The Seattle Sounders announced a new sponsorship deal with Providence Hospital last week. In addition, the two partners announced that they were collaborating with the Renton School District to identify and bring resources in an effort to stamp to out mental health in elementary and middle school and high school populations. Yes, last week’s event covered a wide range of topics and left many questions on many fronts.
The partnership on the soccer side was rather simple. Providence became the team’s second front jersey sponsor since the club entered MLS n 2019. The other two sponsors were Zulily ( 2019-2022). Renton-based Xbox was the team’s first sponsor from 2009-2018.
In addition to having their name on the front of the Sounders MLS Kit Providence is now the Official Medical Services Provider and Official Healthcare Partner of the club. Despite the new partnership with Providence, Doctors from the Swedish Medical Group will continue to serve as team doctors and work with the club’s sports medicine staff.
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Providence is one of the largest healthcare providers in the country with 51 hospitals and more than 800 non-acute facilities with a heavy concentration in Washington, Oregon, Alaska and California. That includes eight hospitals and 2,200 providers in Western Washington. Although there are no Providence-branded hospitals in Seattle, they have been affiliated with Swedish since 2012 and have operated under the unified brand of Providence Swedish since March 2022.
The controversy has more to do with Providence being a faith based organization that is against women’s reproductive rights. And most damaging was a New York Times Article alleging that Providence’s corporate officers had engineered a way to charge low-income customers for services they were entitled to receive for free.
One club support group Emerald City Supporters was so enraged with the partnership by
Sounders FC sent an open letter to the Club’s ownership group.
The outcry continued when The Sounders FC Alliance Council which is an elected body representing the team’s season-tickets members issued a statement concerning Providence’s policies around abortion rights, and fair treatment of transgender people and low-income patients.
The Council’s statement called out the club for creating a partnership with an entity whose values are in direct opposition to the Sounder’s Social and Impact goals and promises. Sounders FC issued a statement to the Seattle Times, stating that the club has been actively listening to members of the Sounders Community.
The partnership between Providence, Sounders FC, and the Renton School District has an opportunity to make a seismic shift in the field of mental health in the BIPOC community.
During the press conference after the announcement the word “ we are willing to listen and this is a first step were repeated by Sounders FC Majority Owner Adrian Hanuer and Providence President and CEO Rod Hochman, M.D. Providence will stand on its values and the question moving forward is how far are they willing to shift those values.
To bash the partnership would be detrimental to the BIPOC community. This should be looked at as an opportunity to educate and hold yet another organization accountable for speaking in the name of making a difference in the community.