On June 18, six days after a gunman opened fire at an Orlando gay nightclub and killed 49 people, the city’s professional soccer team played a game, and the response was overwhelming. Michael Citro of Orlando City’s SB Nation blog was there:
The night began with a huge ovation for the first responders and an emotional National Anthem, sung by a crowd that somehow managed to stripe the stadium in rainbow colors with just a few days notice. The Pulse shooting victims’ names were displayed on the giant video screen and advertising boards. And then there was a soccer game.
With memories of both the night of the tragic shooting and the community’s united response still fresh, Orlando City unveiled a memorial to the 49 victims on Wednesday at its soon-to-open new stadium: 49 rainbow seats adorned with the #orlandounited hashtag.
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) January 4, 2017
“Just over six months ago, on June the 12th, there was the senseless loss of 49 lives at the Pulse Nightclub,” Orlando City President Phil Rawlins said in the video. “And as a [sport], 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 commemorate and unveil 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.”
Iliana Limon Romero of the Orlando Sentinel reports that seats have been sold to season ticket holders and will be occupied for every game. The stadium opens March 5, with a game against New York FC.