By Connie Wardman
The San Francisco 49ers unveiled the creation of 49ers PRIDE on Wednesday, believed to be the first-ever fan community started by an NFL franchise to directly engage and support LGBTQ+ fans and allies. Prospective members of 49ers PRIDE are invited to sign-up at 49ers.com/PRIDE to join fellow members for watch parties for 49ers games and other unique opportunities like marching with the team’s front office at San Francisco Pride.
The announcement was made by 49ers President Al Guido at the LGBTQ+ Activism in Sport Town Hall at Levi’s Stadium co-hosted by the 49ers and San Jose State University’s Institute for the Study of Sport, Society, and Social Change. Guido was one of several prominent sports figures to speak at the event, including: Ezra Baeli-Wang, captain of the NCAA Division 1 men’s fencing team who led student-athlete opposition to North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ law, Phaidra Knight, professional rugby athlete, named top player in the world for her position in 2002 and 2006 and the U.S. Rugby Player of the Decade in 2010, and Lori Lindsey, professional soccer athlete who played on the U.S. Women’s National team at the 2011 Women’s World Cup and helped earn the 2012 Olympic gold medal. The event was moderated by Anne Lieberman, director of policy and programs of Athlete Ally.
“The 49ers organization is proud to welcome 49ers PRIDE – the official community of 49ers fans who identify as LGBTQ+ and their allies – to our network of fan groups that connect members of the Faithful with our brand and create unique engagement opportunities,” said Guido. “We want every fan to feel like a part of the 49ers family and we look forward to furthering our presence in the LGBTQ+ community through this initiative.”
In alignment with the 49ers dedication to community work, the new affinity group will also provide opportunities to attend philanthropic and social events with likeminded members of the Faithful and engage members on broader issues within the community. Lastly, special edition merchandise will be on sale at the 49ers Team Store inside Levi’s Stadium and at Shop49ers.com with all 49ers proceeds going to support LGBTQ+-focused non-profit organizations.
49ers PRIDE is an extension of the franchise’s long-standing support of the LGBTQ+ community and allies, including almost $150,000 in donations since 2005 to local nonprofits such as GLAAD and the San Francisco LGBTQ Center. Additionally, the 49ers hosted a special screening of “Out to Win,” a documentary chronicling the lives of LGBTQ athletes, in partnership with the LGBT Film Festival back in 2015 in conjunction with Super Bowl 50. Furthermore, the team has sponsored and hosted GLAAD Awards at Levi’s Stadium. In addition, 49ers leadership have also contributed personal funds to related causes, such as the $75,000 donation by 49ers CEO Jed York in 2016 to the Equality North Carolina Foundation in rebuttal of the state’s House Bill 2 law.
The launch of 49ers PRIDE furthers the organization’s demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion for its employees and supporters. In 2016, the 49ers implemented diverse slate interviewing practices, ensuring that women and people of color are included in the interview pool for every full-time business operations position posted by the team. The team has since pledged to ensure that hiring process involves a diverse set of interviewers as well.
The organization’s efforts for equality have especially focused on empowering women, beginning with the creation of the Denise DeBartolo York Fellowship for young women. The rotational program provides cross-functional experience for females in departments that have typically been underrepresented in the sports industry: including finance, business strategy & analytics, sales, and stadium operations. Last year the 49ers launched WON (Women of the Niners) as the official community for female 49ers fans, engaging its members with the 49ers through a monthly online magazine and events featuring exclusive team content.
Fans can join 49ers PRIDE for free and receive communication and invitations to events throughout the year. To learn more or to sign up, visit 49ers.com/PRIDE