The New York City Football Club is hosting its third annual Pride Match Thursday complete with rainbow themed smoke stacks, corner flags and jerseys in support of New York Pride Month.
The Pride Match, kicking off at 7 p.m., will also feature members of the NYPD Gay Officers Action League and Tonewall, a gay a capella band.
This year marks the fiftieth year of the Stonewall Uprisings, an event that many see as the beginning of the modern Gay Rights movement. To recognize this historic anniversary, New York will be hosting WorldPride, the world’s biggest pride celebration, later this month. As New York City’s soccer team, NYCFC also wanted to pay tribute to the important event.
The event is hosted in association with Athlete Ally, an organization dedicated to ending homophobia and transphobia in sport. “Sport can serve as a metaphor for other sectors of society” Athlete Ally executive director Hudson Taylor said. “If we can have LGBTQ athletes competing and excelling at every level of sport, then I think that’s a first step in people realizing that discrimination has no place in any part of society”.
Before the game, Taylor was due to moderate a panel on LGBTQ inclusion through sport, speaking with former MLS goalkeeper Matt Pacifici on his personal experiences of being a gay man in sport.
Soccer is one of the most popular sports in the world, with last year’s World Cup drawing in 3.5 billion viewers. To Taylor, soccer’s universality means it can be used as a force for great change. “When were looking at a sporting event having such a massive following and fan base, that to me is one of the most powerful platforms to communicate principles of respect and inclusion across the world," he said.
In New York, soccer has found a place in supporting the LGBTQ+ community. A number of LGBTQ amateur teams exist, like Ladies Village Soccer. Autumn Taylor, a member of Ladies Village Soccer, called her team a “kind of space where we can exist as ourselves” in an interview with NYCFC.
NYCFC players like NYCFC goalkeeper Brad Stuver have also found ways to get involved, with players partnering with LGBTQ organizations and speaking to local youth on inclusion.
“As a professional athlete and on a team like NYCFC we have a large market and our message can go a long way,” said Stuver, who was starting in Thursday's match.
As an ambassador for Athlete Ally, Stuver said he wanted to use his visibility as a professional athlete to send a message. “It’s really important for us to stand up and speak out with organizations or things that we believe in."