OKC Energy FC's Main Street Greens are among the numerous Championship and League One supporters groups raising money for LGBTQ+ causes this month through Prideraiser. | Photo courtesy Steven Christy / OKC Energy FC
It was a simple idea, really, a little bit like your fantasy football team.
Only instead of points, for every positive action the players you’d backed made in a game, you made donations to the LGBTQ+ charity or organization of their choosing.
Launched in 2017 by former North Carolina FC player Austin da Luz – who now serves as a color commentator on the club’s games in USL League One – Playing for Pride has grown into a popular annual event that has seen players from not only the USL Championship and League One but from other leagues and even now other sports raise money throughout Pride Month from their on-field performance.
As of June 4, there were 16 current Championship players that were part of this year’s event, with the likes of San Diego Loyal SC’s Collin Martin, Orange County SC’s Brent Richards, the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ Zach Steinberger and Birmingham Legion FC’s Mikey Lopez among those to sign up to raise money for Athlete Ally.
This year the group has set a goal of raising $25,000 through donations and matching player performances on the field, and Playing For Pride 2021 has already surpassed the $10,000 mark just 10 days into the month. That number is significant, because this year Athlete Ally pledged 50 percent of proceeds to the Black Women’s Player Collective up to a $5,000 donation, a target that has already been reached.
I'm @playingforpride in support of @AthleteAlly and @BWP_Collective. As a global athletic community, we have the power to speak out for racial justice and LGBTQI+ inclusion.I'll be donating per goal, assist, and appearance. If you’d like to join me, visit https://t.co/Cbsqzz2zZV. pic.twitter.com/cVgpnI6VYz— A. Wheeler-Omiunu (@Andrew_W_O) June 9, 2021
I’ll be @playingforpride again this year with the proceeds going to @AthleteAlly and @BWP_Collective ! For each win I’ll donate $25 and for every appearance $10. Follow along for updates and for ways to get involved and support these amazing organizations. https://t.co/awq2f2lZVI— Collin Martin (@martcw12) June 2, 2021
First @orangecountysc game day in June means that @playingforpride is officially back! The last several years, soccer players across the US and globally have been raising money for @AthleteAlly, an organization that educates and fights for LGBTQI+ equality in sports and in life.— Brent Richards (@BRichards16) June 5, 2021
The idea of using on-field performance as a means to fundraise has now spread beyond Pride Month as well. This season, Tampa Bay Rowdies defender Forrest Lasso – a two-time Championship Defender of the Year in his career – has made a season-long pledge that is raising money for charities both in the Tampa Bay area and at past stops in his career on a weekly basis.
The spirit of Playing for Pride can also be found in supporters’ groups in the Championship and USL League One, where 18 different groups are raising money based on the goals their sides score during June. Groups like the Tower Bridge Battalion at Sacramento Republic FC will currently collectively donate $262 per goal, while Union 602 and Los Bandidos at Phoenix Rising FC are at $279 per goal and The Curse at New Mexico United are at $422 per goal.
Other groups such as the Magic City Brigade have expanded their scope, donating per goals, assists and shutouts, while groups such as The Flock (Forward Madison FC / $288 per goal), Omaha Parliament (Union Omaha / $348 per goal) and the Reedy River Riot (Greenville Triumph SC / $103 per goal) are also putting in work at the League One level.
TBB is proud to start our @Prideraiser campaign benefitting @GenderHealthSac that serves the needs of Sacramento Queer/Trans People of Color (QTPOC). We’ll be donating $100 for every goal our team scores in June. Want to get in on the fundraising action? https://t.co/S9GmBNktDn— TowerBridgeBattalion (@Sac_Battalion) June 2, 2021
If you’d like to back a player or join a supporters group’s fundraiser for this month, check out the lists below to find out where you can pledge or donate.