Orlando City Soccer Club brings the community together after a horrific mass shooting at a local night club.
In the face of tragedy and despair, sports has united communities and kept them together. When our country faced the tragedy of 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombings, or Hurricane Katrina, the cities impacted could distract themselves by joining together and rooting for its local team. The New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, and New Orleans Saints, were pillars in their community and allowed fans to forget for a few hours. The teams stood for hope, strength, and healing.
Ten days ago, tragedy occurred at Pulse, a night-club in Orlando. Forty-nine people were gunned down in an act of terrorism - a targeted attempt to tear apart the gay community. Many were wondering how our society, and particularly Orlando, would respond as there has never been an attack of this kind. The answer was a rally seen like never before.
The Orlando Magic donated $100,000 and the DeVos family gave $400,000 to the victims. The Orlando City Soccer Club donated $100,000. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays raised $300,000 between ticket sales and donations for the game they dedicated to Orlando.
The Tampa Bay Rays had its American flag framed by rainbow flags. The team went above and beyond to be a place of hope and power for those in Orlando. "We are Orlando" rallies were held within the United States and across the world.
Orlando City SC played a soccer match that paid respect to the victims in many ways. Had you walked into the stadium by accident, one may have thought it was a memorial event rather than a soccer match, which is the way it should be. The team announced it would set aside forty-nine seats in the game as well as at a future game in a section that will forever commemorate the lives lost at Pulse. The little moments from beginning to end were beautifully orchestrated by the team:
-Forty-nine large rainbow colored balloons marked the lives lost
-A salute to the first responders
-A gay men's choir sang the national anthem
-Fans coordinated so that each section wore a different color so that the entire stadium looked like a rainbow
-Fans could purchase programs at a suggested donation price
-T-shirts and memorabilia were for sale with the proceeds going to OneOrlando Fund
-The most powerful moment: after forty-nine minutes, the game was stopped for a moment of silence to pay respect to the victims and their families
What does this tell us? Communities look towards sports teams to heal a broken heart. Sports cuts across all demographics and allows us to be united in both our thoughts and emotions. These athletes are role models and have a platform to speak up in times of tragedy. When done correctly, sports can help communities begin to heal and create fans for life.
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