FINALLY: THE FIRST BLAZER PRIDE NIGHT!

By Shaley Howard, PQ Monthly

Portland queer basketball fans – the wait is over! Tuesday, November 15th the Portland Trailblazers are having their first every Blazer PRIDE Night – a night celebrating LGBTQ diversity and inclusion.

As native Portlander, as far back as I can remember, I was watching, attending and supporting the Trailblazers through thick and thin.  From the glorious 1977 championship with Bill Walton to the 1985-95 teams of “Clyde the Glide” Drexler and the late great Jerome Kersey and Kevin Duckworth to the early 2000 “Jail” Blazer year teams – I’ve been there hootin’ and hollering, making noise. (Although despite the craziness of those “Jail” Blazer years the upside was you could always get super cheap seats – so there was that.)

Honestly, though, no matter how supportive, loud and raucous a “6th man” I was, I never actually felt accepted because of my sexual orientation. It was heartbreaking given I not only played basketball myself but also I loved a team that did not seem to support me.

But change does happen. Sometimes it takes its damn time, but it does happen. Heck, just two years ago the Portland Trailblazers became the first NBA franchise come forward publically in support of the LGBTQ community and Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection ballot initiative. And now they are once again blazing the path and embracing whole heartedly an LGBTQ Pride Night!

Christa Stout, Vice President of Social Responsibility for the Portland Trailblazers, wanted to do some sort of LGBTQ-focused event in association with the Blazers, especially in the aftermath of the PULSE nightclub shootings in Orlando. A friend from the Blazer Foundation team connected her with Justin Pabalate of the Q Center here in Portland. The first thought was to have an event that would solely benefit the Q Center, but it was ultimately decided that this inaugural event would benefit the Q Center, Sankofa Collective NW, the Equi Institute, and Pride NW.

“At Q Center, we believe in lifting up the work of other community leaders because we know that their work and dedication allow our communities to thrive. Because of that belief, we asked the Blazer Foundation team if they would be amiable if we were to include our community partners at The Equi Institute, Sankofa Collective NW, and Pride NW. They said of course and a portion of the ticket sales will benefit these groups.” – Justin Pabalate.

Before the big game next Tuesday night there will be a pregame reception for everyone who purchased Pride Night tickets to meet and socialize with other LGBTQ Blazer fans, grab some food, receive a Pride Night memento and learn about the organizations benefiting from the event. Food, photo-opts, and other fun party stuff are being provided by the Trailblazers, Alaska Airlines, and Barefoot Winery.

“Supporting the LGBTQ community has been a priority for the Trail Blazers for years.” – Remarked Christa Stout adding, “We love working with Q Center and are thrilled to have the opportunity to celebrate the LGBTQ community, and raise awareness and donations for impactful organizations.”

In addition to the pre-party, there will be about 20 volunteers from the Q Center walking around the Moda Center selling tickets for the 50/50 raffle that will partially benefit the night’s groups. Plus the item of the game that night is a black hoodie that says Ripcity with a rainbow on it! The icing on the rainbow cake?  The Portland Gay Men’s Chorus will be opening the evening by singing the National Anthem. Change does happen. This time it’s on the basketball court.

“We’re so very grateful to the Blazer Foundation team for reaching out and making this happen. Q Center is hoping that this is the start of a long-term relationship with the Blazers.  Beyond the obvious benefits to Q Center, there is an exciting and endless list of opportunities for the Blazers to receive training to further their welcoming culture and to develop it into a culture of advocacy to bring their fans along for a deeper and meaningful journey towards LGBTQ acceptance and thriving.” – commented Justin Pabalate.

If you are an LGBTQ supporter and want to take part in uplifting the community like the Portland Trail Blazers, be sure to reach out to the Q Center or Justin at justin@pdxqcenter.org.

As this is such an exciting and historic inaugural event, discounted Pride Night and Pre-party tickets did sell out quickly. But you can still purchase tickets to that night’s game and enjoy the evening with loads of other LGBTQ basketball!  To purchase tickets go to http://www.rosequarter.com/pridenight/

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