Team DC launched its ‘Night OUT’ series in 2005 as an LGBTQ community night with the Washington Nationals.
Over the years, they added events with other local professional sports teams – DC United, Washington Mystics, Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards, Washington Kastles, Washington Spirit, Old Glory DC, Washington Prodigy and Citi Open.
On Thursday, Sept. 16, Team DC will host the first annual Pride Night OUT at the Washington Football Team marking their first partnership with the National Football League.
“We had tried reaching out in the past but eventually made the decision that we would not engage until the name was changed,” says Brent Minor, founder and executive director of Team DC. “We don’t want these community nights to just be a monetary transaction, we want to build bridges and encourage inclusion.”
This week’s game is the Washington Football Team’s Week 2 matchup against the New York Giants and will be televised on Thursday Night Football.
Along with Pride Night OUT, it will also be a celebration of Latinx Heritage Month and Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell, who was a pioneer and trailblazer for equality and civil rights during his years with the team as a player and executive.
Frontline workers from the LGBTQ community including Whitman-Walker Health, Food & Friends and medical providers will be recognized and there will be a performance by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington’s gospel ensemble of ‘Lift Every Voice.’
The new relationship with the Washington Football Team began when they reached out to Capital Pride and Team DC with a request for a cultural competency training for WFT staffers.
“We spoke with about 75 members of their staff, and it wasn’t just a window dressing exercise — people were engaged,” Minor says. “During the training, Night OUT came up, which led to a discussion on corporate perspective regarding the LGBTQ community.”
Another cultural competency training is expected to occur in the future and the Washington Football Team has pledged to have a yet to be determined role at Capital Pride in 2022.
In August 2020, former NFL player Jason Wright was hired by the Washington Football Team to become their team president, where he leads their business operations, financing, and marketing strategies.
“We went through a leadership change when Jason Wright was hired and the direction of our outreach will be much broader than it was in the past,” says Joey Colby-Begovich, vice president of guest experience, operations for the Washington Football Team. “We want to be intentional in celebrating our communities beyond the traditional football fans and that includes people of color and marginalized communities. Football is for everyone.”
The DMV region is comprised of a broad spectrum of people who represent the changing demographics of our country. Establishing connections to communities where people from different backgrounds and sexual orientations can find commonality is important for any organization interested in social responsibility.
“We are hoping that we can cultivate a broader fan base that feels safe and comfortable in our space. That includes stronger and deeper relationships with our communities and opportunities in our employee base — we want to be involved in the discussion,” Colby-Begovich says. “The support that we shared for Carl Nassib coming out is an example of our direction. There is change happening.”
The excitement is palpable from the D.C. LGBTQ community as more than 100 tickets have already been sold for the inaugural Pride Night OUT at the Washington Football Team.
“I think back to the beginning when we first established a relationship with the Washington Nationals. Years later after the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando, they reached out and asked, ‘What can we do,’” says Minor. “Establishing these relationships is important and who knows where this leads when you are embraced in a positive way? When you can break down a barrier between the LGBTQ community and the NFL, that’s rarefied air.”
Tickets for Pride Night OUT at the Washington Football Team can be found at teamdc.org.