When Pittsburgh’s gymnastics team decided to host a Pride-themed meet in 2021, it was important to the team to do it properly. That’s why one of head coach Samantha Snider’s first steps was to reach out to the hosts of the Half In, Half Out Podcast for advice.
“[They] sent us some sort of general outlines and then our sports information and our marketing connected with them and basically laid out all our plans,” Snider said. “They gave some great suggestions, and it was so great to have that input and also get feedback that our people here were on the right track. It was heartwarming and exciting and fun.”
The Panthers’ plans for the Pride meet extended far beyond rainbow decorations. The team filmed a PSA video affirming its support and celebration for the LGBTQ+ community. They also spent the week highlighting LGBTQ+ and queer issues and organizations for the community to support.
The George Washington Colonials, who were initially scheduled to compete at this meet but withdrew, also recorded a video in support of the meet’s message. Both videos were shown in the arena during rotation breaks.
That said, there was no shortage of rainbows in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Both the Panthers and the visiting Kent State Flashes wore rainbow hair ribbons and temporary tattoos on the backs of their necks. The Panthers also had rainbow face masks, and the arena was decorated with a variety of pride flags, including the traditional rainbow flags, as well as the asexual, transgender, bisexual and intersex pride flags.
While many people contributed to the execution of the meet, the idea ultimately came from the athletes.
“Over the summer with all the social injustices that were going on we had a lot of discussions with our team, and I really tried to empower them and guide them to find their voice,” Snider said. “We all know that each of them as collegiate athletes have a platform, and I really wanted them to find their voice, what’s important to them as a team, what’s important to us as a program.”
In a sport with so many young fans, the meet’s forceful message of love and acceptance will undoubtedly be impactful in the long run. One gymnast took an even bolder step of coming out to the wider gymnastics community on the night of the Pride meet. On her Instagram, Pittsburgh junior Kiley Robatin wrote:
“in honor of our very first pride meet ever, let me reintroduce myself: hi nice to meet u, i’m kiley robatin and i’m bi. over the last few years in college i’ve been surrounded by some of the most incredibly supportive people on the planet. they’ve shown me that it is okay to be unapologetically myself, and that who i am, is exactly who they love.”
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Article by Rebecca Scally
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