When Virginia women’s soccer takes on Notre Dame on Sunday, it won’t just be a display of two top-25 teams, it’ll be a display of pride and inclusiveness at Klockner Stadium. Sunday’s game features the program’s first-ever Pride Game, organized by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee in partnership with the Young Alumni Council and UVA’s LGBTQ+ Center.
The game is part of a larger initiative by SAAC’s new subcommittee, the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice (DEIJ) group. Senior volleyball player Milla Ciprian, SAAC’s Internal Vice President and primary organizer this Pride Game, says that the DEIJ Group is “focused primarily on events like these and will be planning programming and athletic event for student athletes and the [Charlottesville] community in hopes of starting conversations, bringing awareness, and creating a more inclusive community for everyone.”
Part of what Ciprian and the committee are trying to do is to raise Virginia’s profile on the Athletic Equality Index, which takes a comprehensive look at how each of the Power Five schools build an inclusive and supportive environment for their LGBTQ student-athletes, coaches, administrators, staff, and fans. The index takes a look at a school’s nondiscrimination policy, fan code of conduct, transgender inclusion guidelines, accessibility of resources, and a number of other metrics.
Out of a possible 100 points, Virginia scored 78. To put that into perspective, Notre Dame scored the lowest in 2019 with only 30 points, while eight schools scored a perfect 100, including ACC brethren Duke and Miami.
Among the ACC’s 15 institutions, Virginia ranked 10th. Only Notre Dame, Louisville (60), Boston College (66.5), Georgia Tech (68), and North Carolina (70) scored lower. Virginia Tech scored 90 points on the scale.
Specifically, Virginia did not score any points in the categories of Pro-LGBTQ Campaign or Statement (out of 5) and Collaboration with Campus Group (out of 5). Virginia only received 5/10 for LGBTQ-Inclusive Fan Code of Conduct and 28/35 in Nondiscrimination Policy, but otherwise earned all the possible points in each of the other categories.
Ciprian says that the SAAC has also been able to plan some summer workshops for student athletes to “educate themselves more on the LGBTQ+ community,” and is supporting the launch of a new student-athlete affinity group called “Athletes for Equality.”
The initiative was also launched in part because of the. Young Alumni Council’s persistence in making headway into reconnecting LGBTQ+ alumni back to the University. YAC Secretary Anant Das, who has spearheaded this effort from the YAC perspective, has been working on an initiative like this for the past four years. With the launch of the DEIJ subcommittee, Ciprian says now was the right time for YAC and SAAC to work together on this.
“Athletics are probably the greatest connector for alumni to a University,” Das told me. “But LGBTQ+ alumni don’t have that connection, especially at UVA, due to a variety of reasons.”
He points to the “Not Gay” chants during the singing of the Good Ol’ Song, noting that if you run a Google search, you’ll find an article about it being an issue on Grounds every two years or so over the past 20.
For Sunday’s 3pm match between No. 2 Virginia and No. 13 Notre Dame, fans are encouraged to wear rainbow colors. The field hockey team is also organizing a pride game in support of this initiative on October 24 against Drexel.
The soccer match and field hockey games, Das says, are just the beginning of what they hope will “become a larger, more impactful weekend or week of Pride Games in the spring.”
“I think our goal is to really make sure we aren’t kitschy and aren’t just waving a Pride flag, but really trying to make athletics spaces a welcoming place for our Trans community members as well as those who may feel unwelcome.”
What: PRIDE GAME — No. 2 Virginia vs. No. 13 Notre Dame Women’s Soccer
When: Sunday, October 17, 3:00 p.m.
Where: Klockner Stadium - Charlottesville, VA
No. 14 Virginia vs. Drexel Field Hockey PRIDE GAME
When: Sunday, October 24, 12:00 Noon
Where: Turf Field - Charlottesville, VA