North Carolina Soccer Club highlights its commitment to being a safe place for gay fans, allies and players

by Christopher Ehlers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Celebrating pride within the football community is a relatively new American tradition that has been embraced with enthusiasm in recent years. Teams first started welcoming gay fans as a way to increase ticket sales, but this evolved into a much more conscious strategy for connecting with fans. American soccer leagues like Major League Soccer, National Women’s Soccer League and United Soccer League have widely made concerted efforts to be more inclusive, which in turn strengthens their relationship with their fans and deepens their roots in the community. .

The North Carolina Football Club, in particular, has long been a champion of inclusivity and acceptance, demonstrated by its commitment to providing a safe environment for gay fans, allies and players. But in December 2021, the club came under fire when the North Carolina Courage – the North Carolina Football Club’s women’s team – re-signed a player with a history of anti-LGBTQ ideology rooted in her religious beliefs.

The outcry began in 2017 when Courage defender Jaelene Daniels (née Hinkle) decided not to play for the United States Women’s National Team because she refused to wear a special rainbow jersey in l pride month honor. In 2020 she left Courage to start a family, but at the end of last year Daniels returned to professional football and Courage. Women’s sports, especially women’s soccer in the United States, had become such a gay-friendly environment that re-signing felt like a betrayal to fans.

The Courage released a statement in which it apologized to those hurt by the decision to re-sign Daniels while reiterating its longstanding commitment to inclusivity, respect and the LGBTQ+ community. “Jaelene and the leadership of the organization had a productive conversation about the expectations we have set for our entire team, inside and outside the locker room,” Courage said via a press release. “She will continue to uphold Courage’s standards of respect and inclusion wholeheartedly.”

Additionally, the North Carolina Football Club – including its men’s and women’s teams – has detailed and ambitious plans which included continued support of Pride games, display of Pride jerseys, participation in local Pride and donations to local and national LGBTQ+ groups. Additionally, they are committed to improving the culture within their club by facilitating diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives while continuing to amplify LGBTQ+ causes. Finally, they encouraged the community to continue to hold the North Carolina Football Club accountable.

“We recognize that we have a responsibility to our football community to maintain a space built around inclusion, equity and diversity,” read the press release, “and we know we still have a times work to be done to prove that the Courage of North Carolina stands with the LGBTQIA+ community.”

While some may be quick to dismiss the North Carolina Football Club’s statement as damage control and pinkwashing, the truth is that the organization has long been genuinely committed to promoting inclusivity in both football and in his own North Carolina community. After all, the players, front desk staff and members of the ownership group are proud members of the LGBTQ+ community. It is with these personal experiences in mind that the club has developed a robust pride program officially beginning in June, of course, and extending through October to celebrate National Coming Out Day and National Coming Out Month. LGBTQ history.

While official Pride nights will be held in July so as not to distract from their June 19 celebrations (the Courage’s only June home game was played on June 19), the North Carolina Football Club took part in the Apex Pride Festival on June 11. ; and will be at Out! Raleigh Pride on June 25 and Durham Pride Parade on September 24.

On July 15, the North Carolina Courage will host its very own Pride Festival where fans can enjoy live music and other entertainment, a drag queen story time, family activities, food and drink trucks. , as well as the ability to engage with vendors from local LGBTQ+ businesses. .

And, of course, the women’s team will be wearing rainbow numbers on their shirts at Pride night in July, which is perhaps the most symbolic statement of all – this shirt represents the essence of their club and who they play for, and within the world of women’s football which is absolutely inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community.

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