RSL to make history, serving up first-ever Pride Night by a top-tier Utah professional sports team

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake fans after the game at Rio Tinto Stadium Sunday, October 22, 2017.

Former Real Salt Lake defender Brian Dunseth was 11 years old when a kid on the playground taunted him during a basketball game with, “At least my dad’s not gay.”

“It was devastating,” Dunseth recalled. “Not because of what he said, but that it would be used in that context, as something that I should be disgusted by.”

On Wednesday, as a TV analyst, Dunseth will participate in RSL’s first Pride Night on the broadcast of RSL’s home match against the Houston Dynamo. The event kicks off a month-long equality theme for the RSL organization. The Monarchs and Royals will also host pride nights, on and June 26 and 27, respectively.

In addition to an organization-wide celebration, as of Monday five RSL and Monarchs players, and seven Royals players had joined the Playing for Pride team. Those players pledged to donate money (the amount based on the number of games, assists and goals they log in the month of June) to Athlete Ally, a non-profit organization aiming to stomp out homophobia and transphobia in sport. The RSL Foundation also pledged to match its players’ donations, up to $10,000.

“I think it’s awesome how far everyone has come in accepting this,” said RSL striker Corey Baird, who was inspired to join the Playing for Pride team by his older brother, who is gay. “The support the club has shown, other guys on the team have shown, and the MLS itself has been awesome. I love it.”

While pride nights have become common in other places in the country, Utah teams have stayed away from such events, owing largely to the state’s conservative culture.

Now, RSL is one of at least 17 MLS teams that have included a pride night on their schedule.

“We really believe that we are uniting the community through sport and through soccer,” said RSL Chief Business Officer Andy Carroll. “And what a great opportunity for us to continue on that mission.”

The league itself dubbed June “Soccer For All Month,” although Carroll said RSL’s decision to host a pride night was not sparked by MLS’s new campaign.

“More than anything,” Dunseth said, “it’s the idea of inclusion, it’s the idea of equality, it’s the idea that you’re not alone no matter what.”

Dunseth learned that his dad was gay at the age of 11. The counselor his parents had Dunseth see recommended that he keep his father’s sexual orientation to himself.

“I didn’t understand that,” Dunseth said. “I couldn’t wrap my head around why I had to hide something like that.”

Just a few months later, that information was used as an insult against him on the basketball court. Dunseth can’t remember a time, however, when his father tried to hide that he was gay, no matter the personal social implications.

“If [Pride Night] just changes maybe for one person who’s struggling with their identity behind the scenes,” Dunseth said, “that they can look at these three teams and feel a connection, if it can positively affect just one person, I think that’s a massive positive.”

Real Salt Lake vs. Houston Dynamo<br>At Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah <br>Kickoff » 7:30 p.m. <br>TV » KMYU<br>Radio » 700 AM<br>Records » RSL 5-6-1, HOU 5-3-3<br>Last meeting » RSL 0, HOU 0 (Aug. 5 at Rio Tinto Stadium)&lt;br&gt;About HOU » The Dynamo are tied for first in most goals scored (26). … Houston enters the match on a four-game unbeaten streak. … Midfielder Darwin Cerén (right knee), and defenders A.J. DeLaGarza (torn left ACL), Kevin Garcia (left hamstring), George Malki (left knee sprain), Dylan Remick (concussion), Philippe Senderos (right hamstring) and Jared Watts (right hamstring) are sidelined due to injury.<br>About RSL » RSL enters the match on a four-game home winning streak. ... Midfielder Albert Rusnák will miss the match for international duty with Slovakia. … RSL defenders Tony Beltran (knee), Shawn Barry (knee), and Demar Phillips (ankle) are listed as out for the match. … Goalkeeper Alex Horwath (achilles) and midfielders Jordan Allen (knee) and Luke Mulholland (back) remain sidelined due to injury. … Forward Joao Plata (quad) is questionable for the match.