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Bears celebrate Pride Month through support of CMSA

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In honor of Pride Month, the Bears are working with the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association — the largest non-profit LGBTQ+ sports organization in the Midwest — on two of the biggest events in Chicago: Pride Bowl and Pride Parade.

While the Bears have been previous financial supporters of CMSA, this year's celebrations will be considered the largest initiatives the club has teamed up with CMSA on.

"It's huge," CMSA President Christina Lopez said. "Football in Chicago is just part of the Chicago culture as it is. Getting that cosign from the Bears that CMSA is the queer sports league and the flag football league for queer adults to be participating in is huge. That just validates all of the efforts that we've been putting in for years."

Pride Bowl

The Bears will be supporters of this year's Pride Bowl — an annual flag football tournament held on the lakefront that takes place June 28-29 — through donations, activations and volunteers. The club's support at the tournament helps create awareness for CMSA and its flag football league as they aim to tackle stereotypes, build camaraderie and transform lives through sport for the LGBTQIA+ community and ally supporters.

Pride Bowl is part of a series of competitions led by the National Gay Flag Football League, which empowers thousands of LGBTQ+ athletes and allies around the country and in Canada. This year, Pride Bowl — which is the largesst NGFFL competition that is always held in the same city — will feature a 32-team Open (all genders) Division and a 24-team Women's+ Division.

"In the past, we've had endowments from the Bears," Lopez said. "The Bears have been behind the scenes, helping with operational costs, helping make sure we could pay for fields and helping make sure we could pay for porta potties because the park district's restrooms are closed during the times we play, things like that. Simple things like that do make a big difference, but on the player side, if you're not on the leadership team, you don't really know the Bears are a part of that. This year at Pride Bowl, everyone will be able to feel and see that support from the Bears."

Pride Bowl will also serve as a Bears Huddle event, which are monthly community service volunteer opportunities for the club's staff members.

As one of the lead champions of the Bears' Pride Month efforts and captain of the Chicago Blaze in CMSA's flag football league, suites sales manager Logan Oppegard is excited to see the club's impact on Pride Bowl this year.

"I am excited and honored to be championing the club's Pride Month efforts," Oppegard said, "and I'm proud to be part of an organization that sees the importance of supporting Pride Bowl and the CMSA community. When celebrating Pride, it's crucial to recognize the importance of outreach, representation, and the amplification of diverse voices and experiences. The fact that we're able to spotlight this LGBTQ+ flag football tournament and its phenomenal players and use our platform to help this league grow, aligns with our commitment to inspire change and that football is for everyone."

Pride Parade

The Bears are also participating in the 53rd annual Chicago Pride Parade on Sunday, June 30, this time teaming up with CMSA to have a dual-branded trolley. The club has been a part of the past two Pride Parades as well.

Bears staff will have the opportunity to join the parade and walk alongside CMSA members and handout Bears-branded giveaways like temporary tattoos and eye black. Monster Squad will also be in attendance to run flags.

"Having that collaboration for the parade with the Bears will be super nice just because it's not every day we get to work with professional sports teams in that capacity," Lopez added. "We're so in the queer culture here in Chicago that we forget people will literally drive from hours away to go to that pride parade to feel seen and to feel connected. We have members of CMSA who drive three hours every weekend to play in our league. That's the type of impact that we have. I can't imagine how much it's gonna spread and grow with the awareness that we're going to get with Chicago Bears being part of the parade. That's huge."