Minnesota United FC is Acting with couRage to Create Change

In July, I and ARCC Board Members Tommy Feng and Erika Thiem had the privilege of attending a Minnesota United FC soccer match at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota. I did not really have any specific exceptions except to spend time with some friends but also to experience what I had seen at other major sports games, lots of testosterone drinking lots of beer, some but limited numbers of historically underrepresented minority groups, and almost no or at least very few “out” members of the LBGTQ+ community.

However, I was pleasantly SURPRISED by what I experienced in Allianz Field at the Minnesota United FC game. The first thing I noticed even coming into the stadium was lots of members of historically underrepresented minority groups with Latin-X and African American leading the way.  But the biggest and most pleasant surprise was to see so many “out” members of the LGBTQ+ community proudly representing and loudly cheering on the Minnesota United FC.  I had never experienced anything like that in the mid-west or anywhere else in the US, or certainly since I left Key West, Florida which had one of the highest LGBTQ+ populations indices, in the world.  And what was really cool is that it seemed that the culture in the stadium was super welcoming to this highly diverse but more true representation of the community in which the team plays and was promoting their attendance to become part of their fan base and stadium culture. It made me feel euphoric and proud to see a professional sports team so aggressively embracing creating a true environment of belonging – belonging AS YOU ARE, not belonging by fitting in.  This is a lesson that other professional sports teams must take seriously in the USA, and even more pointedly, by the soccer leagues and clubs in Europe, especially La Liga the famous soccer top league in Spain (for more on this read the ARCC Blog “No Red Card Against Racism in Football” which you can quickly access in our ARCC Blog tab or with this link: https://www.joinarcc.org/arcc-blog/blog-post-title-one-m3253-6skt7-52nct-g5d9m-5zpnw-cl52r-x8df7-fdlec-azhmr-jt7bm-fjknp-xmpdz-6b3ge)

I was so intrigued that I did some research after the game and found that this  welcoming environment and culture that the Minnesota United FC has created at Allianz Field is not by accident.  It was a very purposeful, values-based and action oriented approach initiated by the ownership that acquired the team in the early 2010’s.

In the JUNE 28, 2018 Star Tribune article, “Minnesota United extends efforts in supporting diversity – United often at forefront in support of diversity.”  Megan Ryan writes that “Minnesota United has been dedicated to publicly including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community since the current ownership group took charge. And that in 2014 “The United became the first pro sports team to sign the pledge (Athlete Ally Pledge), as a group, a partnership orchestrated by Nick Rogers, the former team president.” Athlete Ally is an organization that works to end homophobia and transphobia in sports through education, policy and activism.  Here is a link to the full article: https://www.startribune.com/minnesota-united-extends-efforts-in-supporting-diversity/486897221/

In the June 29,2018 MLSSoccer.com article “Minnesota United stand with teammate Collin Martin on his “special day’””, William Stenross writes “And it wasn’t just players who had Martin’s back. The whole Minnesota United FC organization has very supportive of LGBTQ rights.” He goes on to write that “When team owner Dr. Bill McGuire, a man rarely at a loss for words, was asked what the team has done to make it a supportive place for a player to come out, he had to pause before he answered: “I don’t think we’ve done anything special other than be who we are.” He added: “I think organizationally we have always been about tolerance and promoting and supporting all the things that we talk about that make soccer great.”  Here is a link to the full article: Minnesota United stand with teammate Collin Martin on his …MLSsoccer.comhttps://www.mlssoccer.com › news › minnesota-united…

And in the April 20, 2023 Lavendermagazine.com article “No Hands Fans”: Minnesota United Football Club Is Followed by Dark Clouds…And Likes It”, Terrance Griep writes “Over the course of their nearly two decades of collective existence, the Dark Clouds have become more than just a rabid gaggle of Loons-loony fans—they’ve made themselves into a kind of team of their own, sporting such grown-up features as bylaws, awards, newsletters, and a board of directors.  This infrastructure is most meaningful when it makes real the Dark Cloud’s charity work, brought to benevolent life under the banner of the Silver Lining.  Benefiting local charities include the Sanneh Foundation, Second Harvest Heartland, and Free Bikes 4 Kids, among many, many others. Just as dark clouds contribute to rainbows, the Dark Clouds contribute to human rights.  “June is Pride Month,” the community builders note on their website, “when we take the opportunity to celebrate and support LGBTQ communities in Minnesota and beyond.”” Here is a link to the full article:: https://lavendermagazine.com/our-scene/no-hands-fans-minnesota-united-football-club-is-followed-by-dark-clouds-and-likes-it/

It is clear that Minnesota United FC Ownership, Coaches, Players and most loyal Fan base (The Dark Clouds), all commit and contribute to creating a culture of real and true belonging – AS YOU ARE not how you fit in.  They are living “All are welcome,”  the owners, the team and their fans. It isn’t just lip service.

Certainly, from my experience seeing all the underrepresented minority groups, and the incredible representation and presence of members of the LBGTQ+ community in attendance, seeing members of the Dark Clouds waving a huge rainbow Flag in the stands behind one of the goals the entire game, and feeling a true and real sense of everyone belonging that I have never seen or felt before at a professional or even college sporting event, I have to say that the Minnesota United FC is Standing Up, Speaking Out and Acting with couRage to Create Change and spread Anti-Hate.

Photo credit: Copyright © 2023 Donzel A Leggett. All Rights Reserved.