FC Cincinnati stars Dekel Keinan, Matt Bahner, Jimmy McLaughlin, and Spencer Richey have joined countless others as part of the Playing for Pride movement.
Playing for Pride is a unique way in the soccer world to advocate for equality and rights for the LGBTQ community. The movement was started by Austin de Luz of North Carolina FC. Along with players across all divisions – MLS, USL, NWSL, PDL, NPSL, and international players – supporters are also encouraged to donate.
Players can pledge to donate based on games played, goals, assists, saves, and shutouts. Supporters are encouraged to match donations and they can also make direct donations to Playing for Pride.
Dekel Keinan was proud to wear a rainbow Captain armband during his time in the match. In a press release from FC Cincinnati yesterday, Keinan, Bahner, and Richey commented on what Equality Night means to them as professional athletes.
“I think we are the professionals, we have the power to talk about it and influence kids. We have the power – and not just this, but racism, about violence, about everything – and we have to use our power and I’m glad to do it,” Keinan said.
“I think as a soccer player, even back home in Israel, we have the power to affect – to influence – some young kids,” he said. “If we can raise our voice and speak about it openly, it’s enough if we help one kid.”
Defender Matt Bahner is participating in Playing for Pride for his second season with a much more personal cause.
“It’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart and my family,” he said. “I have a couple of family members, and specifically my older brother, who are members of the LGBTQ community.
“Just yesterday, there was a kid who came out and we got a message from Playing for Pride that he specifically said Playing for Pride and Athlete Ally were some of the reasons to help get over the line and be comfortable to do that,” Bahner said.
“That’s why we’re doing this: to open the conversation and allow people to be comfortable in their own bodies and allow people to be the people they feel they need to be,” he added.
Goalkeeper Spencer Richey provided his own viewpoint after growing up in one of the most progressive locations in the country.
“Growing up in Seattle is a big part of why I’m involved,” he said. “It’s a very gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual-friendly city. It’s something that rubs off on you at an early age that maybe other cities in the country maybe aren’t as far along with that support.”
This movement also causes a ton of support from the Supporter Groups. This year, The Pride, designed scarves specifically for June, to celebrate Pride. The scarves designed are black, with “The Pride” on one side, and “Love Club, Love City, Love All!” on the other side in rainbow letters. Proceeds from the sale of these scarves were donated to Lighthouse Youth & Family Services, a nonprofit agency in Cincinnati.
This is just one example of how the world of soccer has a unique ability to bring people together.
Equality Night is about more than supporting the LGBTQ community. It’s about more than players and supporters pledging money to organizations and being an ally. It’s about letting the LGBTQ community know that they have a safe space in soccer.
It gives our LGBTQ youth a supportive community, reassuring them that they will be welcomed in, that equality exists. Equality Night is about opening our arms to everyone and letting them know that they are accepted.
On Wednesday night, the Bailey showed their support with a storm of rainbow smoke right at kickoff. The colors spread across the field, momentarily blinding half of the stadium, in a beautiful display of equality and solidarity.