Among the athletes raising money for disaster aid following the deadly wildfires on the island of Maui is out gay soccer player Mana Shim, who has rallied to get the NWSL and its fans involved in the relief efforts.
This week, the New York/New Jersey-based team Gotham FC, to which Shim signed in June this year, announced the start of their Mana for Maui fundraiser, in collaboration with the NWSL Players Association and Soccer Post.
“In Hawaiian, mana means spiritual or divine power. We’re sending our mana to the Maui community,” the team writes on their website. 100% of the profits from the T-shirt collection, which can be found here, will go to the Hawaiian Council’s relief efforts with the Native Hawaiian community on Maui.
Mana Shim herself initiated this effort and, according to Gotham, provided the T-shirt design and copy direction as well as selecting the Hawaiian Council as the donation recipient.
It’s been an extremely personal cause for her, having grown up in Honolulu, on the neighboring island of O’ahu, just west of where the Lahaina fires took place on Maui. But she is no stranger to stepping up and using her personal experiences as a catalyst to help others.
Shim first came out publicly as a lesbian 10 years ago in a 2013 interview with Outsports, and even back then emphasized that activism and solidarity have been core tenets of her identity as a part of the queer community.
“I’ve been pretty involved with different organizations. I’ve read a lot and volunteered at LGBT community centers, and I see there’s a need for support and for role models for kids.”
In 2017, she also wrote openly about her experience with bipolar disorder in an attempt to destigmatize mental health challenges. And while she’s only been back in the NWSL for a couple of months since her departure in 2019, it’s no exaggeration to say that Mana Shim has been one of the most impactful players in terms of empowering her fellow athletes to take action and realize their own collective power on and off the pitch.
In 2021, she and current Gotham FC teammate Sinead Farrelly shared their history of abuse in the NWSL to The Athletic in an article that spurred a sea change in the culture of silence surrounding abuse and sexual misconduct in the league, as well as in US Soccer.
Shim’s effectiveness on the issues she sets her mind to may come both from her team player mentality in not taking on problems alone, but also from an informed and thoughtful understanding of the root cause of how these systemic issues propagate. And in her most recent advocacy around the Maui wildfires, she pointedly warns against disaster capitalism and its historical precedent as an obstacle to relief efforts following natural disasters.
“Anyone who knows disaster capitalism knows the urgency of protecting our ‘āina from developers and greedy malihini,” Shim wrote over the weekend, in reference to an Associated Press article on the worry of Lahaina residents that wealthy buyers might price out locals as the community looks to rebuild in the wake of the fires.
This is a major concern that needs our immediate attention. It’s awful to have to discuss this before we know how many have lost their lives, but anyone who knows disaster capitalism knows the urgency of protecting our ‘āina from developers and greedy malihini. https://t.co/sCYxdBPbLg— Mana Shim (@meleanashim) August 13, 2023
Linking to an NBC article on the political significance of pre-colonial Lahaina through the present day, Shim underscores that we cannot simply tackle issues in a vacuum, but must contend with how our history impacts our material reality.
In the meantime, her indefatigable dedication to her community continues to bear results both on and off the field, and this past week she scored an equalizer against the Orlando Pride, eight years since her last goal in the NWSL. It’s an almost too-perfect Hollywood-style comeback narrative for Shim, but in many ways, her work is only getting started.
For residents of Maui, you can find different ways to apply for FEMA assistance here.