December will host the most high-profile marriage of two professional sports stars in Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris. Having revealed to the world that they had long been in a relationship in April, the World Cup competitors (and teammates) stand as an encouraging bit of representation for LGBTQ+ people in sports. And, they take the platform that have built — and has been afforded to them — to speak out on a variety of issues.
Last week at the unveiling of the two as official “friends of Tag Heuer,” the watch brand that sponsors both Orlando Pride (the pair’s team) and The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, we spoke with the couple about their decision to go public, the importance of using their platforms, and the real changes they see occurring.
How did you guys get connected with the brand?
Ashlyn: Well we've had one-off partnerships with Tag Heuer for a few years now. They're a massive sponsor for The U.S. Women's National Team and for our club team, Orlando Pride, and I think our friendship and our understanding of each other has just blossomed over the years. We've taken the time to really get to know the people behind Tag Heuer and our ideals and principles really align. They value inclusion and all the things that we as a couple and especially as a gay couple stand for and to be supported outside of Pride month. You know, it's really a year round thing with them.
Ali: They really just let us be ourselves. They accept us.
Ashlyn: They totally just accept us and they're always like, "You guys be you and we support you and we're here for you." And it's the best feeling ever because you never know how brands like this are going to react.
Have there been other experiences where you felt like this acceptance would not be the case?
Ali: Yeah, absolutely. We've definitely experienced that and that's why we haven't come out as a couple because we were so afraid that we would lose certain sponsors here and there. Not that we were ever discriminated against directly, but once I can say once we have come out as a couple, brands are wanting to work with us even more, which is such a great feeling. I don't necessarily know if that were the case before. Maybe in the past few years it's kind of shifted.
Before you all came out as a couple did you have a conversation about how you might handle whatever that possible backlash could have been?
Ashlyn: You know we have really good communication between the two of us and we have really great conversations, but I think for us, as long as we continue to support each other and align ourselves with brands that support us and are like-minded, I don't feel like we ever get in sticky situations.
Ali: I think we do our research as well.
Ashlyn: You have to, right. You really have to research the brands that you're aligning with when you know you're a part of the LBGTQ+ community because we need to make sure that everyone's included no matter what your sexual orientation is, your race or what it doesn't matter, everyone is welcome here, this brand is about inclusion and we make sure we do that type of research before we ever put our name on a brand.
Ali: Yeah, we did have that. We did have that conversation like, "Is this what we want to do?" And it's like, "Yes, because you know what, screw everyone that doesn't want to be a part of our life. We're thriving so it's their loss if they don't want us to be a part of their brand or their lives."
Ashlyn: We also have so much to offer besides our sexuality. There's so much more to Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger than our sexual orientation. I'm definitely rough around the edges and I'm not squeaky clean. You know, we do have very different looks and beauty comes in so many shapes and sizes and all these different things. So I just like, I feel so grateful that I can be so comfortable in my skin now and be valued for that.
You’re not only doing your research about these brands and your partners but you’re also speaking out on a variety of topics. How important is that for you?
Ali: It's so important because we're trying to speak for the people in the back that don't have a voice or that we can't hear and that right now we're using like all of us are trying to use our platforms to create change across all industries. Change, not just within ourselves or within our team, but it's super important that we speak for those who don't have the same platform. Hopefully, then there's the trickle down effect and others will carry on that conversation.
This is especially on the highest stage, and when the spotlight is on our team and on us individually; it's so important to really say what you believe in and say what you feel and how you want to live your life and who you are. There's someone that can relate to you and that can side with you and support you.
Ashlyn: I think it really says something about your character when you're willing to fight for people that don't look like you or don't have the same sexual orientation as you. Everyone says, well how can we help fight the gender gap that you guys are fighting right now. And it's so funny because we always talk about women and investing in women and women supporting women, but like there's a huge component of men supporting women and men fighting to close this gap.
I think that’s left out a lot of the times in the conversation. We have to think about how are we raising our men to view women — I think that’s a huge component.
For us, we want to create change and you never create change by staying in your lane. So constantly we're trying to break barriers and break down doors and be heard, and that starts with using your platform. We've worked our entire career to finally be in a place where we can talk and people listen. So you better have the right shit to say.
You mentioned the pay equality issue; do you think we’ll see any real change there?
Ali: Yeah, we hope so. Honestly we can't talk much about that just because they could use it against us in court if it gets to that point. But we hope that there will be change. After everything we've done, it's what we deserve. We deserve to be paid equally. We endure the same amount of physical, emotional, and mental stress that anyone else does in our sport and I think we deserve to just play the sport that we love instead of having to bust our butt outside of soccer just to supplement our pay that we don't get just by doing our job.
We talked about how visibility is a double-edged sword so can you talk to me about one memory that you have that was positive when it comes to representation or visibility?
Ali: I think a lot of same sex couples in Orlando who like support us, both men and women that come to the games, and they're so inspired by not only the team but us specifically,. But it’s also the younger generations who always say "Congratulations.” They just see a couple like us is normal and that's just ... I wish I grew up like that, thinking that it was like normal to love who you love no matter what gender they were. I think that it was inspiring when we met those three young boys from Hollywood, Florida, and I can't remember their names specifically, but they came up to us and they were crying because they were so excited for us just to meet us. One was 15 the other one was 12 and the other one was about seven or eight and they were all brothers.
Before they left they just said, "Oh my God, congrats on the wedding, we're so excited for you." You know, like, "Keep up the great work. I can't believe we met like world champions." That is just inspiring to me because not only are we inspiring the younger girls, but the younger boys as well, and not only in just the soccer, but with life.
Ashlyn: It's normal for them now.
Ali: I haven't heard that before from a young child. So to see it unfold is pretty incredible.
Ashlyn: That’s the change we want to make.