Seattle Sounders FC today announced, in conjunction with its fellow Seattle professional sports teams, public support for the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) and its newly released gender-inclusive toolkit for leaders who interact with youth athletes across the state. The teams are also partnering with Intentionalist in a month-long program to drive support for local LGBTQ+-owned small businesses.
Designed by experts at WIAA and Gender Diversity, a national nonprofit dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of the wide range of gender diversity, the free digital toolkit is available for all youth coaches, K-12 teachers and administrators and parents in Washington State. As the presence of gender diverse students increases on athletic teams, in classes and other activities, continued efforts toward inclusive practices and education are vital in the creation of an equitable playing field. The toolkit has been produced to address the national dialogue around transgender and nonbinary students, teaching best practices and providing resources to assist in the development of supportive and non-discriminatory environments for young people.
All of Seattle’s major league professional sports teams – OL Reign, Seattle Kraken, Seattle Mariners, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Sounders FC and Seattle Storm – have come together to show support for the toolkit and collectively encourage fans to share it with youth sports teams, leagues, coaches, parents and administrators in an effort to make Washington State the most inclusive place for youth sports participation in the country. Sounders FC and its fellow teams stand behind the toolkit’s purpose in promoting inclusivity and building confidence in coaches, administrators, parents and youth in having conversations regarding gender diversity.
The current toolkit can be accessed and downloaded at wiaa.com/dei. WIAA and Gender Diversity will continue to build on the toolkit as it is implemented and the organizations encourage feedback, which can be shared at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"By providing an inclusive toolkit, coaches and administrators can take confident, educated steps towards creating the most safe and welcoming environment for all youth who are interested in participating in any sport at any level,” said WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman. “The support and amplification of this resource from the Seattle pro sports community is essential in its impact and ensures that Washington State, as a whole, continues to be an inclusive place for all to play."
In partnership with Aidan Key, Director of Gender Diversity, WIAA was the first state activities association to enact policy regarding transgender sport and activity participation. Successful policy and practices supporting the participation of all students, regardless of how they identify, was developed in 2007 by the WIAA office and written into the handbook for the 2007-2008 school year. The WIAA assessed and improved its Gender Identity Participation philosophy and eligibility rules in 2019 and continues to stand as one of 16 state athletic associations with fully inclusive policies that help facilitate the full participation of trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming students in high school athletics.
“Sports have an immense influence in society, bringing us together in ways few other things can. With that responsibility in mind, we must recognize the unique and potent platform that we have as a professional sports organization,” said Sounders FC Owner and President of Business Operations Peter Tomozawa. “The Sounders strive to operate using our Social Justice Framework, which includes as two of its key tenets standing for LGBTQ+ equality and defending the right to play. We’re proud to endorse WIAA’s new gender-inclusive toolkit, which does both of those things, starting at youth levels where creating welcoming environments and modeling inclusivity is crucial. We are excited to share this toolkit with our partners and it’s an honor to stand with our peers across the Seattle sports spectrum as we come together with one voice to support this important work that will ultimately create a more inclusive community.”
Additional quotes from other area professional teams can be found below.
As part of supporting the toolkit, the teams have created a public service announcement that is being shared on club platforms and used statewide by WIAA. The PSA can be downloaded for media use here and features the following representatives: Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC midfielder), Quinn (OL Reign midfielder), Dave Hunter (Seattle Kraken Pro Scout), Mitch Haniger (Seattle Mariners right fielder), Scott Servais (Seattle Mariners Manager), Karen Wilkins-Mickey (Seattle Seahawks, VP of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion), Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm guard), Sue Bird (Seattle Storm guard) and Mick Hoffman (WIAA Executive Director).
SPEND WITH PRIDE: SUPPORTING LOCAL LGBTQ+-OWNED BUSINESSES
In additional support of LGBTQ+ causes, Seattle’s professional sports teams – in collaboration with Intentionalist – are also partnering through the month of June to collectively promote and encourage the community to visit and buy from local LGBTQ+-owned small businesses throughout the region in a program called “Spend with Pride.”
"LGBTQ-owned businesses have long provided an important space where the community can feel safe, seen, and connected,” said Laura Clise, Founder and CEO of Intentionalist. “We are excited to partner with Seattle Sounders FC, Seattle Storm, Seattle Seahawks, OL Reign, Seattle Mariners, and Seattle Kraken to encourage the community to ‘Spend with Pride’ and support LGBTQ-owned businesses during Pride Month and throughout the year.”
Fans of all teams are encouraged to visit Intentionalist.com/Spend-With-Pride to access a list of local businesses taking part in the promotion. Throughout the month, fans can upload receipts from these businesses for chances to win jerseys or team prize packs from each team. Each time a receipt is uploaded, fans can select which team prize pack they would like to enter to win.
Teams are encouraging this activity all month long, with the ultimate goal of reaching $25,000 in spending at these local LGBTQ+-owned businesses. If the goal is reached, all six teams will then make a collective donation to support local nonprofit Gender Diversity.
ADDITIONAL PRIDE MONTH ACTIVITIES
As fans return to stadiums and arenas, this June also sees the return of Pride-themed matches and games for in-season Seattle sports teams. The Storm kick things off with their Pride game on June 22 facing the Washington Mystics. Sounders FC and OL Reign are both celebrating Pride matches on June 26, as the men’s and women’s soccer teams take on the Vancouver Whitecaps and Chicago Red Stars, respectively. The Mariners are planning to host a pride match in August.
Each night from June 21 through June 27, both Lumen Field and T-Mobile Park will also light their distinctive rooftop arches in rainbow colors to celebrate Pride.
Sounders FC has further activities planned, starting on Monday, June 7. The club is inviting local gender diverse youth to participate in a day of poetry and soccer. Youth have the chance to take part in a poetry workshop led by decorated spoken word poet Ebo Barton, as well as a soccer clinic led by former Sounder and current Brand Ambassador Brad Evans. The event is by invitation only; media interested in coverage should contact Sounders FC Communications.
On Thursday, June 24, ahead of the club’s Pride Match on June 26, Sounders FC and Pride Match partner Starbucks are raising a giant Progress Pride flag over Lumen Field. This variation of the classic Pride flag was created by graphic designer Daniel Quasar in 2018. 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.
The Progress Pride flag will fly atop Lumen Field through Sunday, June 27. The flag raising event is scheduled to feature Sounders FC representative Brad Evans, local queer poet Ebo Barton, local transgender youth and soccer player Bobby Jones and Starbucks representative Ariel Molina, barista at Starbucks’ Seattle Children’s Hospital location. A separate media advisory will be issued closer to the event date; media interested in covering the event should contact Sounders FC Communications.
ADDITIONAL QUOTES FROM TEAM REPRESENTATIVES
OL Reign: "We are appreciative of the chance to join with professional teams in the Pacific Northwest to celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ community, including LGBTQ+-led businesses," said OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore. "While much progress has been made, Pride Month reminds us that there is still hard work to be done, including the fight against attacks on the rights of trans youth. We are proud to support the WIAA in their efforts to make Washington State a more equitable and inclusive community."
Seattle Kraken: "At the Seattle Kraken, diversity, equity and inclusion are core tenets of our foundation and we believe sports should be a place where all are welcome to join us," said Tod Leiweke, CEO of the Seattle Kraken. “We take immense pride in supporting our LGBTQ+ community and fully support the WIAA in their efforts to make Washington the most inclusive place for youth sports. We're excited to join forces with our friends across Seattle's professional sports to continue this important work and have a real positive impact on our communities."
Seattle Mariners: “The Seattle Mariners are deeply committed to increasing youth participation in physical activity by removing barriers and building a culture of inclusion. We believe in equal opportunity for trans and nonbinary students to participate and excel in sports. We applaud WIAA for providing resources and education to help make Washington more equitable for all,” said John Stanton, Seattle Mariners Chairman and Managing Partner.
Seattle Seahawks: “We believe in respect, inclusivity and equity for all,” said Chuck Arnold, President, Seattle Seahawks and First & Goal Inc. “As leaders and role models for youth in our community, we are proud to come together with our local professional sports teams to support Pride month and stand beside the WIAA in their mission to make Washington State athletics a place where all youth feel like they are welcome.”
Seattle Storm: “The Storm is proud to join forces with the collective Seattle professional sports community to promote gender-inclusivity in youth sports and to amplify local LGBTQ+ businesses," said Alisha Valavanis, President and CEO of the Seattle Storm. "The Storm has a long history of advocacy work focused on Pride, and efforts to support diversity and inclusion, not only in sports, but in our community as a whole. We are eager to share WIAA’s gender diverse tool-kit and believe it is a critical piece in building a welcoming, safe and inclusive space in sports across Washington State.”