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Sam the Ram

Out player causing buzz beyond usual football circles 

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Michael Sam, football, Missouri, gay news, Washington Blade

Michael Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in February. The team’s regular season starts Sept. 7. (Photo by Marcus Qwertyus; courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

With the football pre-season in full swing, many eyes are on Michael Sam, the defensive end for the St. Louis Rams who in February became the first out gay player to be drafted by the NFL.

Though the Rams have lost their first two pre-season games (they face the Cleveland Browns Saturday), buzz is strong for their prospects this year. ESPN analysts said they could emerge as a “sleeper” for the NFC West this year, they’re “primed to explode” and this fall is, in an ironic choice of words, “looking very much like their coming-out party.” Their first regular season game is Sept. 7 when they play the Minnesota Vikings at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis at noon. It will be televised on Fox.

With Sam in the mix, the team is garnering attention beyond the usual sphere of fans. Almost everyone agrees, regardless of how Sam or the Rams do this year, his presence is a big deal.

Bruce Hobson, a St. Louis attorney and Rams fan, says the February news resonated strongly with him since he, like Sam, competed for the University of Missouri (Hobson swam).

“I was just sort of shocked,” said Hobson, who’s gay. “I remember I was in the airport waiting for a connecting flight and watching the ESPN alert on my iPad and I was like, ‘Oh wait a minute, that’s the guy from University of Missouri.’ I thought this was really cool that he would do that. … I had played for University of Missouri in scholarship. I was not really out but not really in either, so it had even more of a resonance for me having been a University of Missouri gay athlete.”

Hobson said buzz about Sam has been strong in St. Louis and that although the Cardinals dominate the local sports discussion there, Sam’s presence is high in the public consciousness.

“There was lots of, ‘Oh, isn’t this wonderful,’ and people talking who don’t have much interest in football suddenly were interested,” he said.

A.J. Bockelman, executive director of PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBT rights group, agreed.

“There’s an incredible amount of buzz coalescing around the idea that St. Louis has its first gay celebrity in Michael Sam,” Bockelman said. “When he made his debut in a practice game, it was very well received and from what I understand, whenever he walked on the field, the entire crowd shouted his name so I think what that shows is that for St. Louis, we’re ready for someone like Michael Sam to be on the stage and probably bring a lot more attention. It’s a lot different than if he’d been picked up by, say New York or Los Angeles. Lots of people think of Missouri as just some place you fly over, and this will help us break down that perception.”

Matt Berger, a crisis communications consultant and football fan who lives in Washington, said Sam’s coming out is historic.

“It just felt to me like a tougher barrier than a lot of other sports,” said Berger, who’s gay. “It felt more significant to me than Jason Collins and that’s what I liked about it. Here was this guy who wasn’t just an ancillary player. He was a star. He had played on a major team, he had won defensive MVP honors. It wasn’t just a guy on the sidelines. This was somebody people could really look up to and that made a big difference for me.”

Hobson said the nature of football as a team sport adds to the magnitude of the moment.

“It’s a culture that can be very tough,” he said. “Not just the physical nature of the sport but with the ostracization factor that can occur. It’s not like swimming where you only have to rely on yourself. … You might get tackled harder, you could be seen as the weak link on the team and they could make your life hell. You might pay a price and I’m sure there are many who would say it’s not worth the risk. That’s why this is so important and a much bigger deal than, say, a women’s basketball player or somebody who comes out at the end of their career. It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, I’m gay,’ on your way out the door when you’re already established. But to do this when there’s still so much at stake in your career, when nothing’s a done deal, that’s why it’s so historic.”

 

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Sports

Gay men challenge Qatar death penalty for homosexuality

Country to host 2022 World Cup

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Dr. Nasser Mohamed (Photo courtesy of Instagram)

Gay men are blowing the whistle now, two months before the World Cup, demanding the host nation of Qatar change its anti-LGBTQ ways.

The Middle Eastern country where Islam is the state religion will welcome soccer players, coaches and fans from all around the planet, beginning Nov. 20, for matches that will pit nation against nation.

Qatar has promised to welcome LGBTQ foreigners, even as its own people are tortured and put to death for being who they are. 

On Monday, Qatar’s ambassador to Germany got an earful from one of those men at a human rights conference in Frankfurt, hosted by the German Football Association, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Fan representative Dario Minden spoke in English directly to Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani, about who he is and who he loves, Minden told him to “abolish the death penalty” for homosexuality. 

“I’m a man and I love men. I do — please don’t be shocked — have sex with other men. This is normal,” Minden told Al Thani. “So, please get used to it, or stay out of football. Because the most important rule in football is, football is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re lesbian, if you’re gay. It’s for everyone. For the boys. For the girls. And for everyone in between. 

“So, abolish the death penalty. Abolish all of the penalties regarding sexual and gender identity,” he said. 

Although organizers promised Al Thani an opportunity to respond, the Associated Press reports that portion of the conference was closed to the public and the news media and was not televised. 

Earlier, Al Thani reportedly complained to those assembled that the issue of human rights was a distraction from the World Cup, even though the event was titled, “Sport and Human Rights.” 

“We all care about human rights,” said Al Thani. “But I would have enjoyed (it) more if I saw some concentration not only on just one subject, but the enjoyment of football and the football effect on people around the world.” 

More than 5,000 miles away in San Francisco, a gay Qatari physician has organized a petition to tell the land of his birth: Love Is Not A Crime. 

Doctor Nasser Mohamed decided to come out in 2010 following a visit to the U.S., and spent his residency in Connecticut before moving to California in 2015. 

Mohamed wrote in an op-ed published by Outsports last month that he has spent the last decade caring for the LGBTQ community in outpatient settings and growing as an activist. 

“Being an LGBT person is a criminal offense in the legal system in Qatarm as is sex between two men. There are state-sponsored conversion-therapy practices, and LGBT-affirming psychotherapy is not offered.” He wrote how law enforcement uses media and chat rooms to find, jail and punish people for being LGBTQ. 

“Visibility of the local LGBT community in Qatar, and the exposure of their treatment, are absolutely essential,” Mohamed wrote. “I am doing my part by speaking up.”

Editor’s note: Find out about Mohamed’s petition by clicking here. He is also raising money through a GoFundMe account to provide him with funding for his activism as well as security and protection.

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Sports

Carl Nassib returns to Tampa

Former Las Vegas Raiders defensive end came out as gay in June 2021

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Carl Nassib (Screenshot courtesy of YouTube/KUVV Fox 5 in Las Vegas)

Carl Nassib, who made headlines in June 2021 when he became the NFL’s first out gay active player, reportedly has signed a one-year contract with his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

The 29-year-old defensive end was released by the Las Vegas Raiders in March, and became a free agent. NFL sources said that was due to his contracted salary amount — $7.75 million — and not any reflection on his sexual orientation.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news with a tweet

When Nassib came out last summer, he announced he was donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project, and for Pride Month this year he made a new pledge to help LGBTQ youth. He promised to match donations to the Trevor Project, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000.

Will Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady welcome Nassib?

As Outsports reported, he’s never made any comments about playing with someone gay. Brady’s former New England Patriots teammate Ryan O’Callaghan recalled that before he came out in 2017, following his retirement, there was one time that he missed the team bus and Brady gave him a ride in his car to that day’s practice.

O’Callaghan told Outsports he believes Brady would have “absolutely” accepted him if he had come out at that time.

“Being married to a super model I’m sure he’s met a few gay people in his life,” said O’Callaghan.

Brady wed Brazilian fashion model Gisele Bündchen in 2009.

Legendary Boston sports columnist Steve Buckley of the Athletic came out as gay in 2011 while at the Boston Herald. He told Outsports that Brady has always been friendly and cooperative, even after Buckley came out.

This is the second time around at Raymond James Stadium for Nassib. He played for the Buccaneers for two seasons prior to joining the Raiders in 2020. His NFL career began in 2016 with the Cleveland Browns. 

As Jason Owens reported for Yahoo! Sports, Nassib was far more productive in Tampa as a part-time starter, recording 6.5 sacks in 2018 and six sacks in 2019. The NFL’s website shows he played just 242 defensive snaps and earned 1.5 sacks last season. 

In 86 games including 37 starts, Nassib’s recorded 22 career sacks, 164 tackles, 53 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles.

In addition to Brady, Nassib’s new teammates are Akiem Hicks and William Gholston at defensive end and outside linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. Given that the Buccaneers finished seventh in the NFL in sacks last season with 47, Nassib will be expected to improve Tampa Bay’s chances when their season begins on Sept. 11 in Dallas.

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Federal judge temporarily blocks anti-trans youth sports law in Indiana

The injunction requires that A.M., a 10 -year-old trans girl, must be allowed to rejoin her school’s all-girls softball team

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On Tuesday Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana issued an preliminary injunction that blocked an Indiana law that prevents trans youth from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

The injunction requires that A.M., a 10 -year-old trans girl, must be allowed to rejoin her school’s all-girls softball team while litigation continues.  

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit in April, on behalf of A.M., challenging House Enrolled Act 1041, which bans transgender girls from participating in school sports. 

Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana, issued the following statement: 

“When misinformation about biology and gender is used to bar transgender girls from school sports it amounts to the same form of sex discrimination that has long been prohibited under Title IX, a law that protects all students – including trans people – on the basis of sex.  

“We are pleased that Judge Magnus-Stinson has recognized this and required that A.M. be allowed to play on her school’s softball team.  

“If other students are being denied the right to join a sports team at their school due to their transgender status, we encourage them to contact the ACLU of Indiana immediately.” 

This past May, the Indiana Legislature had voted to overturn Republican Governor Eric Holcomb’s March veto of HB 1041, a measure that bans transgender girls from competing on girls’ K-12 sports teams in the state.

The vote to override the veto means that this law makes Indiana the 8th state to ban trans youth from playing sports in 2022 by legislative action — and the 16th in the country.

In his veto message sent to House Speaker Todd Huston’s office, Holcomb said the bill presumed a problem already existed that required the state to intervene and it implied the goals of consistency and fairness in girls’ sports were not being met.

“After thorough review, I find no evidence to support either claim even if I support the overall goal,” Holcomb wrote.

“Governor Holcomb was the second governor this year to uphold the dignity of transgender and nonbinary youth, and veto an attempt by lawmakers to write them out of existence. While those young people continue to face unrelenting political attacks, the Indiana legislature voted to override his act of courage and compassion, pushing these marginalized youth even further to the sidelines,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project.

“This bill claimed to solve a problem of ‘fairness’ in school sports in Indiana that didn’t exist, but its negative impacts on the mental health and well-being of trans and nonbinary youth — young people who already face disproportionate rates of bullying, depression, and suicide — are very real. To the young people in Indiana watching tonight: you are stronger than they know. We are here for you, we will fight for you, and we are not going anywhere.”

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