"...this sport can lift up a community and help to heal a community.”
Orlando City SC, an MLS soccer team, is preparing a new stadium for their upcoming season and put together a very special section of seats to honor those who lost their lives in the Pulse nightclub shooting last June. The club, along with a sister team from the National Women’s Soccer League, the Orlando Pride, marked off 49 seats, one for each victim, and had them painted in an array matching the gay pride flag.
Here’s a video of official unveiling:
This is hardly the first impassioned gesture made by Orlando City SC. The flag has made many appearances officially and unofficially, around team events and in the stadium. In the first game following the tragic killing spree, the team replaced almost all of its flag, including those demarking the corners of the fields, with rainbow flags in a show of solidarity.
Here’s what the scene looked like in the stands during that game:
49 seats were left vacant and had balloons attached to them in memory of the victims, a theme the club sought to recreate permanently by painting the seats:
At the unveiling of the new seats, arranged prominently seven by seven, Orlando City president Phil Rawlins offered some words to match the gesture. A transcript is below.
"Just over six months ago on June the 12th, there was the senseless loss of 49 lives at the Pulse Nigthclub," Rawlins said in video of the private ceremony the club released. "And as a sports, as a community, as a soccer club, we responded to that tragedy in the very best possible way.
"And it was my belief, I know it's your belief as a club, that this sport can lift up a community and help to heal a community. And that's what we did on that Saturday following the Pulse tragedy.
"... We made a commitment on that day that, which is that we would commemorate, forever, in the new stadium a memory of the 49 victims that lost their lives that day. And today we're here to do that. We're here to commenorate and unveile the 49 rainbow seats that will sit permanently in section 12 of our new stadium as a constant reminder of the senseless acts of June 12."
The team’s season opener, which will be held at the new stadium, kicks off on March 5th against New York City FC.