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Rookies & Vets: Washington Scandals

Local gay rugby league kicks off new season in August

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Scandals, gay news, Washington Blade
Scandals, gay news, Washington Blade

Vinny Ah Sam says learning rugby was intimidating at first. (Photo by Zack Kreiter)

This week in the Washington Blade series on the rookie and veteran players that compete on the LGBT sports teams in the D.C. area, we focus on two gay athletes from the Washington Scandals rugby team.

The Scandals were formed in 2013 when overcrowding on other local rugby teams was preventing interested players from competing in the sport. They are not playing in a league and have created a niche lining up games with teams from the Eastern seaboard and competing in tournaments.

They are currently between seasons and going through conditioning training. Their first rookie camp session for the new season will be held on Aug. 15.

Vinny Ah Sam joined the team in May after Scandals president Sean Cunningham invited him to see what the team was all about.

“I got there for my first practice and was really intimidated,” Ah Sam says. “I had never played a full-contact sport and they were really scary.”

Ah Sam grew up in El Sobrante, Calif., and played multiple sports growing up including baseball and basketball. His main sport from age 10 on was swimming and he swam for two years at Diablo Valley College.

He moved to D.C. when his fiancé Zach took a job here in 2013 and he is currently taking classes to earn a degree in surgical technology at Montgomery College and working as a lifeguard and swim instructor.

Ah Sam learned the basics of rugby playing on the beach in California with his college swim team and that experience set him up for a quick integration into the sport.

“Actually competing in the sport is a whole new experience for me and I absolutely love it,” Ah Sam says. “The veterans have been pushing me to be the best that I can be.”

Another plus for Ah Sam is his background in sports medicine and athletic training which allows him to be involved in occasionally setting up workouts and treating injured teammates.

“I really like the whole experience of being a part of this team,” Ah Sam says. “During a match, I feel really useful when I take someone down and defend the try zone.”

Brendan Raden had a friend on the Scandals when they formed in early 2013 and joined the team  in July, 2013.

“People have this idea of what rugby is and then that idea just sits in their mind until they actually play,” Raden says. “Even though I had never played, I loved it immediately.”

Raden grew up in Rockville and Damascus, Md., and attended college at the University of Delaware. Growing up he played baseball and lacrosse but didn’t compete in college.

“I played volleyball and ultimate Frisbee recreationally and refereed for intramurals,” Raden says. “Sports were not a priority for me then and I regret that now.”

Raden is currently a full-time student at University of Maryland working toward two more degrees, English literature and secondary English education. This time he is also deeply involved in his sport.

Scandals, gay news, Washington Blade

Brendan Raden says he’s always excited to see new Scandals members. (Photo courtesy Raden)

By the end of 2013 he was the captain of the team and has also been the coach of the team since 2014 after getting his coach’s certification.

“That was frightening since I had only been playing for just over a year,” Raden says.

Raden jumped right into the leadership role and realized that they were constantly teaching the basics over and over. The team subsequently created a rookie camp to help beginners learn the sport.

“Most other teams have a one-time rookie 101 day clinic where they go over the basics. It is detached and without context,” Raden says. “We have three rookie camps where the veterans come in to play with the rookies and go over the scenarios. It is a no-pressure, comfortable environment.”

Raden says rookies are everything for the team.

“You need the numbers to keep the team going and to keep improving. Whenever I see a new player, I say to myself, ‘Ah yes, here is somebody new. Fantastic.’”

Coming up for the fall season, the Scandals have four-to-five confirmed matches lined up and tournaments in Charlotte and Atlanta.

“I didn’t join this team to find friends. I just wanted to play a really cool sport,” Raden says. “It turned out that the guys on the team are my closest friends. It has been pretty incredible.”

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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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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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