The NWSL has recently been striving to be more inclusive with its LGBTQ+ fans, supporters and players. With the inauguration of new clubs like Angel City, and the San Diego Wave, this league has the opportunity to make safe spaces for all fans and players despite a rocky history with the league and its support of the LGBTQ+ community. The sport of soccer unfortunately has a history of homophobia in both men’s and women’s soccer; a history of homophobic chanting and slurs being yelled and said throughout leagues all over the world.
Before the club even had players step onto the pitch, Angel City prioritized giving LGBTQ+ individuals a safe space to cheer on their team and wanted to ensure players feel they can be their authentic selves. Catharine Davila, Head of Community at Angel City, has taken the reigns to lead the club to support this initiative. Davila wants to make conversations around LGBTQ+ issues and inclusivity year-round instead of just during Pride Month in June. This is essential with anti- LGBTQ+ and anti-trans legislation, persistently being perpetuated throughout the United States.
Catherine Davila, Head of Community at Angel City FC
“We went into it saying Pride, LGBTQ+ inclusion and issues and conversations and voices are not just June, and especially when we’re Angel City and especially when we’re in women’s soccer. This is year-round for us.”
Angel City hosted Play Proud United, a coach-centered approach aimed at making sports programs inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community, to integrate workshops for the staff and players. ACFC Defender Paige Nielson felt empowered by the workshops.
“We don’t have that many safe spaces anymore,” Nielson said. “People call you out all the time, whether that’s online, in school. There’s Don’t Say Gay bills. You can’t talk about things. And this is a safe room.”
The club plans to incorporate Play Proud United regularly so when/if an issue arises, staff and players will feel empowered in how they handle the situation. Many of the players have expressed their enthusiasm for the club emphasizing the importance of inclusivity and equality right from the start.
“It gets me excited because I’m around amazing people, amazing staff who want to do something bigger than just play a sport. They want to use the sport as an avenue to help kids, inspire others.”
This is an exciting and empowering movement in soccer and for the LGBTQ+ community because everyone deserves a safe space to be themselves and to cheer on the team they support.