When the Seattle Sounders unveiled their new and famous sponsor during an event at Renton High School about two weeks ago, the mood was ecstatic. Players threw shirts into the stands, high school students participated in a class-by-class competition to see who could make the best “boom-boom-clap,” and there was a lot of talk about how Providence supported them before putting their name on the front of the Sounders’ jersey.
Much of that “greater” is a youth mental health program offered to Renton School District students in partnership with Providence.
When Sounders officials began checking social media and reading email, however, it quickly became apparent that the announcement was not as expected. The box office and time slots have been filled with negative results and concerns, including accusations that the Sounders have abandoned their core values by partnering with a health care organization that has a history of birth control has been accused of discriminating against LGTBQ patients and is still being sued. the Attorney General of Washington for compensating low-income patients for care they receive without payment.
The size and intensity of fan activity is so significant that the Sounders have called an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss a plan of action. Soon, the Sounders organized meetings with Emerald City Supporters, Gorilla FC and the Alliance Council in an attempt to calm concerns.
It is in the same way that the Sounders came to us with the goal of reaching our audience. I met with CEO and COO Taylor Graham and COO Maya Mendoza-Exstrom at Longacres on Monday to discuss some of the concerns we had. You can listen to the entire hour-long conversation here, but I also wanted to share some of my biggest takeaways:
Perhaps the thing I took away most from our interview was the belief that the problem is the size of the message. At one point, it was widely believed that the company was ready to answer some of these questions about the important values that were pointed out in the press, but no one asked. While there is some truth to that sentiment – and I would have thought to go ahead and ask those questions if it weren’t for having two sick children at home – I think it’s a bit silly and not at all ignorant to say. These could have been avoided if they had been asked the right questions at the opening.
Let’s be clear: it’s not just the problem of not saying it out loud that doesn’t change their value. Partnering with a company like Providence requires more than reiterating those values. Some fans, perhaps most, may want to be patient. For others, I think there is a lot of loss of confidence. Future efforts may bring those fans back, but making a real effort goes beyond hosting pride events or posting comments on Twitter. .
If there’s one positive, it’s that Graham and Mendoza-Exstrom believe that this partnership won’t diminish any of the work the Sounders do in the community, but may actually improve it. They insisted that the Sounders should not be shy about facing social issues ranging from the “right to play” to the choice to have children. There is a sense that Providence “forces us to be the best versions of ourselves” when it comes to social issues.
At the same time, Graham and Mendoza-Exstrom said there were other employees who shared the same sentiment. However, they argue that the ability to communicate internally and externally is one of the things that sets them apart from many sports teams.
Anyone expecting the Sounders to separate themselves from Providence in some sort of outcry will likely be disappointed. At no time did Graham or Mendoza-Exstrom express any concerns or dissatisfaction with Providence. They also said they weren’t concerned that Providence might use the Sounders brand as a sports wash, in part because of how much they do with other sports teams.
“This is not the first time Providence has invested in their product and expanded their business through sports,” Graham said when asked specifically about sports. “When we talk to our partners who have joined Providence, the starting point is the community first. That comes back to the people and do you trust that? From the people, we work. From the community , we do. They are proud of the work they do with Providence through the work they do in the LGTBQI area. They let us lead this area and become the Sounders. I have no worries about this. place. We are put in this place and we expect to deliver.”
The one thing the Sounders have always come back to as a reason to be excited about this partnership is the youth mental health program they are helping to start with the Renton schools. Providence has a program called “Work2BeWell” that forms the backbone of their campaign, but they are waiting to hear from Renton schools to get more details about what is needed. as far as. Considering that the details of how this program will work are unknown, it is difficult to know exactly what the concept will be, but the Sounders are optimistic about it and are confident that LGBTQ youth will receive care good health. Mendoza-Exstrom said “30-50” Renton students have already expressed interest in using the service, something she takes as a sign of great value. There is broad agreement that many of these issues are relevant and the Sounders believe that this will be an overall conservation effort.
There is no word on how much Providence will pay the Sounders, but it has been reported that the cost will be close to $100 million over his 10-year life. It’s much more than getting the company from original clothing sponsors XBOX or Zulily. Graham acknowledged that the cost was part of what made this so spectacular, but they also felt that there was a lot of good that could be done with all that money and resources. Graham suggested that the resources would be used to help fund various environmental remedial measures and quality improvements on the pitch.
The main theme in all of this is that words can convey great things. It’s safe and sound for the Sounders to say that their values have not changed, they believe that many good things can come out of this and they are confident that Providence will be a good partner. However, they also noted that verification is in the works.
“We’re a team that’s got work done,” Graham said. “We’re going to be up to the task at times. Hopefully, the track record of this team and being able to deliver against that is something that can re-instill confidence in our fanbase in this time. Let’s go back and understand that we don’t know all the information in front of us, we may not agree, but trust that the group is the same group and we will be bound at some point.”
Another theory I’ve heard often is that the Sounders want to have their cake (being seen as a successful team) and eat it too (taking money from a team that is supposed to be working hard to one of the group.source of wealth). I’m not sure that any of the things said in this interview will sway skeptics from that point of view. Perhaps the Sounders chose to compete for social reasons because they felt it was the right thing to do, but one consequence of that is that they put themselves in a position to be judged when they do. against those values. No one has introduced them to Providence and they will match this round.
At the end of the interview, I tried to point out to them what they thought the team could do and what the fans could do to support them. I don’t know that many people will be convinced by their answers, that they “be patient” and “file your ticket with the Alliance Council representatives or serve on the Alliance Council yourself.”
Now, I think many fans will just choose with their wallets, choosing not to buy anything with Providence on it or something more serious.