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Uniting a Community through Sports

ericshainock's picture

In the face of tragedy and despair, sports has united communities and kept them together. When our country faced 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombings, or Hurricane Katrina, the cities impacted could distract themselves by joining together and rooting for its local team. The New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox and New Orleans Saints, were pillars in its community and allowed fans to forget for a few hours. The teams stood for hope, strength and healing.

Ten days ago, tragedy occurred at Pulse, a night club in Orlando. 49 people were gunned down in an act of terrorism; a targeted attempt to tear apart the gay community. Many were wondering how our society, and particularly Orlando, would respond as there has never been an attack of this kind. The answer was a rally seen like never before.

The Orlando Magic donated $100,000 and the DeVos family gave $400,000 to the victims. The Orlando City Soccer Club donated $100,000. The Tampa Bay Rays raised $300,000 between ticket sales and donations for the game they dedicated to Orlando.

The Tampa Bay Rays had its American flag framed by rainbow flags. The team went above and beyond to be a place of hope and power for those in Orlando. We are Orlando rallies were held within the United States and across the world.

Orlando City SC hosted a soccer match that paid respect to the victims in many ways. Had you walked into the stadium on accident, one may have thought it was a memorial event instead of a soccer match, which is the way it should be. The team announced it would set aside forty-nine seats in the game as well as at a future game in a section that will forever commemorate the lives lost at Pulse. The little moments from beginning to end was beautifully orchestrated by the team. Forty-nine large rainbow colored balloons marked the lives lost; there was a salute to the first responders; a gay men's choir sang the national anthem. Fans in each section wore a color so that the entire stadium looked like a rainbow. The most powerful moment of the entire night was probably the game stoppage - after forty-nine minutes, the game was stopped for a moment of silence to pay respect to the victims and their families.

In the face of tragedy, people look towards role models and uniters: often, this is a local sports team. Sports has an obligation to unite, heal, and bring its fans together to show that we as a society will not give in. While this may seem trivial, the actions of each team and the hours long distraction makes a huge impact on those affected. Sports gives us an opportunity to cut across demographics and unite us all as one people, which is an important message to hold onto. If sports can play a small part in helping communities heal, that is something that cannot be forgotten. We all need to play our part, show compassion across the board and hope that tragedies like this don't happen again.

Eric Shainock works for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital as an Account Representative in the Strategic Partnerships division after previously working at Intersport, a sports marketing agency. He is a 2014 graduate of the Ohio University Sports Administration Graduate Program. Feel free to reach out via email: eric.shainock@gmail.com or on Twitter: @ericshainock.

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