Uniform ads are becoming a common feature of the American sports landscape. With some Major League Baseball teams adopting advertising sleeve patches this season, that leaves the NFL as the only league that doesn’t currently deck their players out in corporate logos.

As the Seattle Sounders just found out, that could lead to some major complications in their relationship with their LGBTQ fans.

Kicking off their 2023 campaign, the Sounders unveiled Catholic-based healthcare provider Providence Swedish as their new “marquee jersey partner.” Almost immediately, they caught fire from segments of their fanbase due to Providence Swedish’s checkered history providing medical treatments for Seattle’s transgender community and for patients seeking abortion services.

The hospital does offer comprehensive LGBTQ care today, though it has come after a bit of a fight. And interestingly enough, Providence Swedish has also been a jersey sponsor for the Seattle Storm for a number of years and even took part in a farewell video for Sue Bird’s retirement.

In 2017, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Swedish Health Services on behalf of Ari Robbins, a transgender man who had his top surgery cancelled by Providence Swedish only a few weeks before it was scheduled.

In their lawsuit, the ACLU asserted that Robbins’ surgery was called off “solely because he is transgender.” Furthermore, they alleged that this cancellation was part of a larger strategy: “part of a ‘pause’ [Providence Swedish] implemented to stop the treatment of transgender patients” and that when that pause was rescinded, “e-mails indicate that Swedish Plastics and Aesthetics imposed a quota, limiting the number of new transgender patients to three a month.”

As this photo of their home pitch shows, the Sounders have traditionally been very public supporters of their LGBTQ fans. Which makes their new sponsorship even more of a head scratcher.

After a 2019 settlement, the provider continued dragging its feet. So the ACLU filed another lawsuit in 2020 to compel them to comply.

Today, Swedish’s transgender-specific website is currently live and functioning, and the provider is honoring Washington’s Gender Affirming Treatment Act.

Now the Providence Swedish logo will be splashed across the front of all Sounders jerseys and the club will be carrying their sponsor’s historical baggage with it. To say the least, some Sounders fans are not happy about this turn of events.

According to Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans, numerous fans on social media “claimed they wouldn’t purchase any merchandise with Providence’s logo.”

Representing season ticket holders, Sounders FC Alliance Council President Cameron Collins told the Times he was surprised at the team’s choice of sponsor.

“It flies in the face of all the work they did last year whether it was around protecting trans individuals and trans youth and with OL Reign,” he lamented. “It’s disappointing for me and very angering for a lot of people, especially LGBTQ people.”

In response to the uproar from their fanbase, the Sounders issued a statement to the media, declaring that “Our club is also unwavering in its support for the LGBTQ+ community, and we are committed to making Washington the safest and most inclusive place to live, work, and play, especially for transgender and gender-diverse youth.”

Based on that promise, it appears Seattle will be putting in an effort to maintain their ties to their LGBTQ fans. But they’ll also have to understand that for many of those same fans, it’ll be a little harder to wear their new Sounders jerseys with Pride.