When the Seattle Sounders revealed their newest and most prominent sponsor at their event at Renton High School almost two weeks ago, there was a mood of celebration. Players tossed their jerseys into the stands, high school students participated in a class-by-class competition to see who could do the best “boom-boom-clap,” and there was much discussion about how Providence’s sponsorship was about much more. their name on the front of the Sounders jersey.
The biggest part of that “much more” was a youth mental health program that was available in partnership with Providence students in the Renton school district.
By the time Sounders officials began checking social media and reading emails, however, it quickly became apparent that the message had not been received. Inboxes and timelines have been filled with negative and concerned reactions, with accusations that Sony has abandoned its core principles, communicating with a health organization that has a history of limiting reproductive choice, has been accused of discriminating against LGTBQ patients, and is actually acting a. Washington’s attorney general authorized low-income patients to receive free care.
The volume and intensity of the fan reaction was significant enough that Sonos called an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss a course of action. Almost immediately, the Sounders began meetings with Emerald City Supporters, Gorilla FC and the League Council in an attempt to calm things down.
A similar vein of sound has come to us to reach our audience. I met with Chief Revenue and Marketer Taylor Graham, as well as COO Maya Mendoza-Exstrom at Longacres on Monday to discuss some of the things we received. You can listen to the full hour-long interview here, but I also wanted to share some of my main takeaways;
Perhaps the biggest take away from our conversations was the idea that the most important question was one about news. At one point, it was revealed that the team was ready to answer some questions about the misaligned core values in the presser, but no one asked. While there is some truth to this statement – and I would have decided to observe and ask these questions unless she had two sick children at home – I think it is rude, and perhaps even false, to suggest that all this could have been avoided if only bare questions had been asked.
Let’s be clear: the problem is not simply that they don’t state their core values enough to remain unchanged. This is because association with an organization like Providence requires more than simply stating those values again. Some fans, maybe even more, want to be patient. For others, though, I believe it is more a loss of faith. Maybe in the future those activities can reflect the skills of the fans, but it is going to be a real effort to share that goes beyond hosting events with pride or sending statements on Twitter.
If there was one positive takeaway, it was Graham and Mendoza-Exstrom’s adamant that this partnership does nothing to reduce the work of Sans in the community and increase it. They insisted that Soni not give up on social issues that “play fair” with women’s reproductive choice. He also insisted that Providence “allow us to be the best versions of ourselves” when it comes to social issues.
At the same time, Graham and Mendoza-Exstrom indicated that at least some workers shared a similar concern. However, they argued that the type of conversation can be held both internally and externally, which is different in most sports organizations.
Anyone expecting the Sounders to distance themselves from Providence in almost any way will likely be disappointed. At no point did Graham or Mendoza-Exstrom express any hesitation or sense of discomfort with Providence. They also said that they didn’t care about Providence’s trademark singing style, in part because they worked extensively with other sports teams.
“This is not the first time Providence has invested in delivering its work and growing the business through sport,” Graham said when specifically asked about sportswashing. “When we spoke with our peers who joined Providence, it was all about community first. It comes back to the people, and you believe that? We do it individually. R. We are dealing with government. Providence is proud of the work they do in the LGTBQI space. They allow us to lead in this space and be the Sound. I have no interest in this space. We are invested in this space and intend to redeem it.”
One element giving the Sounders reason to be excited about this partnership is the youth mental health program they will help implement with Renton schools. Providence has an existing program called “Work2BeWell” that it wants to form the backbone of its projection, but they are also waiting to hear from the Renton schools to get more specifics about what is needed. Considering the details of how this program will be developed are still unknown, it is difficult to know exactly how it will feel, but they are clearly optimistic about it and are confident that LGBTQ youth will receive appropriate mental health care. Mendoza-Exstrom said that “30-50” Renton students have already expressed some interest in using the service, something she took as a sign of just how much it could be worth. There is a clear consensus that most of these things are all related and that the Sounders are aiming for this brand of care.
There hasn’t been much talk of how much Providence will pay for the sounds, but it’s been reported to be worth up to $100 million over its lifetime. This was significantly more than the club was getting from previous shirt sponsors XBOX or Zulily. Graham acknowledged that the price tag was part of what made it attractive, but he also emphasized that a lot of good could be done with all that money and resources. Graham suggested that the resources be used to fund the Sounds for various social justice projects as well as to improve the quality of the pitch.
All this can only be expressed in words. It is all good and good to say that in all their goods they are whole, that they can believe much good from this, and that they trust that Providence will be a good partner. But it will be in the actions that the test has been confessed.
“We’re committed to the club,” Graham said. “We have to go to the system of action to be held by the times. Hopefully, in the footsteps of this club and the possibility of rescuing something against it that can shake our confidence in a moment of such fantasy. Take a step back and understand that all the evidence is not in front of us, we cannot agree, but trust to be the club itself and we have to be held accountable at some point.”
One opinion I have often heard is that the band wants to have their cake (as seen in the club’s ranking) and eat it too (money from the organization, which is at least perceived to be working against some of the key values. CORE VALUES). I’m not entirely sure that any of the things said in this interview will dissuade skeptics from that idea. Of course, the Sani chose the winner for social reasons because they thought it was right, but one of them put themselves in a position to judge, with what seems to be good for them. No one made them part of Providence, and it will be in them to square this circle.
At the end of the interview I tried to ask them what kind of actions they felt the club could take, and what the fans could do to make them accountable. I don’t know if most of them have confirmed their answers, which are basically “bear” and “complaints about your ticket and company representatives, or serving you on the Alliance Council.”
In the meantime, I suspect a lot of fans will simply be voting with their wallets, or choosing not to buy anything with Providence, or maybe even something more drastic.