The women's basketball team sported LGBTQ+ Pride T-shirts on Jan. 25. This was part of their very first Pride Game festivities. Photo by AJ Anderson/North by Northwestern.

On Thursday, Jan. 25, in collaboration with the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC), Northwestern women’s basketball hosted its very first Pride Night.

Welsh-Ryan Arena was decked out with pride flags of all kinds, and the women’s basketball warmup shirts featured a little rainbow basketball on the front. The video board also rotated through the different flags, explaining the meaning of each.

“Overall, I think it was a very solid first attempt at a women’s basketball game as a pride game here at Northwestern,” GSRC Director Matthew Abtahi said about the event.

Several student groups were recognized during the game, including the GSRC, the Rainbow Alliance and oSTEM. Rainbow Alliance is Northwestern’s main undergraduate LGBTQIA+ group, while oSTEM focuses on the queer community in STEM fields.

“We’re really grateful that athletics, instead of doing pride games alone, they’re choosing to do pride games with the community because it demonstrates their commitment in being a little more connected to the actual queer community,” Abtahi said. “It definitely feels like bridges are being built.”

The student merchandise was…OK. While the rubber bracelets, mini progressive pride flags, rainbow sunglasses and mini pride banners were hot commodities, the shirts left something to be desired. They were solid colors with the intention that students would each pick different colors and when they sat next to each other, it would mimic a rainbow. One basketball band member (the band snagged most of the shirts in the near-empty arena due to limited adverstising) was overheard saying, “It’s giving M&Ms.”

“We went the route of ‘Well, let’s just get, like, multiple colors’ and the stadium will just be really colorful. I think we did the best with the cards that we were handed,” Abtahi said of the shirts.

He further elaborated on what athletics has done in the past compared to the shirts at the basketball game, saying, “[Athletics] hosts an internal pride game every year … and so I’ve seen different iterations on what some of their pride gear looks like, and a lot of it is one, more colorful and kind of more explicitly about queer pride, queer liberation.” In short, there’s nowhere to go but up in terms of merch.

This isn’t the first Pride Night at a Northwestern sporting event. Field hockey hosted one on Sept. 9, 2022, in a game against Liberty. Softball hosted one during the 2023 season that the GSRC was involved with as well, complete with shirts featuring Willie the Wildcat holding a progressive pride flag — objectively better merch. Additionally, men’s soccer participated in last year’s pride kickball game hosted by the Northwestern Athlete Alliance.

While the stands at the women’s basketball game may not have been filled, in the end, this was the most notable pride sports event Northwestern has hosted since 2015, when men’s basketball hosted the first-ever pride sports event in school history. Only time will tell if pride will return to larger sporting events like men’s basketball or even football in the future.

“Our partners in athletics did a really meaningful job in incorporating some of the ways we wanted to celebrate our LGBTQ community,” Abtahi concluded.

Thumbnail Photo by AJ Anderson/North by Northwestern.