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Gay cyclist riding from Cairo to Cape Town



Nate Freeman, gay news, Washington Blade
Nate Freeman, gay news, Washington Blade

Nate Freeman is riding to fight African homophobia. (Photo courtesy Freeman)

When the Blade caught up with American lawyer Nate Freeman, he was just returning from a long weekend of canoeing on the Orange River in Namibia.

Most anyone else would have been resting because on Jan. 9, Freeman embarked on a 12,000-kilometer bike ride from Cairo to Cape Town that will span four months and travel through 10 countries in Africa.

The Out in Africa Ride is the inaugural project for an initiative that is dedicated to identifying and supporting nonprofit groups throughout Africa who are working to fight homophobia, eliminate stigma and provide legal protection to LGBT people.

“A major component of human dignity is the ability to express yourself,” Freeman says. “I was looking for what I could do policy wise and connect that to groups on the ground.”

Freeman requested that this story not be published by the Blade until he passed safely through Egypt and Sudan due to the safety concerns of an LGBT rights advocate crossing their borders.

The Out in Africa Ride is piggybacking on an event known as the Tour d’Afrique and Freeman is one of 40 cyclists on the Tour.  They will only have 20 rest days during the four-month ride and several of the ride days will be a stage race similar to the stages in the Tour de France.

The group of cyclists on the Tour range from people who just want to finish to competitive cyclists. Many are riding for causes of their own choosing.

The obstacles the cyclists will face are enormous and include politics, religion, animals, disease, climate, terrain, injuries and stone-throwing children. Last year, two of the riders on the Tour contracted Malaria and there is the constant threat of Dengue fever.

Freeman, 32, was born and raised in Mount Vernon, Iowa and went on to Whitman College.  He received his law degree from Yale.

He ran cross country and played tennis in high school, but it wasn’t until his college years that he truly found athletics and it began with rock climbing, hiking, dance and ballet. He segued into triathlons after his college years and continues to dance.

After receiving his law degree, he spent two years clerking for the Honorable Tena Campbell and the Honorable Robert J Shelby in Salt Lake City. It was during that time that Judge Shelby struck down Amendment 3 of Utah’s State Constitution banning same-sex marriage.

For the past year, Freeman has been clerking for Justice Edwin Cameron at the Constitutional Court of South Africa. Cameron is the first and only senior South African official to state publicly that he is living with HIV/AIDS. He is widely known for his advocacy of LGBT rights.

Leading up to the Out in Africa Ride, Freeman found himself struggling with the context of the project he was about to initiate.

“I was forming a challenging role to play,” Freeman says. “When you care about an issue and you are not from the place experiencing the issue, it doesn’t always translate.”

The first purpose of the Ride is to get donors to contribute to programs that are not widely known. They have chosen two organizations as their first partners; the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum in Uganda and the Gay & Lesbian Network in South Africa.

The second purpose is to get local programs to link with other local programs and to share their current campaigns and advocacy strategies.

The timing seems right for this kind of connection between the advocacy groups. The criminalization of same-sex relationships in Africa is widespread and growing. Much of it has made the news, but there are instances in lesser known parts of the continent where the laws are incredibly repressive.

The Ride project has presented an interactive map reflecting the current laws in Africa with three countries showing a same-sex relationship death penalty.

“Many of the intolerant leaders in Africa believe that homosexuality is a Western concept and that LGBT rights are a way for former colonial powers to exercise control,” Freeman says. “As for the people of Africa, many of them don’t realize what rights can be available to them.”

As of the release of this story, the cyclists have crossed 2,916 kilometers of terrain with 9,178 kilometers to go.

Despite the challenges, Freeman remains upbeat about the experience and what lies ahead.  Below is an excerpt from his last blog post:

Lest I leave you with a vision that the last week was a complete hellscape, I should point out that the past eight days have included some of the most beautiful moments of the trip. Besides some major bonding time with Simon and with the other cyclists, I was frequently overwhelmed with gratitude for the glimpses of life that I got to see. Very few foreigners ever traverse southern Sudan, and many of the villages we passed are not on any map. Whether it was the vast unpopulated sorghum fields of Sudan or the densely populated but breathtaking highlands of Ethiopia, the scenery more than rewarded the effort it took to view it. Most importantly, I have a sense that I’ve overcome the first major physical and psychological hurdles of the trip. While there are sure to be new challenges ahead, I think Simon and I are ready to face the next three months with a smile. And maybe some body armor.

The Ride can be followed at



Put this out gay trailblazer’s supportive coach in your bracket

‘Coach Willard’s awesome,’ says Derrick Gordon of Maryland’s Kevin Willard



Kevin Willard is not just a seasoned coach, but a strong LGBTQ ally. (Screen capture via Inside the Hall YouTube)

When the 8th seeded Maryland Terrapins faced off against No. 1 Alabama in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships last weekend, it wasn’t just the players on the hardwood who were working hard for the win. Nate Oats coached the Crimson Tide to a 73-51 victory less than an hour from their home court. And on the other side was Kevin Willard, who is not just a seasoned coach, but a strong LGBTQ ally. 

Willard was Derrick Gordon’s coach at Seton Hall when he transferred from UMass in 2015, a year after he came out as the first out gay Division I Men’s basketball player in the NCAA. 

Gordon has credited Willard with creating a comfortable environment, after he “bumped heads” with former UMass coach Derek Kellogg during his two seasons with the Minutemen. In contrast, he said he instantly connected with Willard, and told his teammates and Willard following his final season at Seton Hall that he wished he had another year of eligibility remaining. He’s said he considered Willard the best coach he’d ever played for.

“He just made it comfortable for me,” Gordon told Glenn Clark Radio in an interview broadcast on March 22, 2022. “He said, ‘You know what, we’re more focused on who you are as a person and a basketball player and what you bring to the team.’ He voiced that over and over again. When I went on my visit, I just felt even more comfortable, met a couple of the guys. They made me feel right at home as well, so it was kind of like an easy decision. Coach Willard’s awesome. He’s an amazing guy.”

If you don’t believe Gordon, ask the West Virginia Mountaineers, who lost to the Terrapins in the first round 67-65. Maryland’s win “took the paint off the floor at Legacy Arena” in Birmingham, Ala., as Brendan Quinn wrote in The Athletic. He described Willard’s style of coaching this way:

“Willard paced the sideline, as he does. The man is intense. Doesn’t suffer fools. Serious stuff. No BS. Black eyes screwed deep in a bald head, no pupils. He regards things sideways, incredulous toward anyone who doesn’t come correct. It’s his whole thing. If Guy Ritchie cast a college basketball coach, it’d be Willard.” 

Gordon told Glenn Clark Radio that he particularly recalled the kind of support Willard gave him in one practice early in his Seton Hall career, according to Press Box Online.

“I remember a particular situation that happened in practice — came down the court and I was wide open and I didn’t shoot it,” Gordon said in the 2022 interview. “[Willard] stopped practice and he said, ‘You’re not at [UMass] anymore. I trust you. I believe in you. Shoot the ball.’ Ever since then, my confidence was through the roof, especially dealing with I had to deal with when I was at UMass with that coach to playing under Coach Willard and him telling me that specifically, he just let me play my game.”

Last July, Gordon posted on Instagram that after playing a few seasons in Europe for Cyprus and Germany, “I decided to end my career as a professional athlete.”

Gordon is now 31, and he told his followers he is working on a book about his life “on and off the court,” in hopes he might “help gay young people, student athletes in particular and others who are struggling to pursue careers in professional sports or any career paths they chose without fear or shame.” 

Since Christmas, he’s been sharing posts that include photos with his boyfriend, actor Scott Backman of Los Angeles, including one from last week, captioned: “Every time we’re together, it’s like falling in love all over again.”

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Brittney Griner to return to WNBA

Russia released Phoenix Mercury star in December in prisoner swap



Brittney Griner upon her release from Russian custody on Dec. 8, 2022. She has signed a one-year contract with the WNBA. (Screen capture via Russian State Media)

For the first time since 2021, Brittney Griner will be back on the hardwood for the Phoenix Mercury when the WNBA season kicks off in May. But it won’t be at home. Her first game is on the road, facing the Los Angeles Sparks. 

Griner, who regained her freedom in December 2022 in a prisoner swap between Russia and the United States, signed a one year contract on Saturday worth $165,100, according to ESPN

The 32-year-old missed the entire 2022 season following her arrest in Moscow one year ago. Russian authorities said she broke their law by packing vape canisters with cabbabis oil in her luggage. In August, Griner was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony for drug smuggling, and that sentence was upheld upon appeal in October

“Following a sham trial and the unjust sentencing of Brittney Griner, Moscow is transferring her from a prison in Moscow to a remote penal colony,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken back in November. “It is another injustice layered on her ongoing unjust and wrongful detention.” 

After months of negotiations and protests led by her wife, Cherelle, and advocacy groups including the National LGBTQ Task Force, the WNBA star was exchanged in the United Arab Emirates for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. He had served 10 years of a 25-year sentence for conspiring to sell weapons to a terrorist group. Russia balked at the Biden administration’s request to secure the release of businessman and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who is still serving a 16-year prison sentence in Russia for spying.

As ESPN reported, Griner will be playing her 10th season since first being drafted by the Mercury in 2013. Her last year on the court was one of the best of her career, in which she averaged 20.5 points, 1.9 blocks, 2.7 assists, and career-highs with 9.5 rebounds per game, 2.4 offensive rebounds and a .846 free throw percentage.

The Mercury open their 2023 season against the Sparks at the Arena on May 19. The team’s first home game is May 21 when Phoenix hosts the Chicago Sky.

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New York Rangers forgo Pride jerseys and stick tape for team Pride night

NYC Pride organizers responded to omission



Out Broadway star and actor Michael James Scott prepares to sing the National Anthem at the opening of the NY Rangers Pride Night 2023. (Photo Credit: The New York Rangers/NHL)

New York LGBTQ Rangers fans were disappointed after the National Hockey League team forwent wearing the team’s special warm-up jerseys and using Pride stick tape during the team’s 7th annual Pride Night Friday.

The Rangers had promoted Friday night’s Madison Square Garden home game against Vegas Golden Knights, saying players “will be showing their support by donning pride-themed warm-up jerseys and tape in solidarity with those who continue to advocate for inclusivity.”  But ultimately the team wore their “Liberty Head” jerseys in warmups instead.

After the game, a 4-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights, the Rangers released a statement: “Our organization respects the LGBTQ+ community and we are proud to bring attention to important local community organizations as part of another great Pride Night. In keeping with our organization’s core values, we support everyone’s individual right to respectfully express their beliefs.”

In an emailed statement to the Washington Blade Sunday Dan Dimant, media director for NYC Pride | Heritage of Pride, Inc. said:

“In recent years, numerous National Hockey League (NHL) franchises including the New York Rangers have introduced a series of ‘Pride Nights’ to engage the LGBTQ+ community. NYC Pride has been honored to take part in these celebrations, including as recently as last night at Madison Square Garden.

NYC Pride was not made aware in advance of our participation in last night’s ceremonial puck drop that Pride jerseys and rainbow tape would not be worn as advertised. We understand and appreciate that this has been a major disappointment to the LGBTQ+ community in New York and beyond. We are communicating these concerns with NY Rangers and NHL leadership as we continue to discuss the ways these organizations can work toward inclusion.

NYC Pride has a duty to both support our partners and hold them accountable. We are committed to continuing our relationships with the NY Rangers and the NHL and maintaining substantive dialogue with them about meaningful allyship with the LGBTQ+ community.”

ESPN reported that the team’s annual Pride Night was celebrated throughout the game in other ways. Fans were given a pride-themed fanny pack as a giveaway. The exterior and interior lights at Madison Square Garden were illuminated in rainbow colors. The Rangers also made a charitable donation to the Ali Forney Center on Pride Night, the largest agency dedicated to LGBTQ homeless youths in the country.

ESPN noted that Andre Thomas, co-chair of NYC Pride and Heritage of Pride, participated in the ceremonial puck drop.
(Photo Credit: The New York Rangers/NHL)

The Rangers’ Pride Night was held 10 days after Ivan Provorov, the alternate captain for the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers, opted out of participating in the team’s Pride Night charity event before the game Tuesday, claiming a religious exemption based on his Russian Orthodox faith.

Provorov, 26, was the only member of the Flyers to not take part in the pre-game exercise on the ice. A video tweeted by the team’s official account shows the rest of the players wore special Pride Night-themed black jerseys with the traditional Flyers logo on the front and rainbow-colored names and numbers on the back; many of the players practiced using hockey sticks wrapped in rainbow-colored tape known as Pride tape. Both the sticks and the jerseys were auctioned off after the game with the Anaheim Ducks, to raise money for local LGBTQ charities. 

The defenseman, who was born in Russia, told reporters after their victory, “I respect everybody and respect everybody’s choices,” adding that he declined to take part in the warmup “to stay true to myself and my religion.” 

After Provorov opted out of participating in the Flyer’s Pride Night charity event the NHL put out a statement that said players can decide which team and league initiatives to support.

“Hockey is for Everyone is the umbrella initiative under which the league encourages Clubs to celebrate the diversity that exists in their respective markets, and to work to achieve more welcoming and inclusive environments for all fans,” the league said. “Clubs decide whom to celebrate, when and how — with League counsel and support. Players are free to decide which initiatives to support, and we continue to encourage their voices and perspectives on social and cultural issues.”

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