Pawtucket Times

RI’s pro soccer team unveils name, crest

- By JON BAKER jbaker@pawtuckett­

PAWTUCKET – The city and state took a major step toward hosting its own men’s profession­al soccer franchise on Monday morning when Brett Johnson and Michael Parkhurst, co-founders of Rhode Island Pro Soccer, unveiled the team name, colors and crest at a press conference held at the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center.

Following a brief speech by Josh Flanagan, a lifelong Pawtucket resident, Shea High School graduate and varsity soccer player and University of Rhode Island alumnus, officials rolled a video depicting a young girl carrying a goldish flag emblazoned with a blue-and-yellow logo on it through different sections of the state as a narrator spoke of the merits of the Ocean State.

“Here, independen­ce isn’t a choice; it’s a birthright,” the man said. “If you can win our respect, you will never lose our support. Born of defiance, anchored in community, united by sport. We are a team for all Rhode Island. We are Rhode Island FC.”

That announceme­nt of the team name, which will play in the United Soccer League Championsh­ip Division, was followed by the reveal of the crest, which consists of a blue-colored anchor with the letter R above an I, and on either side of the thicker base of the anchor sit small lightning bolts. That anchor lays on what appears to be a gold shield, and below the anchor is a blue horizontal strip with “Rhode Island” in white capital lettering.

Just below that are smaller letters, “FC,” in blue.

“I am so fired up right now!” said Johnson, Fortuitous Partners’ President/CEO as he led off the press conference. “At long, long last, we are Rhode Island FC. We are a team for all of Rhode Island; we are anchored in community, we are united by sport and we are now officially counting down the days to our 2024 inaugural season – and an opening night in a beautiful, iconic, riverfront stadium on the shores of the Seekonk River.

“Let me very clear, and let me throw down the gauntlet right now: Our club is going to compete for championsh­ips from Day One,” he continued. “I’ve been looking forward to this day for years. I know how important teams are to their communitie­s, which is why our name and crest are a reflection of the people and places that embody Rhode Island.

“For us, this has always been about Rhode Island and capturing both the state’s rich soccer history and the forward momentum thee state has. In the late 1800s, Pawtucket was one of the most active soccer hubs in North America with its thriving manufactur­ing and economy, and the cultures and traditions that were created by a diverse community of workers.”

Johnson mentioned teams like J&P Coats, the Pawtucket Rangers and the American Cup-winning Pawtucket Free Wanderers, which thrived in the area.

“This is why we call ourselves a futbol club – to honor the origins of the sport and its root in the community,” he said. “The city was also home to the country’s first known black profession­al soccer players, Oliver and Fred Watson. They were players who broke the profession­al sports color barrier long before Jackie Robinson made his debut in Brooklyn.

“For this reason and more, we are a club for all. The anchor you see in our crest symbolizes the hope we all have, and the lightning bolts at the tip represent the energy, the passion and the diversity of this state and our fans. We are ambassador­s now only for the sport but for the state. This is why the R.I. monogram is wrapped around the anchor, and the shape of the crest is inspired by the front of a ship, which is a nod to our nautical history.”

Johnson also thanked Gov. Dan McKee, the General Assembly, Mayor Donald Grebien and his administra­tion, City Council and other entities for their partnershi­ps. Fortuitous Partners Director of Developmen­t Dan Kroeber stated the crest/logo was borne out of sessions with a vast amount of community groups around the state and their suggestion­s.

He also said NAIL designed the crest.

“Forget about me being a co-founder, as a soccer player and a Rhode Islander, I’m so excited for this and so excited about this project,” said Parkhurst, who grew up in Cranston, won the 2005 Major League Soccer Rookie of the Year laurel, captured the 2018 MLS Cup and is an ex-U.S. Men’s National Team representa­tive.

“As a soccer player, I know what it means to wear the crest over your heart and what it means to the community, what it symbolizes. I had the real opportunit­y to play this beautiful game all over the world, and one of the things that’s so common everywhere I went was the impact of sport within the community.

“It has the ability like nothing else in our world to unite people of all ages, all genders and all cultures, and that’s what we’ll do here in Rhode Island,” he added. “We will be a reflection of our community on and off the field.”

Parkhurst recalled watching Rhode Island Stingrays games at Pierce Field in East Providence as a kid, and how accessible the players were to children like him.

“I loved going to their games and having them as role models, but what I loved even more was interactin­g with them off the field,” he said. “We’d play ‘soccer tennis’ with them at summer camp or they’ come to speak at our schools. That’s what I see in this team as well – winning on the field and creations relationsh­ips and bonds off it.

“We’re going to start doing that today by doing something that no other profession­al sports team has done.”

He went on to say that team officials and representa­tives, including the co-founders, would spend the day visiting all 39 cities and towns statewide as part of its “Anchored in Rhode Island” reveal celebratio­n. In fact, Parkhurst was slated to attend a CLCF youth practice at Cranston West High School at 5 p.m. where he would talk to kids, coaches and parents about the role soccer continues to play in his life.

The day ended near where it started, in Pawtucket, at The Guild brewery, where Johnson, Parkhurst and other team officials would meet with the public to answer questions about their club and share a pint.

“This is only the beginning; we are fully committed to Pawtucket and fully anchored in Rhode Island,” Johnson said. “Beginning (today) at 10 a.m., fans can place their deposits for 2024 season tickets, and club merchandis­e is already available on our Web site, www.rhodeislan­

“Our club will transform downtown Pawtucket; our stadium will be a community gathering place, and we’re moving quickly to finalize plans to the broader developmen­t built around the pitch, a developmen­t that will create spaces to live, work and play.

“We will also connect both sides of the river with an incredible footbridge.”

Added Grebien: “This is awesome, and it’s obviously they’ve really embraced Rhode Island and Pawtucket. This is an exciting time; it’s about the team. When I was listening to Brett talk, I was thinking, ‘Finally. Some people were trying to use this as a political thing,’ but people are committed, and I think they see it now. We’re moving forward.

“With the crest, they did a great job of tying it all in, what this state is all about.”

 ?? Photo by Glenn Osmundson ?? The Rhode Island Football Club holds a press conference to unveil their name and crest at the Blackstone Valley Visitors Center.
Photo by Glenn Osmundson The Rhode Island Football Club holds a press conference to unveil their name and crest at the Blackstone Valley Visitors Center.

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