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    Bay Area Pro Sports Teams Paid More Attention to the LGBT Community in 2017

    By John Chen–

    Looking back at this year in sports, I and my friends have noticed that professional sports teams, from the Oakland Athletics to the Golden State Warriors, have paid a bit more attention to our LGBT community than in years past. When they do, we love it.

    For example, Rich Sucre, President of Bay Area’s LGBT volleyball group Balls of Furry, excitedly exclaimed, “At the game, I am twice as gay!” when he and his fellow volleyballers attended the 3rd annual Oakland A’s LGBT Night. Vincent Fuqua, San Francisco Gay Softball League Commissioner, felt equally honored and grateful when the defending NBA Champion Warriors offered his league 103 tickets to their LGBT Night.

    Across the Bay, the San Francisco Giants have hosted an LGBT Night for the last 15 seasons, attracting thousands of proud local baseball fans from our community. In the South Bay, the San Jose Sharks, one of only five National Hockey League teams ever to host an LGBT Night, have openly and proudly supported LGBT youths. This past June, I attended the first ever LGBT appreciation game hosted by San Francisco’s newest professional sports team, the SF Deltas Soccer Club.

    Hanging out at Hi-Tops, the Bay Area’s one and only dedicated LGBT sports bar (and grill), I am among the hundreds and thousands of gay sports fans who gather there to catch our favorite pro and college sports teams on the big screen. Talking sports is a great ice breaker, especially if you are rooting for the same team or if you have developed a similar disdain for a particular rival city or college.

    Chatting with so many LGBT sports fans, it’s fair to conclude that gays are just as passionate about their teams as anyone. Local LGBT sports fans are extremely proud and happy that our Bay Area pro sports teams support LGBT equality and inclusion. Pro sports teams, especially championship ones, achieve great visibility and popular culture influence. Their messages are heard loud and clear, not just locally, but also across the country.

    Our Warriors, like the Lakers and Celtics teams of the past, have transcended to becoming a national brand that is followed by adoring fans everywhere. On October 25 of this year, when the Warriors became the first defending NBA Champion to host an LGBT Pride Night, they demonstrated acceptance, inclusion and equality to local fans, as well as to a national audience.

    Hundreds of my friends (OK, many, many of them are acquaintances) attended that historic evening and came away with a great sense of pride, not to mention a plethora of souvenirs.

    The A’s, Giants, Deltas and Sharks have all embraced diversity and inclusion like the Warriors have, by understanding that their fan base is as diverse as the world itself. When Sucre told me that he felt “twice as gay” at the A’s LGBT game, I understood that meant he felt a great sense of pride, happiness and gratefulness, and that he felt free to be who he is.

    Although our pro football teams, the 49ers and Raiders (soon to be Las Vegas Raiders), do not host game day LGBT events due to an extremely limited number of home games compared to the other sports, the 49ers have reached out to their LGBT fans through community relations and in other ways. I have no comment on the Raiders, since they are leaving.

    I’d like to mention, though, that the Los Angeles Rams just this year became the first—and only—pro football team to sponsor an entire Pride event: Venice Pride (in Los Angeles). The New England Patriots sponsored the 17th Gay Bowl (gay flag football national championship) hosted by Friends, Lesbians and Gays (FLAG), Boston’s gay flag football league. Come on, 49ers! If you are reading this, San Francisco Gay Flag Football would love to work with you! (Just a little shameless plug.)

    I am extremely proud and happy to be a part of the Bay Area LGBT sports community. I am also a somewhat fanatic sports aficionado watching and attending as many local pro sports teams as time and money allow. What I am most happy and proud of is that my local pro sports teams support me, include me and speak out on my behalf. Their collective voices became louder, and their messages of inclusiveness gained strength, in 2017. Much work still needs to be done, but their impressive efforts are at least headed in the right direction.

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.