SANTA CLARA, Calif. - With the San Francisco 49ers season opener set for Sunday in Chicago, fans are ready for a return of the red and gold.
The 49ers are also the first team in the NFL to have an official fan club, and official merchandise for the LGBTQ+ plus community.
"As we prepare for the upcoming football season we want to celebrate the passion of all the Faithful no matter how they identify. If your team is the red and gold you belong in the 49ers family," said 49ers tight end George Kittle in a video about the Pride club on the 49ers website.
Kittle said the club is a way to be "loud and proud" about your Niners pride.
"We are proud to launch 49ers Pride. The official community of 49ers fans who identify as LGBTQ+ and allies," Kittle said.
Cisco Mejia, a lifelong 49ers fan, is the leader of the Pride club.
"It means a lot especially to the people who are not out," Mejia said.
Mejia said the significance of inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community from an NFL team cannot be overstated.
"You know back when I was in high school being out wasn’t a choice because it wasn’t really accepted. Now that the 49ers have done something like this at this time people are more open to coming out and wearing their pride colors to games and feeling accepted," Mejia said.
At the 49ers team store at Levi’s Stadium you can stock up on official team-logo pride merchandise.
The collection is the first genderless retail line released by any NFL team which includes, among other things, t-shirts, hats, lanyards and stickers.
When the 49ers first launched the clothing line the team said it represented the "individuality, spirit and love of our fans."
Cisco Mejia said, "With the 49ers doing this you are more accepted into the organization with ‘you being you’ basically – that is the best way to put it."
But the Pride club is about more than just apparel and marketing. It's also about outreach and participation in community events such as Pride week.
In the team video, George Kittle said: "Throughout the calendar year 49ers Pride will share insiders looks about what the organization is up to in the LGBTQ+ community, opportunities to participate in experiences such as march with the front office in the sf pride celebration, and invitations to attend philanthropic and social events with like-minded faithful."
Cisco Mejia will be the DJ at a watch party this Sunday for the 49ers season opener at Chicago.
His hope is that more NFL teams will follow the lead of the 49ers, so others can feel the way he did when the 49ers launched its Pride club.
"I went to the website and it was just ‘wow’ – your jaw just drops with excitement. Really this is happening? A professional NFL team – and of all teams my team – this is awesome!," Mejia said.