The recognition of LGBT sports in the United States has reached new levels in the past few years with help from the support of advocacy groups, politicians and straight allies.
The emergence in 2012 of the CCE Sports Network is the latest stamp of validation for the growing LGBT sports movement. The CCE Sports Network is the nation’s only live web streaming sports network dedicated to the LGBT sports community.
The United States is home to more than 200 LGBT sports tournaments and the Network is presenting a portion of those events to athletes, family members, friends, fans and supporters all over the world.
The Network, which launched in May 2012, is the brainchild of Thomas Garnet and Adrian Uribazo who bring 17 years of video experience to their company.
“We had been searching for something new and different,” says Garnet. “We had been considering Pride Festivals, but that was already being covered.”
During the Miami Pride Festival, the pair stumbled across the tennis booth, which was promoting a tournament in Key Biscayne. The Sunshine Tennis Cup would become their first tournament coverage.
As of September 2013, the Network has filmed 12 live broadcasts in cities such as Miami, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, New York City, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Washington. The sports covered so far have been tennis, soccer, swimming, water polo, diving and synchronized swimming. They recently covered the Capital Classic XXI tennis tournament in D.C.
“Our goal for 2014 is 20 tournaments,” says Garnet. “We are also planning on adding volleyball, flag football, basketball, rugby and softball to the sports line up.”
The network’s production workflow is set up for a multi-camera live web streaming, complete with play-by-play commentary, score updates, social media updates, live chats, commercials and music. Upgrades can be made to the broadcast to make it look and feel more like traditional sports television.
“Guest commentators have been a big hit for us,” says Garnet. “We invite player-athletes into the booth to give their own perspective and insight into the players and matches. It ends up being informative and funny.”
My first interaction with the CCE Sports Network was at the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics Championships (IGLA) in Seattle last month. I walked into the natatorium, saw their equipment and was immediately intrigued. I finished my swimming races for the day and Kris Pritchard of the Washington Wetskins told me their next water polo match was that afternoon.
After returning to my hotel room, I logged onto the CCE website and there was the water polo match; live and with commentary. I was overwhelmed that this network has set up a platform to profile and recognize the skill, talent and athleticism of the LGBT athlete.
The stories that that emerged as a result of the CCE Sports Network coverage of IGLA were incredibly touching.
A water polo athlete went up to the commentator booth and asked to give a shout out to his brother, who was serving in the Paktika Province in Afghanistan and was watching his little brother play water polo on his iPad.
A sister got to watch her brother compete in swimming for the first time since high school and a father almost missed his flight at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport; he wanted to watch his little girl compete.
Similar stories were heard after the CCE coverage of the Capital Classic tennis tournament, here in D.C. From their Twitter feed:
@CCESportNetwork I’m thrilled w/ your coverage! I hadn’t been able to see my brother compete since HS! I still can’t get over how fun it was to watch my brother play again! I missed getting to cheer for him!
With the CCE Sports Network still ramping up their operations, there will be many more feel-good moments to come for athletes and their friends and families.
“By 2015, we hope to have weekly live tournament broadcasts along with our own monthly sports show,” says Garnet.
For now, CCE is working on gaining new sponsorships, building their video archives and acquiring connections in the European market. The visibility they’re providing in showcasing the athleticism of the LGBT sports athlete will certainly help to further the cause of the LGBT sports movement to rid the playing field of homophobia.
You can see the Capital Tennis Association players, the Washington Wetskins water polo players and the District of Columbia Aquatics Club swimmers in action in their video archives at ccesportsnetwork.com.