It was a night of healing Saturday at Camping World Stadium, as the MLS match between Orlando City and the San Jose Earthquakes featured dedications and memorials to the 49 victims of nightclub shooting at Pulse.
There have been plenty of vigils and remembrances for the victims, but the match attended by 37,193 fans was one of the most poignant. Rainbow flags and garb dominated the look of fans in the stands, and both team entered not to an MLS anthem, but to the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love.” Play was stopped at the 49th minute to remember all 49 victims. From the Orlando Sentinel:
While it wasn’t the result Orlando City players wanted, the game and the team fulfilled its role of helping the community shift from grief to healing.
“I always believe sports has the ability to do more than just be the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber, who flew to Orlando for the match. “It really can raise the hopes and dreams of people in our communities. To see it here tonight … It’s emotional. It kind of brings a tear to your eyes.
“It’s important for all of us to recognize the world is going to be a much better place if we’re more focused on love and less focused on hate. We all are part of a league that is based on diversity and inclusiveness and hope.”
However, what happened during the match wasn’t the focus of the world’s spotlight. It was the simple fact that the match was played; that people from all different backgrounds came together and, while wearing #OrlandoUnited t-shirts and waving rainbow flags, continued the healing process for a wounded city. With the whole world watching, 37,194 people proved that hate and anger would never have a place in a city as united as this one, only love.
“That is the power of sports, it unifies each and everyone,” said Orlando City midfielder Kevin Molino. “We want to strengthen the families who lost their loved ones [by coming together].”
Walking onto the field to the tune of the Beatle’s “All You Need is Love,” Orlando City players donned rainbow-colored wristbands and black armbands in solidarity with a traumatized LGBTQ+ community. The crowd, in unison, sang the national anthem. In the 49th minute, the ball was kicked out of play and silence overcame the normally raucous stadium in remembrance of the innocent victims who died as a result of the shooting. When Orlando City defender scored the match’s first goal in the 67th minute, he ripped off his rainbow wristband and waved it to the crowd, thumping the #OrlandoUnited patch on his jersey. Hines was asked after the game why he made these gestures.
Image courtesy Orlando City.