U.S. Pride Jerseys

The U.S. men’s and women’s national teams will use rainbow numbers on their jerseys in June for Pride month. Rainbow number jerseys are also available for fans to buy, with a portion of the proceeds going to the You Can Play project.

I was so excited to see that announcement. As a queer fan, soccer stadiums don’t always feel welcoming to me. What a great gesture by U.S. Soccer to show that maybe people like me are welcome after all.

And then I read the comments.

So many nasty comments. I don’t know why it surprised me; I guess I felt (or wanted to feel) that the people involved in the sport I love so much were better than that.

They’re not.

I just don’t understand how small your life has to be to villify rainbow numerals on soccer jerseys. A small gesture of support and acceptance aimed at a vulnerable minority. What fault is there to find in that?

I also can’t help but find it funny – painful, but funny – that the same people who applauded U.S. Soccer for forcing players to stand for the national anthem (a policy aimed at openly gay Megan Rapinoe) are now demanding to know how USSF can force players to use rainbow numbers.

The numbers are only being used in friendlies for a very limited span of time – one men’s game and two women’s. Any players wishing to opt out will surely have that option. No one will force them to play. But jerseys change constantly. Numbers change constantly. In MLS this season the Red Bulls have already used blue numbers for autism awareness and tonight will wear camo numbers for military appreciation night.

The same people who demand USSF “stick to soccer” and want to separate soccer and politics (not understanding that sports and especially soccer have always been political – seriously, there are literal books about soccer influencing politics) are the same ones applauding military appreciation nights and camo numbers. You can’t have it both ways. If rainbow numbers are unacceptable, camo ones should be unacceptable as well.

The rainbow numbers are such a small symbolic act – not even an act, really; it requires no action by the players. A small, neglible gesture, a bit of decoration that nevertheless feels weighty to those who are acknowledged by it.

A tiny thing that made me feel so good. A tiny thing that can help so many queer fans – and players – feel noticed and appreciated.

How can anyone hate that gesture?

It really pains me to see how many people hate the idea of queer athletes, of queer fans, of me existing in their stadiums.

I want them to be my stadiums too.

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