On Saturday night at Yankee Stadium, we celebrate Pride Night at Yankee Stadium - a celebration of LGBTQ inclusivity and the power of soccer.
Melina de la Cruz is someone who has experienced the transformative effect that the beautiful game can inspire, as a member of City in the Community's (CITC) Youth Leadership Council (YLC) and a regular at Saturday Night Lights (SNL) in East Harlem.
In her own words, this is Melina's story...
I got involved with Saturday Night Lights when I was 12. One of the coaches invited me to play at Randall’s Island. He said they wanted to start an all-girls team because they had an all-guys team. I was kind of the first generation of the girls SNL and I see it as a responsibility to be a role model for the other girls.
When you’re a part of the LGBTQ community, it’s a hard situation to go through because there weren’t too many accepting people a few years ago. Now that there are, they’re giving LGBTQ youth a chance to come out and give them support. Recently, I helped a girl come out to the team and it was kind of cool. Before she was shy and always in the corner but once she came out to us, she started to be more open. She was like a butterfly, she came out of her cocoon.
It was hard coming out to my friends. Once I came out to them, I realized they were supportive and I decided to just embrace it. So I was open with everyone when they started to ask me about my sexuality. Now it’s important for me to be there for these girls because it’s more support for them. They know they’re not alone through anything, even if it’s hard. It lets them know it’s not a bad thing. There are kids out here that are scared because of parents, or they’re scared of what people are going to say. Once they open up and come out, it makes it easier because they don’t have to hide it anymore.
At Saturday Night Lights, it’s easier because it’s an accepting place for anyone who’s a part of the LGBTQ community. The girls have seen me cry many times, and we’ve seen each other cry but Saturday Night Lights is a safe place. We’ve never looked down on someone. We’ve always see their highlights. We are a family. We’ve always been there for each other. We’re always together. We’re always outside, we have barbecues, we go to Randall’s. We’ve just gotten really close, so it’s nice to have them with me through everything.
Seeing NYCFC host Pride Night is really important because since the club has a large platform and a big audience, it sets the example for the fans and and opens the conversation to more people. It helps people realize that there is so much support and so much help now that maybe wasn’t always there before.
Support us in partnering with Street Football World to give LBGTQ youth safe spaces to play in NYC and you could win a VIP experience at Pride Night vs. Orlando on Saturday, or a signed David Villa jersey just by donating to the cause.