TAMPA, Fla. (June 1, 2023) – The United Soccer League (USL) today kicked off the 2023 “Proud to Be” platform in honor of Pride month, including the announcement of a new partnership with You Can Play (YCP).
You Can Play, now designated as an “Official Inclusion Partner of the USL,” works to ensure the safety and inclusion for all who participate in sports, including LGBTQ+ athletes, coaches and fans. They achieve this by creating a community of allies that is able to foster a true sense of belonging. This becomes possible when sports teams sharpen the focus on the person’s skills, work ethic, and competitive spirit, not their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. YCP seeks to improve the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by developing a culture of respect in every player, coach and fan.
“Over the past few years, You Can Play has offered invaluable resources and tools to support the USL’s core values pertaining to driving inclusion in soccer,” said USL Vice president of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Christopher Busey. “We are thrilled to form this official partnership with You Can Play to further bolster our efforts to ensure that our properties are inclusive and supportive of LGBTQ+ communities both on and off the pitch.”
Through this partnership, YCP will provide ongoing, year-round support across the USL ecosystem with resources and Pride activation guidance in addition to training, education, and policy formation support. Additional partnership elements include:
“The USL understands the importance of inclusion to ensure soccer is a home for every athlete, coach, referee and fan,” said You Can Play COO Kurt Weaver. “We are excited to work with the USL and its clubs to not only enhance visibility of this work, but to provide support to the already substantial work the USL does for the LGBTQ+ community.”
In addition to the You Can Play partnership, the USL 2023 “Proud to Be” campaign, which launched in 2022, will include activation throughout the month and across the USL ecosystem.
The “Proud to Be” campaign, developed in collaboration with Seattle-based designer Fio Bazo, is a declaration of the USL’s commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community and providing USL fans with information and resources to learn and act.
The “Proud to Be” platform will come to life throughout June through a broad awareness campaign, including a new, custom “Proud to Be” captain’s armband, content across digital channels, and messaging in USL broadcasts. Storytelling will highlight the efforts by clubs, players, coaches, staff, and supporters.
Visually, "Proud to Be" is expressed through the energetic patterns of Bazo’s custom design architecture and its clear, supportive messages for LGBTQ+ community members and allies alike. Fans can show their support through Bazo’s custom capsule collection available at USL Shop. Proceeds from the capsule collection go to You Can Play. Go to USLsoccer.com/proud-to-be to learn more.
Starting this month through the end of September, several USL clubs will host their own Pride activations. Dates and participating clubs include, but are not limited to: