Few sporting events command the attention of the nation more so than the Super Bowl, pulling millions from every walk of life toward the annual spectacle’s glow. The game’s social quality is actually one of its most beautiful aspects to watch develop.
Yes, the Super Bowl as a concept has long been accepted into the cultural lexicon, but that acceptance allows people of varying levels of interest in football to buy into the stakes and drama.The LGBTQ community is no exception. And Super Bowl LIV shines the spotlight on the community so much brighter than any other edition.
While every NFL team surely has LGBTQ people within its fan base, no team has done more to cultivate LGBTQ fans this season than the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers. The team became the first to organize a team-endorsed LGBTQ fan club, 49ers Pride, in May 2019. The initiative organized watch parties for LGBTQ fans and allies that accompanied the 49ers’ dominance on a weekly basis. And everything culminated on Sunday when 49ers assistant coach Katie Sowers became the first out gay person and first woman to coach in a Super Bowl. That’s a lot of visibility and representation in less than a year.
With the rainbow infiltration at its highest level to date, it’s easy to predict LGBTQ engagement would hit similar highs when the 49ers and Chiefs took the field. But the Super Bowl has done this for years without record representation.
I watched the Rams and Patriots bore it up in a room of fully engaged LGBTQ people. I’ve had my most heated arguments over 49ers-Packers playoff games and cheap beer with my closest queer friends at a dingy college bar. I stood in awe as my non-binary roommate, who hardly ever cared about any sport, gathered nearly 30 LGBTQ fans and allies in our living room (I’m a terrible party planner) based solely on the excitement of cheering on the hometown Falcons. And we all comforted each other when that 28-3 bliss came crashing down in true Atlanta fashion.
Those are just some of my stories, and we all have our own collection of memories surrounding this game no matter our life’s path.
The 2019-20 season might be the one where an NFL team officially recognized us as a community worth investment, but we’ve been here long before Sunday’s historic game. Whether riding the season-long roller coaster or choosing a rooting interest based on uniform color schemes the day of, we’ve always been here.
Because the Super Bowl, like most things in this world, is for everyone.