SEATTLE — In the warmth and glow of the summer sun, a group of individuals from the local LGBTQIA community and the Seattle Sounders gathered to raise a giant Progress Pride flag at Lumen Field on Thursday. The flag will fly throughout the weekend as the city celebrates Pride and the Sounders welcome the Vancouver Whitecaps for their Pride match on Saturday.
Among those present for the flag-raising were Brad Evans, Sounders legend and club representative, as well as poet and educator Ebo Barton, a representative from Starbucks named Ariel Molina who works as a barista at the company’s Seattle Children's Hospital location, and a local transgender soccer player named Bobby Jones — who last year won the right to play for his club’s boys team. Much of the discussion at the event focused on the ideas of inclusion and education, a desire to see the LGBTQIA community welcomed and embraced as a part of the Sounders and Seattle community at large.
Those ideas echoed the meaning of the specific version of the Pride flag flying overhead: “The Progress Pride flag adds a chevron to the classic Pride flag design, with colors representing marginalized communities of color and trans pride, placing emphasis on inclusion and progression.”
Ebo Barton described their feelings seeing the Progress Pride flag flying over the stadium, saying, “I think it’s really symbolic of where we are as a city, and I also just feel really great to be part of it today.”
They continued by expressing the impact of having a community like the Sounders as a safe and joyful environment for LGBTQIA people. “The Sounders, I feel like you have a really big following because of the community support, right? We are places where we feel safer, where there’s celebration. So it makes sense that the Sounders would be part of something like that.”
Pride month, and the events of this week, have been the latest example of the Sounders working to celebrate and embrace the often marginalized communities that make Seattle the city that so many of us love. While the club has made increased efforts over the last year and a half, this isn’t new territory for them. The Sounders have hosted a Pride match every year (excluding the anomaly of 2020 which saw so much of the season played without fans, meaning the team didn’t hold any themed games) since 2015.
“For me, the Sounders have been a leader in that respect,” Evans said. “No. 1 it’s about education, but yes, it’s about inclusivity. And when our community is happy, yes, winning games is important, but having people be happy is No. 1. For them, everyone in the stadium to be included is a pillar of this club.”
In recent weeks the professional sports world has seen some positive changes to the landscape where LGBTQIA representation and acceptance is concerned. In the NFL Carl Nassib, who plays for the Las Vegas Raiders, came out as gay and became the first active NFL player to come out publicly. In his statement, he discussed the impact that having even one accepting adult in their life can have on the lives of LGBTQIA youth. In the NWSL, Washington Spirit and Japan national team player Kumi Yokoyama became the second player in the league to come out as being trans, joining OL Reign’s Quinn. They talked about how important the awareness that could be raised by their coming out was for those faced with a similar decision in the future. That representation throughout the sports world can only have a positive impact going forward.
“It fills me with joy to see the flag going up,” Evans said, “because it represents a community that isn’t represented how they should be.”