Chicago Free Press editor Bill Gubrud started a trend when he purchased 2,000 tickets for a Cubs game back in 2001 and distributed them to gay baseball fans. Dubbed the “nation’s first gay day at the ballpark,” Out at Wrigley is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and is one of 18 publicly announced Pride Nights on the MLB calendar this summer.
Over the last two decades, we’ve witnessed a dramatic shift towards LGBTQ inclusion on the pro sports level. Today, every league promotes the rainbow, and we’re not just talking about changing social media avatars, though that’s a nice touch. During Pride Month, they’re all embracing various initiatives to support the LGBTQ community, including its most marginalized members.
It is remarkable to see. These days, it’s notable when a pro sports team doesn’t partake in Pride, such as the Texas Rangers, the only MLB club who hasn’t scheduled or hosted a Pride Night since 2003.
To illustrate the magnitude of LGBTQ support across sports, we’ve compiled a roundup of how each league is celebrating Pride. If we’ve missed anything, please give us a shout. We expect to see this list grow throughout June!
The NFL may be in the middle of its late-spring slumber, but the most popular sports league in America kicked off Pride Month with a fierce entrance that would’ve made RuPaul blush. On June 1, the NFL shield turned to rainbow colors across social media, prompting some homophobic fans to lash out with threats of boycotts.
As gay former offensive lineman Ryan O’Callaghan recently told Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler, every small signal of support is important. “I’m glad the NFL does it,” he said. “Small gestures like that add up.”
The NFL also has an LGBTQ resource section on its website, set up this year to commemorate National Coming Out Day. The league produced a video for the occasion, staring All-Pros Rob Gronkowski and DeAndre Hopkins, along with out former players.
Independently, the 49ers are hosting a month-long celebration with Pride-specific programming, including an activism in sports panel, featuring former transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox. The Niners organization is making a commendable effort to ensure its Pride offerings appeal to more than cisgender people. They are believed to be the only team in the NFL offering gender-neutral apparel options.
In that spirit, the Seahawks are teaming up with other Seattle sports franchises — the Mariners, Storm, Kraken, Sounders FC and OL Reign — to support gender inclusive youth sports. They will promote a gender-inclusive toolkit for all youth coaches, parents and administrates in Washington State. O’Callaghan spoke with the Seahawks as well.
Down in Miami, the Dolphins are partnering with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County to support LGBTQ youth in the area, and also lit up Hard Rock Stadium in Pride lights. Given Gov. Ron DeSantis’ grotesque gesture of signing a transgender athlete ban on the first day of Pride, the Dolphins’ efforts are especially important.
As mentioned previously, 18 teams are holding Pride celebrations this year, with seven slated for this week — including the first Glenn Burke Day in Oakland. On Saturday, the Giants made history when they took the field wearing rainbow colors on their caps for their game against the Cubs.
Outsports’ Ken Schultz wrote up an excellent summation of all the fabulous festivities. (It’s also worth noting that with large-scale Pride events canceled for the second straight year, MLB Pride Nights are some of the only big in-person celebrations being held.)
For the fifth straight year, the NBA is selling its special Pride Month T-shirt line with every team’s logo dressed in rainbow colors. We believed they’re the first league in men’s professional sports to start the practice. The effort is in collaboration with GLSEN.
Notably, the Phoenix Suns hosted the first in-person Pride night at any pro sports venue in the U.S. since the Covid-19 pandemic back in April.
Three years ago, every club in the NHL hosted some form of “Inclusion Night” or “Pride Night.” Since partnering with You Can Play in 2013, the league has made LGBTQ outreach a centerpiece of its community efforts, and this Pride is no different.
The NHL is promoting a wide swath of initiatives on its Pride vertical, such as links to LGBTQ hockey organizations nationwide and resource pages on proper language and vocabulary for coaches and allies alike. And yes, there is plenty of Pride merchandise.
Last Friday, the Bruins hosted Boston’s LGBTQ hockey team on the ice for a special Pride skate, along with Boston’s NWHL squad, the (appropriately named) Pride. Over in the Pacific Northwest, the Kraken are promoting the inaugural tournament for Seattle’s LGBTQ hockey league, scheduled for later this month.
Of course, no Pride Month roundup would be complete without the WNBA, the first league in the country to establish a Pride platform seven years ago.
The WNBA is pushing 10 nationally televised games dedicated to Pride throughout June, many of which feature prominent openly LGBTQ stars. The first matchup pitted Brittney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury against two-time All-Star Courtney Vandersloot and the Chicago Sky.
In addition to the games, the league is also conducting ally education sessions on trans inclusion (veteran Layshia Clarendon publicly came out last December as trans and non-binary). The WNBA’s social channels are promoting every teams’ efforts with the #WNBAPride hashtag, and yes, of course there is swag!
All month long, all 27 MLS clubs will highlight stories from the LGBTQ community and support Athlete Ally’s Playing for Pride campaign. You can read about the league’s full efforts here.
There are four scheduled Pride-themed Nights: Austin FC (June 27); Houston Dynamo FC (June 23); Nashville SC (June 26); Seattle Sounders (June 26).
The NWSL is celebrating Pride with its own rainbow apparel selection as well. Last year, Meg Linehan of The Athletic published an excellent piece detailing the importance of the league’s evolving embrace of LGBTQ Pride.
Though the NWHL is in its offseason, the fledging women’s hockey league is going all-in for Pride. They have all sorts of cool merchandise available, with proceeds going to various LGBTQ charities and organizations. The Metropolitan Riveters, for example, are donating all proceeds to the Trevor Project and Trans Lifeline.
As mentioned above, we know this is not a comprehensive list. Please, tell us about initiatives via social media (@outsports) or email ([email protected]).