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Challenges of organizing local sports leagues

Permit process, lack of fields often vex D.C. players



Randall's Island Park, gay news, Washington Blade
Randall's Island Park, gay news, Washington Blade

New York City created a 273-acre local sports and recreational playground floating on the East River. Could D.C. find similar space for its local amateur athletes? (Photo courtesy of the Randall’s Island Park Alliance)

D.C. is home to one of the largest and most organized LGBT sports communities in the world. The list of LGBT local sports teams has grown to more than 30 clubs and the athlete base is well over 3,000 members.

Those kinds of numbers would not be possible without the leadership that is demonstrated by members of each of the clubs.

But the success of local organizers doesn’t mean they don’t encounter obstacles to growth. Some of the challenges facing them include lack of playing space, high costs for space, accessibility and the local permit process.


The permit process, especially for a new team forming, can cause major frustration for those not familiar with the process. There are cross-jurisdictional issues and some of the entities that may present a challenge are the National Park Service, the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of General Services Realty Office as well as the facility or school that the space sits on.

One person who knows the permit process well is Alex Bearman, executive director of District Sports who manages leagues and playing space for 240 primarily straight soccer teams at 15 different locations in the area.

District Sports primarily uses playing fields that are run by schools, which means that their process includes being approved by the athletic director, the vice principal or the principal.  “There is a lot of hand-holding, showing up and talking,” says Bearman. “You can make it through the permit process and then be turned down by the facility because there are just not enough incentives for the facility to offer their space. There is also the added cost of paying for a maintenance man to be on site.”

Nick Napolitano leads the permit process for the Federal Triangles Soccer Club and agrees that the schools do not have enough incentives to risk having their fields torn up by an adult sports league.

“You really have to establish a relationship with the school principal and prove that you will respect the condition of their field,” says Napolitano. “In the past we have had to enlist the help of D.C. Council member Jim Graham just to get our foot in the door. Even when you get to that point, it is still hard to budget for the fees as they can fluctuate.”

When the DC Gay Flag Football League (DCGFFL) began, it targeted the fields near the FDR Memorial as their home base and came up with no results during the permit process.

“We ended up going through our roster of players just to find someone who knew someone or at least knew the process,” says JJ Johnson, league commissioner. “Even after securing the spot, we were still confronted by a park ranger on the first day.”

DCGFFL, D.C. Gay Flag Football League, sports, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Gay Flag Football plays at Carter Barron Fields. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The DCGFFL outgrew that field almost immediately and is now ensconced at the Carter Barron Fields on Sundays. The group considers themselves lucky to have access to such a large amount of space as they have grown to 276 players.

Carter Barron is federally owned, administered by the National Park Service, and permitted by the DC Department of Parks and Recreation.

“It was very confusing at first,” says Johnson. “We now show up at the permit office several times a year just to shake hands and chit chat. We want them to know who we are and that we are appreciative.”

Martin Espinoza of Stonewall Kickball agrees that the permit process can be stressful as the kickball league faces two permit renewals each year. They generally have their calendar set up for the upcoming season without knowing if their permit will be renewed. To be safe, league registration is always scheduled after the permit approval date.

Currently, the kickball league plays on Sundays at Stead Park Field. When the club started in 2010, the city was not allowing use of Stead Park on Sundays. “We were very fortunate,” admits Espinoza. “The city made an exception to allow us to play on Sundays.”

Stonewall Kickball, sports, Stead Park, 17th Street, Washington Blade, gay news

A gay kickball league is among the groups that make use of Stead Park. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Stonewall Kickball has seen incredible growth since its inception with a current member list of 550 players. Because they were unable to secure a permit for an additional night, they have spilled over into the predominately straight DC Kickball League, which holds the permit for Thursday nights at Stead Park Field.

“We are hoping to grow this season by securing additional time on Sundays,” says Espinoza. “Even though we arrive at the permit office with all of our paperwork on the first day of renewal, it is still a waiting game. Youth, senior and city programs are looked at first. Adult sports come last.”

Stonewall Kickball will face another obstacle in 2014 when the $1.6 million renovation of Stead Park Field will begin. It is unclear at this time whether they will have a place to play or not.

In March of 2013, a new LGBT sports team joined the fray in the struggle for playing space.  The Washington Scandals Rugby Club has not yet found a field to call home. Being new to the process, they are running into the same obstacles that seem to plague all new sports teams.

“We have been looking for space on weeknights in the District and there is nothing available for adult sports groups,” says Arc Riley of the Scandals. “The field we are practicing on is so small that half of our 40 players are standing on the sidelines while the other half practice.”

The struggle with getting a response from the Department of Parks and Recreation has led the Scandals to start looking for space in Montgomery County for the winter months. “We are hoping to be back in the District by spring,” says a hopeful Riley.

Faced with a similar space shortage back in the 1990s, New York City, along with the Randall’s Island Park Alliance (RIPA) created a 273-acre sports and recreational playground floating on the East River.

Randall’s Island boasts more than 60 sports fields, accommodating sports such as soccer, baseball, softball, lacrosse, field hockey and rugby.  Also included on the island is a world-class track stadium, a tennis center, golf facilities as well as cultural and natural areas.

Formerly used over the centuries for a range of public facilities including a boy’s home, a hospital, and a home for Civil War veterans, the island was first designated as a park in 1936 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. By the early 1990s it was in serious disrepair.

RIPA was formed in 1992 as a 501c3 non-profit organization to work with New York and local communities to transform the island. Today, Randall’s Island is New York’s premier recreational destination and home to dozens of sports leagues for youth, adult, senior and the LGBT sports communities.

The bottom line in the D.C. area is that although the permit process can be tedious, the lack of playing space is the primary obstacle in accommodating the ever-growing sports community.  The overwhelming success of the Long Bridge Park sports complex in Arlington in November 2011 is a perfect example of the need for more sports space in the area.

The possibility of 190 acres opening up in the future at Metro accessible RFK Stadium is giving many in the sports community dreams of a dedicated sports complex in Prince George’s County.

RFK Sports Park anyone?

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Las Vegas Raiders head coach resigns after homophobic emails surface

Discovery made during misconduct investigation into the Washington Football Team



Courtesy of ESPN

LAS VEGAS — The head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, Jon Gruden resigned his post Monday after an article in the New York Times reported that he frequently used misogynistic and homophobic language directed at Commissioner Roger Goodell and others in the National Football League, (NFL).

The emails were discovered in a workplace misconduct investigation into the Washington Football Team the Times reported, but ended up costing Gruden his job when they also showed Gruden denounced the drafting of a gay player and the tolerance of players protesting during the playing of the national anthem among other issues.

In a statement released by the team late Monday, Gruden said; “I have resigned as Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff, and fans of Raider Nation. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.”

The sequence of events started last Friday when the Wall Street Journal reported that Gruden used a racist term to describe NFL union chief DeMaurice Smith in a 2011 email to the Washington team’s former executive Bruce Allen.

According to the Associated Press, Gruden apologized for his “insensitive remarks” about Smith, saying they were made out of frustration over the 2011 lockout. But the latest emails sent from between 2011-18 when Gruden was an analyst for ESPN show his use of derogatory language went well beyond that.

A league source confirmed the accuracy of the emails to the Associated Press and said they were sent to the Raiders last week. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league hasn’t made the emails public.

The New York Times and the Associated Press both noted that Gruden used a gay slur to insult Goodell and said he was “clueless” and “anti-football.” He also said Goodell shouldn’t have pressured the Rams to draft “queers,” a reference to Michael Sam, who was the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team.

Gruden’s abrupt resignation was announced live on the Colts/Ravens “Monday Night Football” broadcast when the NFL ran multiple LGBTQ-inclusive advertisements, including one featuring an NFL logo wrapped in the colors of the Trans Flag and Rainbow Flag Gay City News Editor Matt Tracy reported.

Raiders owner Mark Davis issued a statement which only said that he accepted Gruden’s resignation. In a separate statement the Raiders announced that special teams and assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia will serve as Interim Head Coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, effective immediately.

“Coach Bisaccia will meet with the media at the regularly scheduled media availability on Wednesday,” the team said.

According to ESPN and the Associated Press, Bisaccia has been a special teams coordinator in the NFL for 19 seasons with the Raiders, Chargers, Dallas and Tampa Bay. He has no head coaching experience but his elevation will allow other assistants in the Raiders organization such as defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to stay in their current roles.

Jon Gruden resigns as Raiders head coach | SC with SVP

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New Zealand university names trans athlete ‘sportswoman of the year’

Laurel Hubbard is first out trans woman to compete in Olympics



Screenshot via CBS Sports

DUNEDIN, New Zealand — Olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard was named “sportswoman of the year” at the prestigious 113-year-old University of Otago and OUSA Blues and Golds Awards event this past week.

The 43-year-old Queenstown, South Island, native was the first openly transgender woman to compete in an Olympics when she competed in the women’s 87kg weightlifting event at the 2021 Tokyo Games.

In a statement to the local newspaper, the Otago Daily Times, Hubbard said she was ‘‘grateful for all of the support and kindness received from the teaching staff and students at Otago University.’’

‘‘It is not possible for athletes to complete at the Olympic level without the encouragement and aroha [a Māori word meaning “love”] of friends, family and supporters.

‘‘This award belongs to everyone who has been part of my Olympic journey,’’ she told the paper.

Hubbard’s participation at the Tokyo Games had provoked controversy as she had prepared for competing as the world’s first out transgender woman Olympian. The director of medicine and science for the International Olympic Committee, Dr. Richard Budgett, directly addressed those who had attacked and mocked the New Zealander and claimed she shouldn’t be competing with cisgender women, saying  “everyone agrees that trans women are women.”

“To put it in a nutshell,” he said, “the IOC had a scientific consensus back in 2015. There are no IOC rules or regulations around transgender participation. That depends on each international federation. So Laurel Hubbard is a woman, is competing under the rules of her federation and we have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity in actually competing and qualifying for the Games.”

Otago University Students’ Association president Michaela Waite-Harvey told the Otago Daily Times that the Blues awards aim to highlight Otago students excelling in their chosen sport.

‘‘We could think of no-one more worthy of sportswoman of the year than Laurel Hubbard who represented Otago and New Zealand incredibly well at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.’’

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Gold medalist Tom Daley battled COVID in hospital prior to Tokyo games

An x-ray revealed “blotches” on his lungs, and he was kept at the hospital for 10 hours to increase his oxygen levels



Tom Daley (Photo by via Bigstock)

LONDON – British Olympic champion diver Tom Daley acknowledged in an recent interview with British newspaper The Times, that he had been secretly rushed to hospital seven months prior to the summer Tokyo Olympic games after contracting the coronavirus.

Daley told the paper “[my] lungs felt pressurised, as if they had sacks of rice around them”, and added: “Every time I stood up, I felt the room spinning and a blinding white light, as if I was going to faint, and as if I couldn’t get enough oxygen into my body.”

He went on to describe his ordeal in graphic details telling Times journalist Jane Mulkerrins that he gave specific instructions to his husband, screenwriter D. Lance Black one night as he headed off to sleep, what to do in the event he quit breathing.

He also told Mulkerrins he was frightened for their son Robbie if he and his husband both contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus, especially after he was rushed to hospital by ambulance unable to breath correctly.

When his head began to feel like it had “a vice tightening around it” and his “oxygen levels were dropping,” it was at that point Daley said he decided to call 111. [The UK’s emergency phone number]

‘My oxygen levels were dropping’

He was rushed to hospital in an ambulance and put on oxygen. An x-ray revealed “blotches” on his lungs, and he was kept at the hospital for 10 hours to increase his oxygen levels, The Times reported.

“I understood how quickly things could potentially go downhill,” said Daley.

“I had flashes of fear about whether I would be put on a ventilator, and my time being up. I was really terrified.”

He also described his reasons for keeping his ordeal secret so that his rivals in his sport wouldn’t know.

The episode kept the Olympian diver out of training for nearly seven months although Daley along with his British teammate diving partner Matty Lee won the gold with a score of 471.81 in the men’s synchronized diving on at the Tokyo 2021 games.

After tough competition in the Men’s 10m platform diving from China’s Cao Yuan who picked up the Gold Medal and his teammate Yang Jian cinching the number two spot with a Silver Medal, the 27-year-old Daley secured a Bronze Medal win with a score of 548.25.

It was the second Olympic Bronze Medal for the Plymouth, England native, in individual diving completion since he won bronze at the London Games in 2012. Daley and his teammate Daniel Goodfellow won a Bronze Medal in the 10m synchronised at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

The Times interview comes as the paper’s magazine is serializing Daley’s new book, Coming Up for Air: What I Learned from Sport, Fame and Fatherhood, which is due to be published by Harper Collins on October 14.

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