NEW YORK, June 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Five big Seattle professional sports teams were poised to kick off a mass offensive on Wednesday against LGBT discrimination in sports, a first initiative of its kind in the United States.
Seattle's Mariners, Seahawks, Sounders FC, Storm and Reign said they had coordinated back-to-back matches and other activities this week to mark LGBT Pride Month, a celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT).
The first pride match will pit the Sounders, a soccer club that competes in the top men's soccer league in the United States and Canada, against Orlando City SC on Wednesday evening.
Other pride matches were to feature Major League Baseball team the Mariners hosting the Detroit Tigers, Women's National Basketball Association team the Storm playing the Phoenix Mercury, and National Women's Soccer League team the Reign hosting FC Kansas City.
The Seahawks, a professional American football franchise, would not host a pride match because it was off season. But it was planning other events, including lighting its stadium's iconic arches in the rainbow colors that symbolise LGBT pride, a team spokesman said on Tuesday.
The teams said they had come together in the hope of spreading a message of acceptance to as many fans as possible.
"With the unique place that sport has in our culture, it's incredibly important that teams take advantage of their platforms in order to make a difference," said Adrian Hanauer, the owner of the Sounders FC in a statement.
It was the first time that the entire professional sports roster of a city was banding together to champion LGBT rights, said Hudson Taylor, the executive director of non-profit Athlete Ally, which helped bring the teams together.
Discrimination against LGBT athletes was most visible in locker rooms, with only one openly out athlete competing in U.S. professional men's sports leagues among some 4,000 of his peers, he said at the press conference.
"Locker rooms continue to be among the least safe spaces for LGBTQ youth," said Taylor.
"Every day we hear from members of the athletic community who remained scared about competing as their true selves."
In 2015, an international study commissioned by LGBT groups and the government of Australia found 80 percent of respondents had witnessed or experienced homophobia in a sporting context. LGBT Pride Month takes place in June in the United States to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, which marked a turning point for gay rights in the United States. (Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)