University of Minnesota Women’s Basketball Tipped Off To Celebrate Pride

Photo by Randy Stern
Photo by Randy Stern

The young University of Minnesota Women’s Basketball team celebrated LGBTQ Pride on Sunday, January 29 at Williams Arena on the Minneapolis campus. The Golden Gophers, led by Head Coach Lindsay Whalen, faced the University of Michigan Wolverines in a crucial Big Ten matchup.

At the game, the first 2,000 fans received a free “United We Are” bracelet. However, they also had the chance to purchase exclusive University of Minnesota Women’s Basketball Pride shirts at Golden Gophers Fan Shops inside Williams Arena. Both the Gophers and the Wolverines wore Pride specific warm-up shirts prior to tip-off.

University of Minnesota Women’s Basketball Head Coach Lindsay Whalen. Photo by Sophia Hantzes

At the start of the game, a quintet from One Voice Mixed Chorus sang the National Anthem. Throughout the lobby and concourse of Williams Arena, five groups were present for fans to interact with them. These groups include the Queer Student Cultural Center, the IEE Women in Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts Student Board, CHAARG. CHAARG is an on-campus chapter of a women’s fitness group that promotes “diversity, equity, and inclusion through fitness classes.” All of these organizations were ready to engage with fans about their programs on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.

As for the Gophers’ Women’s Basketball Team, last year was a good one towards preparing for this season. After the university hosted the Division I Women’s Basketball Final Four at Target Center, Whalen was just inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. In turn, Whalen brought in one of the best recruiting classes in the team’s history – all of which are from Minnesota. This is a young team, featuring seven Freshmen and three Sophomores on the current roster.

Photo by Randy Stern

Going into the game with Michigan, the Gophers were 9-11 overall, 2-7 in Big Ten conference play. The 77-41 loss to the nationally ranked Wolverines wasn’t the result we were hoping for. However, our colors flew boldly inside Williams Arena with their supportive fans in attendance.

In the putting on of this year’s Women’s Basketball Pride Game, Mills Armbruster, the University of Minnesota Athletics Department’s Director of Marketing explained that “our administration and campus leaders have been tremendous in their support of our Women’s Basketball Pride Game.  Engaging our students, faculty/staff, AND community members is a priority for this game each year.  Our goal is to provide a supportive space for the LGBTQ community to come and enjoy college athletics, and specifically, Gopher Women’s Basketball.”

Photo by Randy Stern

However, this connection to the LGBTQ community on and off campus is not just a one-off event for the University of Minnesota Athletics Department. Armbruster stated that they “have already begun rolling out a year-long, cross sport Pride initiative that will only grow in years to come.  Currently, we are planning events on campus during Volleyball, Women’s Basketball, and Softball seasons to spread the length of the athletic year.  Many other sports host their own Pride themed events (Gymnastics, Women’s Hockey, etc.), but they have yet to be included into the large-scale initiative.”

Photo by Randy Stern

The University of Minnesota is leading the charge to welcome us to their facilities in support of their athletics programs. It is just the beginning and are planning to do more in the future. However, for the 4,545 fans in attendance on a Sunday afternoon, it was good to get out on a frigid sunny day and celebrate our community on- and off-campus inside Williams Arena – win or lose.

Additional photos from this game are coming from our Lavender Lens photographer Sophia Hantzes. Keep an eye out on our website for those images!

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