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Gay Games-OutGames plan to merge

Leaders of two LGBT sports groups eye ‘One World Event’ in 2022



OutGames, Gay Games, gay news, Washington Blade
OutGames, Gay Games, gay news, Washington Blade

‘It’s going to take a great deal of compromise,’ said Brent Minor of Team D.C. regarding the potential merger of Gay Games and OutGames. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Leaders of the two quadrennial LGBT international sports competitions – the Gay Games and the World OutGames – signed a memorandum of understanding in May establishing what they say is a preliminary framework for merging the events in 2022.

Officials with the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) and the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association (GLISA), which organizes the OutGames, said the decision to move ahead with plans for a merger was prompted by the results of a widely distributed online survey of members of both organizations.

According to the officials, the more than 2,000 responses to the survey showed that 88.7 percent of respondents support having a single quadrennial sports, human rights and cultural event in 2022.

The Gay Games were first held in San Francisco in 1982 after gay Olympics athlete Tom Waddell, who is credited with founding the event, was forced to drop the name he first envisioned, the “Gay Olympics,” after the International Olympics Committee insisted it held exclusive legal rights the Olympics name.

The Gay Games continued every four years since its founding year in San Francisco, attracting thousands of LGBT athletes and spectators in cities in North America and Europe as the sole international LGBT sporting competition until 2006, when the first World OutGames competition was held in Montreal.

The OutGames first emerged two years earlier, in 2004, when an irreconcilable disagreement surfaced between the FGG and the group it initially selected to organize the Gay Games in Montreal for 2006. After protracted and sometimes acrimonious negotiations failed, the Montreal organizers broke away from the FGG and announced they would organize their own event in Montreal called the OutGames.

The FGG then reopened the bidding process for another city to host the Gay Games, and Chicago was selected as the new host city. Both events took place within a week of each other in the summer of 2006, and two international quadrennial LGBT sports events have been held ever since.

Nearly all of the dual events have attracted far fewer athletes and spectators than the Gay Games had attracted for its events prior to the split.

“They have to come together with one event because having two events has really hurt both events, and the community wants just one quadrennial event to focus on,” said Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of OutSports Blog, a highly regarded online publication about LGBT sports issues.

“The real question is what does it look like and what is it called,” Zeigler told the Washington Blade. “And for me, it would be such a shame to lose the name Gay Games.”

Zeigler and others supportive of the Gay Games say the Gay Games name and brand have become an important part of the LGBT community’s history and should be preserved.

Among those agreeing with Zeigler is Jessica Waddell Lewinstein, the daughter of the late Gay Games founder Tom Waddell. However, unlike Zeigler, who favors a merger, Lewinstein has come out strongly against the proposed merger as disclosed by the two groups.

“In general, I’m totally open to merging two events, if it is done properly and makes sense, but I’m not seeing anything that tells me that this is one of those situations,” she told the Windy City Times in July.

Officials with the FGG and GLISA have been cautious about publicly discussing potential stumbling blocks to a merger agreement, saying instead that the memorandum of understanding is a work in progress. Both sides have said they are hopeful that a final agreement can be reached because their respective members and supporters strongly favor a single LGBT international sports event.

“All of us at the FGG are extremely thrilled to see things moving forward in a positive manner,” said FGG Co-President Kurt Dahl in a statement in March.

“GLISA is excited on the progress of this vital collaboration that benefits the worldwide LGBT sporting community, GLISA Co-President Tamara Adrian said at the same time.

The memorandum of understanding calls for following recommendations and proposals established by representatives of both groups during a meeting earlier this year in Cologne, Germany in which a lengthy and detailed document referred to as the Cologne Report was drafted and approved.

Among other things, the MOU provides for the creation of a Transition Commission, which will “steer the development of a single organizational body to deliver future One World Events,” a statement released by the two groups says.

Officials on both sides have also said that a merger of the FGG and GLISA is just one of several options under consideration. A single World Event, as the two sides refer to a merged LGBT sports competition, could also be put together by the creation of a newly created entity separate from the FGG and GLISA, officials with the two groups have said.

A One World event could not be held any sooner than 2022, the officials have said, because plans for the next Gay Games and World OutGames are already solidified. The next World OutGames is set to take place in Miami in 2017. The next Gay Games is slated to take place in Paris in 2018.

Meanwhile, an official Working Group consisting of representatives of the FGG and GLISA has been conferring with LGBT sports organizations in North America and Europe to obtain input on the best ways to bring about a merger of the two events.

“We hosted a town hall meeting in June with representatives of the working group,” said Brent Minor, president of Team D.C., an umbrella group representing D.C.-area LGBT sports groups and teams.

Among those participating in the meeting was Les Johnson, an FGG board member from D.C.

“It is clearly a desire among U.S. sports groups to have something in 2022,” Minor said. “That is the goal. A lot of people feel that way,” he said. “The key is can these two organizations that have been estranged come together for one event? It will require compromise.”

Minor said that in addition to the issue of what the joint event should be called, the two sides remain divided over whether a human rights conference should be a major component of the 2022 event and all those that follow. The OutGames organizers have long favored and included in their event such a conference.

Minor, who has been a longtime supporter of the Gay Games, said the Gay Games side doesn’t think such a conference is essential to a quadrennial LGBT sports competition.

“We all want it to be a sports and cultural event,” he said. “We think sports should be the primary focus.”

But Minor added that Team D.C. officials are hopeful that the talks will be successful because uniting the two organizations to hold a single international event is in the best interests of the LGBT community.

“It’s going to take a great deal of compromise,” he said.

Gay Games 9, GG9, International Gay Games, Cleveland, Ohio, gay news, Washington Blade

The Opening Ceremony to the 2014 International Gay Games was held at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.



Celebrating sports history: DC Gay Flag Football’s 25th season

Head of District’s premier league says it’s ‘groovin’ to its silver anniversary



The DC Gay Flag Football’s 25th season is underway. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

What started when gay football fans got together in the 1990s to play their favorite sport is now a D.C. institution with 270 players in 20 teams spread over three fields, playing in both fall and spring. 

“Get off the bench,” shouts the slogan on the league’s website. “Get in the game!” 

The D.C. Gay Flag Football League turns 25 years old this month and is considered not only the premier league of its kind in the District, but is recognized across the country for its players, organization, and spirit.

“The way we run our league and the way we compete make us stand out relative to the rest,” DCGFFL Commissioner Logan Dawson told the Washington Blade. 

For those who don’t know flag football from any other kind, the difference is easy to spot: There’s no contact allowed. As the rules say, “That includes tackling, diving, blocking, and screening. Instead, players wear flags that hang along their sides by a belt. To ‘tackle’ the person in possession of the ball, the opposing team needs to pull one or both of their flags off.” There are a lot more rules, but that’s the one that really sets it apart from tackle football. 

The sport itself dates back to World War II and its origins have been traced to Fort Meade, Md. 

What’s the secret to the league’s longevity? “I think we attract and hold on to great athletes who are highly competitive, not only on the field, but also, in our professional and personal lives,” he said. Dawson, 32, plays flag football as well as manages the league. He’s currently single, but says his first love is the weather. 

“I knew in second grade that I wanted to be a meteorologist,” said Dawson, who moved to the District to be a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. 

A prolific swimmer since high school, he came out as he started grad school at Purdue University in Indiana in 2012. In an op-ed appearing in Outsports in 2014, Dawson wrote about competing in his first Gay Games in Cleveland along with a group of other gay swimmers from Colorado, and left that experience determined to join a gay sports league. 

He found it in the fall of 2018 in the DCGFFL, the same year the league’s Generals team won Gay Games XVIII. The league supports up to five travel teams, which take part in annual tournaments nationwide. It also hosts a summer tournament each year in Rehoboth Beach, Del.

“There’s a good amount of participation by people who played in the league from the very early days,” Dawson said. “I think we’re just in the sweet spot, where we have a lot of the original participants, a lot of new players, and we’re just kind of grooving right now.”

The first group gathered at Francis Field near Dupont Circle in 1994. Three years later, another group formed to play just steps from the Washington Monument Mall. They came together in 1998 to form what is now the DCGFFL. 

“For the majority of those seasons, we mainly had one division that played that was co-ed,” said Dawson. “This is our second season that we’ve had a Womens+ Division made up of [cisgender] women, trans and nonbinary individuals.” The Womens+ teams are called the Senators. 

Jayme Fuglesten is director of the Womens+ Division and has played in the league in most seasons since 2011.

“The DCGFFL has been a major part of my adult life,” she says. “I came out while playing in the league in no small part because of the love and support of this community.”

Why does she think the league has been such a success to have lasted 25 years?

“I think the league has been so successful because of its focus on inclusion and community,” she says. “I remember being so surprised in my early years when JJ and so many others would just come right up to me, hug me, and welcome me. And that really hasn’t changed in the 20+ seasons I’ve been around. It also continues to grow and respond to the needs and desires of our players. One example of that is the new Womens+ division, which gives an additional space for people who identify as womens+ to play and cultivate stronger relationships.”

DC Gay Flag Football plans to celebrate its 25th anniversary with a dance party and silent auction at Penn Social on Saturday, Sept. 23. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Next month, the DCGFF will send both Generals and Senators to Gay Bowl XXIII in Seattle. “That’s going to be the first time we’re going to have two Womens+ teams at the Gay Bowl,” Dawson told the Blade. “It’s reflective of the new generation of the league.” 

Earlier generations had trouble attracting new players. As the Blade reported in 2019, what had been a steady number of 20 to 22 teams dropped dramatically to 14, its lowest roster since 2011. The league’s leadership turned it around with new recruiting events, new sponsors, changes in their social event locations, changes to their player draft and a change of venue for league play beyond Carter Barron fields in Rock Creek Park in Northwest Washington. 

Brentwood Hamilton Park in Northeast Washington is now home to the recreation division and Randall Field south of the Capitol is the league’s third venue. 

Just like every facet of society, from coast to coast, what happened next hit the league hard. “COVID happened in spring of 2020,” recalled Dawson. “Everything shut down, and we did not play for what amounted to three full seasons for a year and a half.”

But once the world emerged from quarantine and lockdowns, flag football players started flocking to the DCGFFL. “We’ve had probably over 150 new players join our league in the last two years,” he said.

One thing is certain, said Dawson: Despite the name, not everyone who plays in the gay flag football league is LGBTQ+. 

“It’s a really great community. There’s a straight couple that’s married and will be soon having a child in the next month or so,” Dawson said. “They met playing in the league, just like we’ve had gay couples who meet in the league and eventually get married and have children.”

Prominent among the league’s many sponsors is the NFL hometown team, the Washington Commanders. “They are highly supportive of us, not just financially, but also publicly supporting what we are, and our mission,” Dawson said. 

This current NFL season is the first since 2021 without an out gay player on the gridiron. That’s when Carl Nassib became the first active pro football player to come out as gay. 

(Washington Blade file photo by Adam Hall)

While Dawson said, “I’m sure there are more out there” who have not yet come out, Nassib’s retirement makes this anniversary of the DCGFFL even more significant. 

“It’s unfortunate people still feel they cannot be out while they’re playing and doing what they love, but that’s the reason why something like the D.C. Gay Flag Football League is so important,” he said. “To show that there are gay and trans athletes who exist and love playing sports.”

The league plans to celebrate its 25th anniversary with a dance party and silent auction at Penn Social on Saturday, Sept. 23 starting at 8 p.m. Check the website for ticket information.

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Carl Nassib announces retirement

Openly gay NFL player made history when he came out in 2021



(CBS News screenshot)

Carl Nassib, who made history in 2021 when he became the first active player in the National Football League to come out as gay, announced Wednesday he is retiring at age 30. 

“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” the free agent wrote in a post on Instagram. “But after seven seasons and just over 100 NFL games I am officially retiring from football to focus on my company Rayze.” 

Rayze is a mobile platform that connects people willing to give of themselves with those who need it most, born of an experience in Tampa, Fla., where Bucs players volunteered as mentors to kids being held in a nearby juvenile detention center. Rayze’s website says the company serves to “shine a light on opportunities that need volunteers, while making nonprofit engagement, volunteer recruitment and donating as simple and intuitive as possible.” 

“It really feels like just yesterday starting out as a walk-in at Penn State,” Nassib wrote in his post. “Football has given me more than I ever could have imagined. I can truly hang up my helmet for the last time knowing I gave it everything I had.” 

Ever since he came out in 2021, the former defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has become a philanthropist for the LGBTQ community, especially for queer youth, personally donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project. That year, the NFL matched his donation, and in 2022, Nassib himself matched donations dollar for dollar, up to $100,000.

According to the Bucs, Nassib played in 99 regular-season NFL games with 38 starts,  recorded 187 tackles, 25.5 sacks, 45 tackles for loss, 59 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, one interception and 19 passes defended. In 2016, he the Cleveland Browns drafted him with the second pick in the third round. At Penn State, Nassib was a star player, leading the nation in sacks and forced fumbles during his senior year with the Nittany Lions in 2015.

“It was not an easy decision. It really, really wasn’t,” Nassib told People magazine in an exclusive interview timed to coincide with his Instagram. 

“This would have been my 23rd football season. I’ve been playing football since I was eight years old, and I’m really excited to move on to the next chapter of my life,” he said. 

Nassib says he began considering retirement last season before becoming a free agent, when he said he was “staying at the Bucs facility until 9 p.m. every night working on Rayze.”

“I feel like it’s my calling and it’s what I’m meant to do,” Nassib says of the app. “I’m really excited to move on to the next chapter of my life and to give Rayze everything that I have.”

In July, he posted that he had accepted an appointment to the board of directors of the local United Way chapter in his hometown of West Chester, Pa. 

Nassib said he is also going to work with the NFL in a new role, in matters related to the league’s philanthropic endeavors and its “diversity, equity and inclusion.”

“I think that I can provide a very rare and specific view of how life is for an out gay player, and I think that there are some amazing opportunities that I can also learn,” he told People.

“Maintaining that relationship shows that the NFL is continuing to support me. They’ve supported me so much over the last two years, and I really couldn’t have done it without that support,” he said.

Nassib said the NFL’s offer to utilize him in this new role “continues to show people that you can be yourself and compete at the highest level.”

But what he’s most excited to do with his time now, he told People, is to spend the holiday season with his family and his boyfriend, retired Olympian Søren Dahl. 

“I’ve spent 11 out of 12 Christmases away from my family, many of them alone in my apartment,” said Nassib. “I haven’t spent Thanksgiving with my family since 2010, so I am really, really looking forward to spending time with my family, my friends, and those special moments. And that’s something that I’ve been looking forward to for years.” 

That’s one of the many reasons why he wrote on Instagram: “I really feel like the luckiest guy on the planet.”

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Close out the summer with Team DC

United Night Out held at Audi Field



A scene from last year’s United Night Out. (Washington Blade file photo by Kevin Majoros)

Team DC and Federal Triangles Soccer Club will host “United Night Out” on Saturday, Aug. 26 at 7:30 p.m.

This event will celebrate the LGBTQ community and cheer on the Black-and-Red as they take on the Philadelphia Union.

Team DC is the association of LGBTQ sports clubs in the greater Washington region with 42 member clubs (including FTSC) with more than 7,000 participants. Team DC sponsors the Pride Night OUT Series, which helps organize Pride nights with all local pro teams. In 2023, Team DC will sponsor 14 different Pride nights, including the United Night OUT. 

Tickets are $30 and can be purchased on Team DC’s website

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