Everybody looks better in rainbow, including football players. The UConn Huskies have announced they plan to host their first ever LGBTQ Pride Night when they suit up Friday to play Middle Tennessee State.
In addition, all players will be wearing helmet stickers that depict their mascot, the UConn Husky, outlined against the colors of the rainbow LGBTQ Pride flag, as well as the colors of the transgender flag and Philadelphia Pride flag. Coaches will sport Pride pins on their clothing.
To kick off the festivities, the Hartford Gay Men’s chorus will sing the national anthem, and the first 500 fans will receive free rainbow headbands. The effort coincides with the NCAA’s Inclusion Week.
“We are happy to host the first Pride Game in our history,” said UConn athletic director David Benedict. “UConn athletics aspires to promote an inclusive environment for all of UConn Nation and we plan on hosting additional Pride games in the future.”
This is a powerful gesture from the Huskies, and it’s appropriate they’ll be playing Middle Tennessee. Record-setting kicker Alan Gendreau, who played for MTSU from 2008-11, was openly gay with his teammates.
“Everyone just saw him as a football player,” team punter Josh Davis told Outsports in 2013. “He was just one of the guys. The fact that he proved himself on the field, there was a respect for him. He’s a good guy. He’s a lot of fun to be around. With all the coaches and players, he had a good relationship.”
Gendreau’s experience matches the stories of many out college football players we’ve told over the years. Two years ago, we profiled bisexual team captain Jack Storrs, whose teammates at Pomona-Pitzer in California wore Pride stickers on their helmets after he had come out.
To our knowledge, Jaden Vazquez of Fordham is the only out LGBTQ Division 1 college football player right now. But that hasn’t stopped Division 1 programs from celebrating Pride. Last month, Michigan’s marching band performed an LGBTQ-themed halftime show at the Big House, playing Kim Petras and Madonna for more than 100,000 fans.
The fans who come out for UConn’s game this week will also be immersed in LGBTQ Pride. That’s a wonderful thing.