The San Francisco 49ers announced plans Thursday morning to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month, unveiling the new 2021 49ers Pride Collection, a first of its kind, as well as plans for a new ‘Meet the Faithful’ series and their annual Activism in Sports Panel.
With 49ers PRIDE, the first official NFL fan club to engage and support LGBTQ+ and allies, the San Francisco 49ers announced yesterday morning their plans to celebrate June LGBTQ+ Pride Month, featuring a new, genderless, two-piece collection designed by 49ers’ own Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel, Hannah Gordon.
The 49ers PRIDE collection is the first gender-neutral retail line released by an NFL team, and the franchise is using the PRIDE t-shirts and crops as an opportunity to further engage with their audience while creating space for people to feel comfortable and recognized.
"This collection is about being seen and celebrated in every sense. It represents the individuality, spirit, and love of our fans," said Hannah Gordon, 49ers Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel and designer of the collection. "I love seeing how our fans wear these pieces and express their style. Doing it your own way is faithful to the Bay."
In partnership with Fanatics, the 49ers have released a handful of black and white shirts and crop tops with different sleeve lengths, all donning a bright, color-blasted San Francisco 49ers logo.
“As a global brand ourselves, we love to work with other global brands, as well as with local brands when possible, to amplify our message and share it with larger audiences that might not have been reached,” Gordon told SFist in an exclusive interview. “It’s very authentic to us as part of the Bay Area, but as a global brand we can bring this message to the entire world.”
100% of the 49ers proceeds from the merchandise will go to SF LGBT Center, Oakland LGBTQ, Center and The LGBTQ Youth Space, as the Niners organization expands on the $150,000 they have donated since 2005 to local and national nonprofits that support and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, tripling down on their commitment to the Bay.
Throughout the month of June, 49ers PRIDE will also be releasing a new video series, Meet The Faithful, in which die-hard Niner fans who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community talk about what it means for them to be ‘Faithful To The Bay’. The series will contain several feature-content pieces, telling stories through music, imagery, and real life experience.
“We hope the takeaway from this series is that no matter how you identify, you're always welcome with the 49ers," said Jenni Luke, 49ers VP, Community Impact. "It is also important that we encourage athletes of all ages to be themselves.
“Sports is something that reveals character and builds character in a way that almost nothing else in school or in work can,” Gordon echoed. “I want everyone to have an opportunity to play sports, and have it be a positive experience. And I want people to be themselves. If you’re not yourself, how could you be a leader? Sports develops leaders. It’s not fully possible to lead unless we feel safe to feel ourselves.”
On June 22nd, the 49ers will also host the 2021 49ers PRIDE LGBTQ+ Activism in Sports Panel for the third consecutive year. Those who attended the first virtual iteration in 2020 were able to interact and learn from a fun conversation that brings together a group of different voices. The panel will be moderated by NFL Media's Kimberly Chexnayder, and she will be joined by Senior Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the NFL, Sam Rapoport, with San Jose Sharks Forward, Kurtis Gabriel, and former MMA Fighter, Fallon Fox. The four members of the panel plan to discuss their experiences as out and allied persons in the world of professional sports and the normalization of LGBTQ+ athletes.
With such polarizing feelings surrounding the role of athletes in activism across the world today, it can feel intimidating or even precarious to take part in such a polarizing dialogue. There are still too many who believe that athletes lack the right to use their platform to speak on things unrelated to their sport, as the sentiment of ‘shut up and dribble’ is constantly hurled at them in interviews and online. Yet Gordon sees the convergence of being an athlete and being an activist as inevitable.
“This is just a part of our game,” Gordon explains. “Sport is a microcosm of society and always has been. Sports are a platform for creating conversation in society and this is really a continuation of a centuries long tradition throughout history.”
“It’s not so much that we have to encourage and celebrate activism in sports,” Gordon continued, “it’s actually just an inevitable part of sports. When we recognize that, it becomes more about how do we take what’s already here, examine it, and use it to make our industry better, and make our game better?”
Helping and including others is something that Hannah Gordon has made a career of, and she continues to use sports as a vehicle to reach back to an increasing number of people.
“The desire to help others should be something every human being feels,” she says. “It’s difficult for me that there are those who don’t feel that desire. It really is part of our human spirit that we are intensely social creatures.”
“One of the reasons I love sports, it’s a people business,” she explains. “The core business we’re in is bringing thousands of different people into a communal space, giving people that opportunity to have a collective experience and feel this bond. Reaching back to other people is just an extension of that.”
49ers chief administrative officer and general counsel Hannah Gordon shares a challenge that comes when she's the only woman in a room and her hope to "open the door for anyone for whom the door is closed."— AP NFL (@AP_NFL) March 29, 2021
Full story by @raganclark: https://t.co/XO6BgxzvGU pic.twitter.com/ObXZI7TvfU
Gordon has spent 10 years with the 49ers and enters her fourth as the Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel, overseeing Public Affairs and Strategic Communications, Risk Management, Community Relations, Fan Engagement, the 49ers Museum, the 49ers Foundation, and advises on all legal issues involving both the football team and Levi’s Stadium.
Her wealth of experience and expertise has put her in a position of great influence, and many people throughout the NFL and the game of football, not just within the organization, lean on her for support and direction.
Between her two titles, Gordon has her hand in just about every aspect of the goings-on of the organization, and it’s one of her favorite parts of the gig.
“What I love is there’s a little bit of everything, you get to play a part in everything that touches the team,” Gordon elaborated. “Whether it’s a stadium sign, a beautiful new retail line, a contract, or how we’re showing up in the wake of a tragedy, there’s lots of variety.”
With all of that authority comes a ton of responsibility and exposure, and being a woman in a male-dominated field, especially the sports industry, comes with its own host of statistically documented challenges and shortcomings. Yet Gordon tries to look past the female vs. male comparisons, joking she has no idea what it’s like to lead as a man, being a woman herself.
“Something particularly awesome about being female in this role, and it’s hard to know not being male, comes with the opportunity to help others, and respond to their challenges. It can be a lot of pressure, because then you don’t feel like you’re having to represent just yourself, but half of humanity. I want to represent well and don’t want to let anyone down.”
It’s hard enough to represent your own self faithfully and suitably on any given day, even having your own full experience to draw from. Yet, as a consequence of her role in the organization, Gordon often finds herself answerable to the franchise’s response to anything and everything. And in the current socio political climate, being a white woman in that position can make for a peculiar situation.
With so much civil unrest and conflicting discourse surrounding the treatment of Black Americans in this country, it would be burdensome for anyone to be accountable for responding to the Black Lives Matter movement, let alone leading the charge. However, Gordon downplayed her own role, or the notion of her as the face of anything within the franchise, and spoke to what it means to be a part of the 49ers family.
“Our response to BLM has been driven collectively within the organization, including players, our Black employee resource group (49ers BUILD), a lot of voices,” Gordon said. “It’s important to have all the voices at the table when talking about issues like that.”
“Being someone who sits at that table, it’s important to have the ability to self-reflect on your own identity,” she continued. “I am a white woman in this conversation and what does that mean and how do I listen and learn from others?”
It’s been a long journey for Hannah Gordon to get where she is now, and for someone who says she always knew she wanted to go to law school to stay in sports, she admits it wasn’t her first dream. In fact, it was her passion for clothes and styling as a young girl that led her to being the lead designer on this newest edition of 49ers PRIDE t-shirts.
“I didn’t grow up watching football, I wanted to be a fashion designer,” Gordon said in a Zoom interview with SFist. “This was the fulfillment of a dream of mine to design my own two-piece capsule collection.”
“Life has a funny way of coming full circle,” she explained. “Skills we acquire along the way will always serve us later.”
But Gordon certainly didn’t get here alone, and credits a handful of mentors and people she looked up to, women she followed closely along her journey.
“When I was in college at UCLA writing for the Daily Bruin, I was always watching the women on the sidelines,” Gordon recalled. “Pam Oliver and Michele Tafoya were huge inspirations. Women like Andrea Kramer. When I was able to be an intern at the Raiders, I was able to look up to Amy Trask. I always feel guilty because I could always list 20 women who encouraged me or pushed me to get to another stage or level or just be better at my craft.”
“No one does this alone,” she reiterated.
Stay tuned for more announcements from the 49ers, and head over to 49ers.com/Pride to purchase pieces from the collection and get more details about everything happening in and around the organization for June Pride month.
Top Image: Courtesy of San Francisco 49ers