The U.S. Tennis Association is rolling out the rainbow carpet for LGBTQ fans and athletes at the prestigious U.S. Open in two weeks, holding its first Open Pride.
The event, held on Aug. 22 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, N.Y., is part of the event’s Fan Week, the week ahead of the elimination-tournament part of the U.S. Open. As part of U.S. Open Fan Week, the day-long event is free to everyone who wants to attend.
“We wanted to take a day to put a stake in the ground and say we’re specifically welcoming the LGBTQ community to the U.S. Open, and we see it as a place to grow from,” said U.S. Open Entertainment GM Michael Fiur.
The day will consist of a few LGBTQ touch-points, namely:
- Out DJs Coco & Breezy highlight Happy Hour on the Fan Week Center Stage, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
- Open Pride PopSocket giveaways.
- Legends Match (starts at 4:30 p.m.) between two supporters of the LGBTQ community: Andy Roddick and James Blake. We’re told Jason Collins may make a cameo!
- Open Pride T-shirts will be on sale throughout the entire three weeks of the Open.
- A panel discussion (starts at 6:30 p.m.) featuring some key names across the LGBTQ sports landscape including: Billie Jean King, Jason Collins, Brian Vahaly, Adam Rippon and Billy Bean. The discussion will be moderated by tennis writer and commentator Nick McCarvel.
“We’re aggressively trying to get the message out there that all are welcome,” said Fiur. “We want to welcome people who may have felt no previous connection to sport, and of course we want to reach people who are tennis fans and a part of LGBTQ tennis leagues.”
The panel discussion is also free but does require an RSVP, as space for the discussion is limited.
Certain to be part of the conversation is the fact that despite a slew of professional female tennis players who have come out in their careers, the number who have done it on the men’s side is painfully stark: Zero. In fact, Outsports knows of only three former male pros who have come out publicly after their careers: Vahaly, Bobby Blair and Francisco Rodriguez.
Compare that to the women, who have seen some of the biggest names in the sport come out publicly while they were still playing: King, Renee Richards, Martina Navratilova and Amelie Mauresmo. Currently there are several out women on the tour.
If you’re in the New York City area on Aug. 22, head over to Flushing Meadows for a nice, inclusive evening at the Open.