GIVING HATE THE BOOT
OC supports team activism, vows to do more
Orlando City CEO Alex Leitão dismissed the concerns immediately.
The club staff was proud to see Orlando City and Orlando Pride players marching alongside 10,000 people in downtown Orlando last week, protesting against social injustice and police brutality following the death of
But, they also know the NWSL Challenge Cup and MLS is Back tournaments are coming up soon and the players were exposing themselves to the coronavirus.
“The first question everybody came to me [with] was, ‘Hey, what do you think of this? Social distance? The
“We have the power, and the responsibility, to have a culture and community where hate and discrimination have no place. … We have work to do but we are prepared to face that work. Let’s lead our city. Let’s make the world proud of Orlando.”
— Caesar Lopez, Orlando City chief administration officer
tournament is coming,’” Leitão recalled. “Of course your first reaction is kind of, ‘Oh my God, I fear about this.’ But at the end of the day, I’m very, very proud of all them that went there because I understand that it’s an important moment and their voices are important voices and they should do what they believe is the best at the moment to make sure everybody listens.
“We have to listen and listen more and try to be better people, a better organization and a better country.”
Orlando City SC, the club that includes the Lions and Pride, have a strong history of social activism, but they have pledged to do more.
Friday offered reminders of how much the club has done already.
The Lions and Pride played matches to honor the 49 people who died at Pulse nightclub four years ago, offering the community a place to gather and a chance to heal. Rainbow flags and Orlando United banners filled the stands during the teams’ first home matches following the shooting and have been fixtures at games ever since. The club later installed 49 rainbow seats in Exploria Stadium to honor the victims killed during Latin night at the gay club.
The Pride have numerous out LGBTQ athletes who have grown more confident the past few years sharing their stories. Coach Marc Skinner and the players wore masks during a visit of the nightclub memorial on Thursday, the day before the anniversary.
Orlando City and Orlando Pride, along with select players, shared images on their social media accounts honoring the victims during the anniversary on Friday.
On the same day players visited the Pulse site, the club unveiled new Black Lives Matter patches on their CITYiD uniforms. Proceeds from sales of jerseys featuring the patches will go to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Dream
Defenders, a nonprofit organization that supports freeing people from incarceration.
It’s part of Orlando City SC’s plan to fight racial injustice.
Leitão was ready to join fellow CEOs of sports teams around the county releasing statements condemning the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed when a white Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd complained he could not breathe.
Video of his death sparked protests against police brutality and racial injustice in all 50 states and around the world.
Players Sydney Leroux, Dom Dwyer, Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger, Kamal Miller and many others shared personal messages on social media in support of Black Lives Matter. Morgan, Krieger and Ashlyn Harris also were part of a national movement earlier this week letting black women take over their social media accounts, amplifying their voices.
Leitão said he thought the club generally did a good job on social issues and was ready to join the players posting a message online, but he hesitated and thought he should ask Orlando City chief administration officer Caesar Lopez, “Are we doing enough?”
Lopez, who is black, responded he thought the club could be doing a lot more. The ensuing conversation inspired Leitão to ask Lopez to write a letter to the staff and players, which evolved into an essay posted on Orlando City’s website.
Lopez outlined a series of steps the club plans to take in the future to address racism and injustice in the Orlando community. The club plans to schedule conversations with activists, community members and government officials to create a structure in which Orlando City and the Pride can actively address these issues in the local community.
The organization also plans to create systems to prioritize the voices of black and minority staff members and players.
Lopez also reflected on the impact the club has aimed to have on the Parramore neighborhood where Exploria Stadium is located. This community has been a focus of outreach for Orlando City and the Pride for years, but Lopez said there is more the organization can do.
Throughout the letter, he emphasized the importance of working “intentionally and proactively” to address racism and injustice.
“We need to help our black and minority community to create a constructive dialogue and make a meaningful difference,” Lopez wrote. “We have the power, and the responsibility, to have a culture and community where hate and discrimination have no place. … We have work to do but we are prepared to face that work. Let’s lead our city. Let’s make the world proud of Orlando.”
Leitão said the entire club stands behind the pledges Lopez made in his essay.
Pride coach Marc Skinner, left, and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, right, visit the Pulse nightclub memorial on Thursday. The team followed the visit with social media posts honoring the 49 people killed four years ago.