The Inter Miami Football Club Dares Men to Wear Pink

3 min read

In 2020, the Major League Soccer team Inter Miami adopted full pink for its home kit. After superstar footballer Lionel Messi joined the team this past July, pink soccer jerseys have now become the hottest ticket in sportswear. And yet, pink is not just the color of Miami, but a classic so-called “girlie” color. Is this a sign that men in sports are becoming more comfortable with their masculinity and less threatened by femininity?

Pink is likely considered the most feminine color today due to its association with both women and gay men. Although the association of the color pink with girls may have had its roots in the late 19th century, the association solidified in the 1950s and has only become stronger in the decades since. Today we see pink used at gender reveal parties to signal the birth of a girl, pink used to market toys to girls in toy stores, pink ribbons representing breast cancer awareness, and pink splashed out on the set and costumes of the recent Barbie movie.

Pink has also been associated with gay men, who are typically perceived as being more feminine than straight men. The color pink was used to identify gay male prisoners in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust, but then was later co-opted by gay activist groups such as Act Up in the 1980s to signal a positive gay identity.

Before the MLS team Inter Miami adopted full pink for its home kit, pink was a rare color for any male sports team, arguably due to its connotations of femininity. The recent popularity of the color might be part of a positive change in terms of how the professional sports world views both femininity and LGBTQ+ acceptance.

Most professional sports teams now host a Pride Night or other activities that support the LGBTQ+ community. Several European football captains had planned to wear armbands in support of the LGBTQ+ community during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar—a country where homosexual acts are criminalized—until they were ultimately threatened by FIFA, the organizing sports league. And the NHL just retracted its proposed ban on rainbow-colored tape on hockey sticks after consulting with its players. Such victories are reported on websites devoted to LGBTQ+ athletes and athletics such as Outsports.

I would have never predicted this welcome trend given the historically strong association between professional sports and toxic forms of masculinity. In the U.S., where there has been considerable backlash against progress toward LGBTQ rights, it would be just as easy for professional male athletes to join the bandwagon of intolerance.

Or is it the case that the passion for pink fueled by Messi’s membership on Inter Miami will only lead pink to become more masculinized? After all, pink hasn’t always been the color of girls and could easily change again, as have other more feminine concepts. For example, for decades in the 20th century, computer programming was considered a domain more geared for women until men took over the field in the 1980s and 90s.

Time will bear that out with the color pink. Until then, perhaps we can interpret seeing more pink on the playing field—and maybe gyms and sports bars, too—as a sign of men embracing the idea that adopting aspects of femininity does not come at a cost to masculinity.

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