The Philadelphia Soul fell to the Washington Valor, 49-48, at the Wells Fargo Center on June 10, and scattered among the 9,636 in attendance were about 300 Jewish fans decked out in commemorative T-shirts. It was Jewish Heritage Night, after all.
With a rare Sunday game on the calendar, the Soul welcomed the Jewish community for an evening of football and fun. The shirts were packaged with discounted tickets, mimicking a long-held practice employed by professional sports teams around the area.
The Phillies celebrated their 11th Jewish Heritage Night on May 7. The 76ers’ was on Dec. 4. Sixers Account Executive Tyler Wuensche, who helped plan this past season’s event, said the team sold about 350 tickets, a number he hopes to increase to 750 next year.
But Wuensche said the Sixers — and probably other local teams — don’t measure the success of Jewish Heritage Night by tickets sold. The goal is to create a positive, welcoming experience for the Jewish community in hopes of strengthening Jewish fans’ connection to the Sixers.
“If it doesn’t get to 750, I won’t sulk about it,” Wuensche said. “The downside is I didn’t reach as many people as I’d like.”
This past season, the Sixers also held Australian Heritage Night, Indian Heritage Night and Greek Heritage Night, among others. All represented an opportunity to reach more fans.
“Typically most fans [at games] are diehard Sixers fans and will always support the team. One initiative we want to achieve as an organization is how can we connect with other people in the Philadelphia area that don’t always experience Sixers basketball,” Wuensche said. “Heritage nights help accomplish that.”
The Soul have held other heritage nights in the past. The June 10 game represented the perfect opportunity to celebrate the Jewish community, team official Alex Boory said.
“It was our first Sunday game in a few years. Most of our games are on Saturdays, and it’s tough to do that on a Saturday,” he said, referencing the Jewish Sabbath. “We had the chance to finally do that as an organization.”
Attendance for Jewish Heritage Night was consistent with normal attendance figures for Soul home games. The team drew a season-high 10,164 people to April 28’s 67-51 win over the Valor.
The Soul host the Baltimore Brigade June 30 in their final regular season home game.
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