Philadelphia is a city of historical firsts and on Saturday, another can be added to the list: host of the first professional football game in support of the LGBT community.
The Philadelphia Soul tomorrow will participate in "Out with the Soul, Champions for Equality," an event created to raise awareness and show support for the LGBT community at the Wells Fargo Center during the Soul's game against the New Orleans VooDoo. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.
"We realize that football is a mean, nasty, tough, very physical game and we still felt that there was room for recognition that all of us, regardless of our sexual orientation, race, gender, are all human," said Cosmo DeNicola, one of the co-owners of The Philadelphia Soul.
The LGBT event has been in the works for nearly a year. Following the team's second consecutive season that culminated in winning the American Conference Championship, the Philadelphia Soul owners "wanted to make sure that, in addition to building a champion team, we were champions off the field as well," DeNicola added.
DeNicola recognizes that sports teams "tend to be very parochial and narrow in terms of who they think are their constituents are." The Philadelphia Soul sought to do something good for their community and quickly found a group they could support. "One of the areas we focused on right away was something very prominent in Philly: our LGBT community," said DeNicola.
The Philadelphia Soul participated shortly thereafter in Outfest, the nation's largest coming out party hosted here in Philadelphia, and engaged Mark Segal, a prominent journalist and longtime advocate for LGBT rights. With that experience and Segal's help, the Philadelphia Soul started working towards this game, which DeNicola hopes will be the first annual game in support of the LGBT community.
The Soul partnered with game sponsor AMTRAK to make this game happen. "They immediately jumped on this. We didn't have a lot of selling to do," DeNicola said.
The Gay Men's Chorus will perform the national anthem. The Soul will paint the arena Rainbow proud using giveaways, in-arena signage, video board displays, in-game promotions, etc. Prominent LGBTQ community leaders will also participate in on-field ceremonial presentations.
Alex Kacala, an LGBT community organizer and account manager at Skai Blue Media, will serve alongside Amber Hikes, director of Upward Bound at PENN and Philly Pride Grand Marshall 2013, as honorary captains during tomorrow's game.
Kacala is a former manager of Tabu Sports Bar and Lounge, an LGBT hotspot, where he saw a different view of the LGBT community's participation in sports. "The LGBT community is so diverse and, while working at Tabu, I realized that a lot of gay men support professional sports teams. It's nice when The Philadelphia Soul returns the favor and acknowledges our community," Kacala said. "I don't think it happens often, so this is a great start."
"I'm proud to live in a city that is not only leading the country in LGBTQ-friendly policies and protections but whose sports teams even step up to the plate and embrace our community. I'm looking forward to cheering on the Philadelphia Soul this Saturday with community members, allies and fellow Philadelphians," Hikes added.
It is the The Philadelpha Soul's habit to stand up for minority groups, DeNicola said. "Recently, in response to the owner of the Clippers spewing hatred and bigotry, we responded to that as a team and an organization with love [for the African-American community]," DeNicola said. "That carries over not only from the racial situation but over into the sexual orientation."