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Soccer league’s first-ever Pride Game shows the power of athletes coming out

The A-League will have its first-ever Pride Game just months after player Josh Cavallo came out as gay.

Josh Cavallo came out publicly last autumn. Now his club, Adelaide United, is hosting the league’s first Pride Game. That isn’t a coincidence.
Adelaide United

The A-League — the top level of professional soccer in Australia — will have its first-ever Pride Games this Saturday, when the Adelaide United women host Melbourne Victory and the men host Central Coast Mariners.

The event is part of the league and the club’s continued inclusion messaging after the coming-out of Adelaide United player Josh Cavallo, who was the league’s first active male athlete to come out publicly late last year. Without Cavallo’s coming-out, this event wouldn’t be happening on Saturday.

“It’s phenomenal, it’s something that I could only dream of happening,” Cavallo said earlier this week. “And to know that my football club – Adelaide United – are doing an event that’s a Pride Game, it really touched my heart and it means a lot to me and all the LGBTI+ community around the world.”

It’s great to see the club making this effort. Pride Games are a way for sports to publicly demonstrate an embrace of the LGBTQ community, be they players or fans. Pride Games have been popping up around the world, though nowhere are they more prevalent than in North American professional sports where they have been taking place for over two decades.

While the A-League is just now having its first Pride Game, Major League Soccer has been hosting them for years. By 2018, three-quarters of MLS teams had held a Pride Game,

A year earlier, both of the US National Teams wore Pride kits during matches.

The USMNT and USWNT both wore Pride kits during matches as early as 2017. They have continued the tradition other years since.
US Soccer

Virtually every team in Major League Baseball, the NHL, NWSL, WNBA and NBA have also held a Pride Game, some of them for one or two decades. Pride Games in North America are so common some people have even wondered if they have an impact anymore.

Hell, virtually every professional sports league in the United States marched in the York Pride March in New York City in 2018 and again the following year for World Pride. World Pride is in Sydney next February (HINT! HINT!).

Part of the emergence of Pride Games in the U.S. and Canada is surely the presence of out players. When Robbie Rogers took the pitch for the LA Galaxy in 2013 — nearly a decade ago — he left no doubt that there were gay men playing in MLS. Five years later Colin Martin came out during a Minnesota United Pride Game, reinforcing the fact.

Other former athletes — Matt Hatzke, David Testo, Matt Pacifici — have set North America apart with the number of pro male soccer players to have played and come out.

Jason Collins’ coming-out was a wake-up call to the NBA in 2013; He has worked very closely with the league and many teams ever since. Other North American events, like the formation of the You Can Play project, have also pushed U.S. and Canadian sports ahead; Outsports has organized Pride Games in baseball, basketball and soccer.

Similarly, Cavallo is having a positive effect in Australia. He was the first active A-League player to come out publicly, doing so just a few months ago. The sharing of his story has had a similar response in Australia, with the league, clubs and other entities realizing they can — and should — do more to demonstrate inclusion in their sport.

Make no mistake: Without Cavallo’s courage and willingness to come out as gay, this Pride Game wouldn’t happen this Saturday.

As we at Outsports have said for years, there is no more powerful way to demonstrate the inclusive nature of sports than LGBTQ people coming out. When we come out, sports respond in positive ways.

Now it’s up to the other clubs in the A-League to make sure there are Pride Games throughout the league next season.

Josh Cavallo shows off his Pride Game kit.
Adelaide United