Swope night, and offered a special ticket package that included a membership with the HRC. They encouraged FC Kansas City fans to “Be Blue, Be True, Be You.”

Sky Blue FC is celebrating Pride all month long, choosing to turn both home games during the month of June into Pride games. Cloud 9, the supporter’s group in New Jersey, featured a special tifo in the supporters section for the first game.

The Orlando Pride held their Pride game on June 3, against the Boston Breakers, which featured quite the march into the stadium by supporters and fans.

Orlando Pride players also participated in Orlando United Day on June 12, a day of love and kindness to honor and remember the 49 people killed at Pulse Nightclub one year earlier.

This past weekend, the Chicago Red Stars, North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns FC all celebrated Pride. The Red Stars auctioned off signed player warmup tops that featured rainbow numbers, North Carolina Courage players lit up social media with selfies before the game in Equality t-shirts, and Oregon Governor Kate Brown helped out with the coin toss at Providence Park.

There’s still time to make it to a Pride Night in a few NWSL cities. Two teams are celebrating Pride this Saturday, June 24 — the Boston Breakers and Seattle Reign FC. The Breakers will also host an after party at their partner bar, The Rising in Cambridge, and Seattle Reign FC joined a city-wide initiative including all the professional sports teams in Seattle and Athlete Ally for LGBT equality.

The Spirit Squadron, the supporter’s group in Washington, D.C., will host their Pride Night this Saturday when Portland Thorns FC travel to the nation’s capital. The Spirit have helped boost the Squadron’s fundraising via ticket sales.  If you plan on heading to the Plex, you can purchase a ticket on Fevo, and $5 from every ticket will go to Playing for Pride.

To close out Pride Month, Sky Blue FC wraps up their month of celebrating when they host the Orlando Pride on Wednesday night at Yurcak Field on June 28. The Houston Dash are offering a special Pride Night pack for their June 28 game against the Boston Breakers. $25 gets you a ticket and t-shirt, with proceeds going to local LGBT organizations.

Playing for Pride

Players from five clubs have joined a new initiative for the 2017 season, Playing for Pride. North Carolina Courage midfielder Samantha Mewis is one of those players, who helps fundraise for the Human Rights Campaign every time she puts on her jersey.

Mewis first found out about Playing for Pride during the first bus trip of the season for the Courage. It was actually fellow midfielder McCall Zerboni who passed around an information sheet on the drive to Washington, and Mewis said she was immediately ready to help. “I just remember reading that and thinking, this is something I would love to get involved in. I would love to give back and support this community of people because I really feel strongly that this is a human rights issue. I really believe in equality.”

Mewis thinks there’s a connection between the players and fans that runs both ways, and there’s something special to Pride month. “We feel that support,” she said. But there are also teammates that are part of the LGBT community as well, and she can show her own support through Playing for Pride. “Coming [to North Carolina] and knowing that not everyone here believes the same thing that I do, but just knowing that this is something that I can be a part of and show that I do support this cause. That’s been really cool, to just see our own community growing in support.

“It’s been wonderful. It’s been all positive.”

Players donate themselves: $2 for every game played, $3 for every game started, $4 for every assist and $5 for every goal. Fans and supporters can then match the player’s donation.

Austin da Luz, North Carolina FC midfielder and Playing for Pride founder, said that Mewis and her fellow players have been a key part of the fundraising’s successful start.

“Having NWSL players involved in Playing for Pride has been absolutely essential to the growth of the campaign.,” da Luz said. “Their support, along with the enthusiasm and passion of the greater women’s soccer community, has been a driving force in spreading our message of equality and inclusion. I’m so grateful for the strength and leadership of the women who have joined, and hope to see our NWSL contingent continue to grow.”

In addition to Mewis, her North Carolina Courage teammates Zerboni, Jessica McDonald and Lynn Williams are all involved. Kristie MewisKatie Stengel and Joanna Lohman participate from the Washington Spirit, Morgan Andrews reps the Boston Breakers, Stephanie McCaffrey helps out for the Chicago Red Stars, and Yael Averbuch rounds out the group for FC Kansas City.

Donations to match NWSL players can be made at Playing for Pride’s fundraising page, and you can follow the campaign on Twitter at @PlayingforPride.

The NWSL wears its Pride

Plenty of NWSL players have been sporting Nike Equality gear, including the Portland Thorns during warmups ahead of their Pride Night match on June 17.

The Thorns also have plenty of team-branded Pride gear available in their online shop.

FC Kansas City, Sky Blue FC and the Chicago Red Stars all have new shirts available online for Pride 2017, and Seattle Reign FC, the North Carolina Courage and Houston Dash also have options available in person at matches.


Have you been to a Pride Night at a NWSL match in June? Or are you heading to one this week?

Send us your best Pride shots on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #NWSLPride to show us how you celebrated Pride with us!

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