In Nashville soccer circles, the Music City Heaters are known as much for an irreverent attitude (and the accompanying memes) as anything else. The Heaters make jokes and drink hard seltzers. The snark and the fun are perhaps the defining characteristics of this Nashville SC supporters group, at least from an outsider’s perspective.
The Heaters are much more than that, and they’re out to show it, as well. In launching the H.E.A.T. – Heaters Equity Action Team – initiative, the serious side of the SG will come out. The plan, which gets under way today, is to leverage the strength and manpower of the NSC community to support minority-owned businesses in the Nashville area.
“We have decided that we can use our connections to NSC fans to leverage that group to bring business to minority-own and black-owned businesses,” said H.E.A.T. committee chairman Jonathan White. “Just by sheer numbers, just by helping them raise their sales with a pretty simple, quick and easy marketing campaign that we can run through all NSC support.
“I think it just rounds out the picture of the Heaters a little bit: everybody that’s in charge of the Heaters – from the funny e-mails and media posts – are the ones that reached out to me. They do important work in their lives as well. I think it just really puts into perspective how the Heaters like soccer to be that release, to really have fun with it. But at the same time, they’ve got things that are heavy on their heart and feel like there’s hard work to do.”
The plan sees the group pair with a local minority-owned business – on a rotating basis, with a new outlet regularly chosen – and to use the power of The Backline Supporters Collective to help them grow their economic heft. Along with fellow Backline members The Assembly, La Brigada de Oro, Eastern Front SG, and the Roadies, the Heaters will encourage their networks collectively and individually to do their part to close the racial wealth gap in Nashville and beyond. By patronizing existing businesses, soccer fans in the local community can empower them, and ultimately underserved communities, to find long-term success.
“They wanted to figure out something that they could do that would be helpful,” White said of his compatriots on the committee. “Some of the guys that were interested – it was about five or six of us to start – just threw around some ideas and it’s really a couple of our beliefs that economic empowerment would be the most impactful way to go. So that’s what started it: just a bunch of conversations and then landing on economic empowerment. I think the society we’re in is why it’s a pretty obvious choice: money talks. One of the big issues that we see all the time is the wealth gap. Just it’s a way to close that wealth gap, home-ownership along with business ownership are two of the ways that you build that. We’re showing that if we can help certain businesses, we can help their families, their employees, themselves, and reach those milestones that help close that wealth gap.”
So, how do soccer supporters – and in the long-term, those outside the soccer community, as well – get involved? It’s simple. By joining forces with H.E.A.T., they help grow businesses in the community.
“They would reach out to the HEAT committee or any of the supporters’ groups – each of the groups has a representative, so any of the groups that they reach out to has a way to get to us, White said. “We would basically put them into a business list that we have. We’re starting off with a lot of grassroots type stuff, and we do have an option for somebody who is not part of an SG. This is just data analytics for us, just to see where our push and our supporters are coming from. We’re just starting with the soccer aspect of it, but we’re looking for it to grow for as good as possible.
“When we really get it going, we would like to do a different business every week, to reach out and help those businesses. Also, we would like that number – the number of people that we send to that business – to rise. So right now we’re going to start out slow with a month [per business], and within that month we want to hit certain benchmarks. What is too much for them to handle? What is what they need? So we just set benchmarks with those companies and we’ll do everything we can to hit them. We’ve got a bunch of volunteers that will push the message out, reach out to their networks, and that’s really what we’re excited about is how many networks we can leverage to hopefully get some money flowing in their pockets and their balance sheets.”
Around the globe, soccer is seen as an agent for positive change within communities. Whether that encompasses LGBT+ rights, climate change, racial justice, or any other number of other the beautiful game can be used to bring about good. Within Nashville, the Heaters see H.E.A.T. as a way to help bring some of that positivity to the Music City.
Click here for more information on how to participate.