August 17, 2016 at 2:14 pm EDT | by Kevin Majoros
United Night Out steps up
United Night Out, gay news, Washington Blade

DC United front office staffer Anthony Rios with Jim Ensor and Tara Rios (Blade photo by Kevin Majoros)

The 7th annual United Night Out is scheduled for Aug. 27 at RFK Stadium as DC United takes on Chicago Fire at 7 p.m. The event is a stop on the Team DC Night Out Series, which presents LGBT community nights with local professional sports teams. The event is co-hosted by the LGBT-based Federal Triangles Soccer Club.

Coming on board this year is Athlete Ally’s #everyfan campaign designed to engage athletic leagues, teams, athletes and sports fans in dialogue around fan culture. It is appropriate that the opposing team this year will be Chicago Fire. Earlier this month, Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez released a statement telling anti-gay chanting fans to go find another team to support.

Major League Soccer offers guidelines for the franchises, but each team carves their own path in terms of community support. DC United has been a longtime frontrunner in their support of the LGBT community. They were one of the first professional sports teams to release ‘It Gets Better’ and ‘You Can Play’ videos and even offered support to the Federal Triangles when it hosted the International Gay & Lesbian Football Association world championships in D.C. in 2009.

Longtime leader of the United Night Out event, Jim Ensor, would like to see the event draw out people who have never been to a professional soccer match.

“Overall, soccer in the United States is a welcoming sport and the fans are a diverse group of people,” says Ensor. “We hope that this event is an education for the front office on how to market to the LGBT community.”

One of the long-running taglines of DC United is ‘champions on the field, champions in the community’ and their outreach includes local schools, sports leagues and underprivileged youth.

“It is a positive and natural progression for DC United to have outreach to the LGBT community,” Ensor says. “We are part of the community that supports them and we want this event to champion acceptance and inclusion.”

While he was working with the front office of the Washington Nationals, one of Scott Lewis’s duties was to help build the fan base for the club. Now working as the vice president of marketing at DC United, he is looking to do the same in his new position.

“It was great to see community events like Night Out at the Nationals grow to be one of the biggest of its kind in professional sports,” says Lewis. “We have a similar goal for United Night Out and this year we are adding to the event to increase its draw.”

United Night Out Line-Up, Aug. 27

4-6 p.m.: Tailgate in Lot 8 of RFK Stadium. Free grilled burgers and hot dogs along with side dishes. Free beer provided by Denizens Brewing. Free UNO T-shirts to the first 200 people. Marching band performance by DC Different Drummers.

6:30 p.m.: Field Level Fan Zone opens for UNO ticket holders, which also serves as the pick-up spot for UNO scarves.

6:45 p.m.: National anthem performed by the Washington Gay Men’s Chorus.

6:50 p.m.: Coin toss by Hudson Taylor – Athlete Ally executive director and co-founder. The unveiling of a tifo banner as a show of support from straight ally DC United fan club, the Screaming Eagles.

7:50 p.m.: Halftime performance by DC Different Drummers.

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