The new stadium for Orlando City SC includes a permanent section of seats dedicated to the memory of the mass murder of 49 people at the gay bar Pulse in Orlando earlier this year.
Team president Philip Rawlins tweeted out the image of the rainbow-colored seats a couple months ago with this message:
.@OrlandoCitySC @ORLPride so happy to see our @pulseorlando tribute seats being installed #DefyExpectations
“Defy expectations” is certainly an interesting choice of words. We expect very little support of the LGBT community from the sports world. While some like the Tampa Bay Rays did an admirable job acknowledging the Pulse massacre, others like the NFL and its Florida-based teams did almost nothing. Orlando City SC has been vocal about support for the victims of the shooting, yet the team has rarely mentioned that the targeted victims were part of the “LGBT” community. Even Rawlins’ statement doesn’t mention the community. This has been par for the course for the sports world.
Still, Rawlins’ inclusion of these seats, stamped with #OrlandoUnited, is ultimately touching and wonderful to see.
“We put them in Section 12, obviously because we felt that was pertinent — it was June 12 last year when the tragedy happened,” Rawlins said at the official unveiling of the seats. “So they’re right here in Section 12, they’re right down by the benches. They’ll certainly be seen by everybody inside the stadium, and a very significant reminder of that day.”
This is just about the most powerful statement the club could have made. That a professional soccer team in Major League Soccer would install such a permanent display of support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and the victims of the Pulse shooting is remarkable. For most it certainly does defy expectations.
It will be interesting to check in, when the stadium is open, to see if they are snatched up by season ticket holders, and see who got those seats.