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D.C. Gay Flag Football League hosts Gay Bowl XVI this weekend

‘Come as you are and play your heart out’

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Super Bowl, gay news, Washington Blade
Super Bowl, gay news, Washington Blade, Gay Bowl XVI

The D.C. Gay Flag Football League well welcome players from all over the U.S. and Canada for Gay Bowl XVI this weekend. (Washington Blade file photo by Vladyslav Rekhovskyy)

It has been seven years since a group of pick-up players and their travel teams hosted Gay Bowl IX on the threadbare fields of Carter Barron in Rock Creek Park.

The championship in 2009 was the impetus for the formation of the D.C. Gay Flag Football League, so it’s fitting they’re hosting this year’s event because of the strength of their league.

Gay Bowl XVI will take place on 11 polo fields at West Potomac Park this weekend with the National Mall serving as an inspirational backdrop as the players vie for the three championship trophies. More than 750 athletes and referees on 40 teams from 21 cities across the United States and Canada will be welcomed to a world-class sporting event along with a full social calendar that will showcase the LGBT scene of Washington.

At this year’s Gay Bowl, D.C. will field five men’s teams and one women’s team. These five squads are the travel teams and they are separate from League teams. There is a tryout and selection process that follows strict protocols similar to the league’s draft system. There is currently a waiting list just to try out for the travel teams.

The first season of the D.C. Gay Flag Football League in 2010 consisted of seven teams and though interest was high for expansion, the League carefully created a structure of growth that kept the quality of play at a high level. The growth was limited partially by the grooming of quality quarterbacks, but also with a design on having the most balanced teams possible. Now in Season XIII, the League is at 20 teams with 300 players.

One thing that stands out in the League is its diversity. The League has a “come-as-you-are-and-play-your-heart-out” mentality that draws people from all walks of life.

“We bring people from diverse parts of D.C. and I think it is the best part of the league,” says Chris Comier, founding board member and co-chair of Gay Bowl XVI. “We have players that range from the military to Capitol Hill and we are all sexual identities, ethnicities and genders.”

The league has struggled over the years to maintain a high number of female players and is at close to 20 women this season. It does not utilize the special rules that are put in place for women players in some flag-football leagues.

Former NCAA Division I basketball player Nikki Kasparek says when she started in the League in 2012, the male players weren’t utilizing the female players to their capacity. That has since changed.

“They wouldn’t play defense on us and ultimately the quarterbacks starting throwing the ball to us. I was scoring one to two touchdowns per game,” Kasparek says. “I’m not getting that anymore. We are athletes, we are assets and we are rock stars. If you don’t guard us, we will score.”

Some straight players such as Peter Sima, who has played in the League since 2010, say sexual orientation is a non issue. He’s been on some of the League’s travel teams and played at Chicago’s Pride Bowl.

“There is no thought in this League as to what you are,” Sima says. “There is also no ‘in crowd’ and as a straight player, I immediately felt welcomed.”

The League is also supportive of the trans community and one player (who wishes to remain anonymous) has found support from the league during his transition. He has been a player since 2011.

“I have a really awesome core group of friends in the DCGFFL that I trust,” he says. “My friends have been supportive of my journey and that has made me really happy to be a part of this League.”

The closing party for Gay Bowl XVI will be held at Howard Theater and after a weekend of playing in the presence of America’s national monuments, the players will be sent off in D.C. style just a few blocks from the White House.

“We want everyone to say it was the most enjoyable and most memorable Gay Bowl yet,” Comier says. “And oh yea, we want all three trophies.”

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Blinken criticizes FIFA threat to fine World Cup team captains with ‘one love’ armbands

Qatar criminalizes homosexuality by death

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday criticized FIFA over its threat to sanction European soccer teams if their captains wore “one love” armbands during the 2022 World Cup.

“It’s always concerning from my perspective when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression. It’s especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” Blinken told reporters during a press conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Doha, the Qatari capital. “And in my judgment, at least, no one on a football pitch should be forced to choose between supporting these values and playing for their team.”

Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales had planned to wear the armbands in support of the LGBTQ and intersex community during the World Cup. The teams on Monday in a joint statement said they would not wear the armbands because FIFA had threatened to sanction them if their captains did.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death. A report that Human Rights Watch published last month noted several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment” of LGBTQ and intersex people while in police custody from 2019 and September 2022. 

A State Department official last week acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Blinken attended their match against Wales on Monday.

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European soccer teams won’t wear ‘one love’ armbands after FIFA threatens sanctions

World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday

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Iran plays England during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Nov. 21, 2022. (Screenshot via FS1)

Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales planned to wear “one love” armbands during the World Cup. The teams in a joint statement said FIFA threatened to sanction them if their captains wore them.

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play,” read the statement. “We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision, which we believe is unprecedented.”

“As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings,” added the statement.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death.

Human Rights Watch last month published a report that noted “arbitrary” arrests of LGBTQ and intersex people between 2019 and September 2022 and several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment in police custody” during the aforementioned period. World Cup Ambassador Khalid Salman earlier this month described homosexuality as “damage in the mind” during an interview with a German television station.

Peter Tatchell, a British activist, on Oct. 25 protested the country’s LGBTQ and intersex rights record while standing outside the National Museum of Qatar in Doha, the country’s capital. A State Department official on Nov. 18 acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will attend their match against Wales on Monday.

England played Iran on Monday. The Netherlands on Monday will play Senegal.

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Reliving a magical softball world series in D.C.

Jackson, Mace worked for years and through a pandemic to bring event to the city

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The Amateur Sports Alliance of North America brought its Softball World Series to D.C. in August. (Photo courtesy ASANA)

After almost two years of disruptions, the LGBTQ sports community in the District of Columbia is thriving once again.

Tournaments that were canceled have been rescheduled, leagues are back in action, and sports permitting within the District is working its way back to normal.

The Washington Blade checked in with two Chesapeake and Potomac Softball (CAPS) players who worked for several years to bring the Amateur Sports Alliance of North America (ASANA) Softball World Series to D.C.

The ASANA Softball World Series 2022 was held in D.C. in August and brought in more than 1,500 athletes, coaches and fans who celebrated sports and community over seven days.

Cis women, trans women, trans men and nonbinary athletes were eligible to play in the series, and cis men were welcome to coach or manage teams.

Rhonda Jackson and Tony Mace were co-hosts of the Host City Committee who brought the series to our nation’s capital.

Blade: Tell me about the journey to bring the ASANA World Series to D.C.

Tony Mace: We submitted our bid in 2019 to host the 2021 World Series, which was then rescheduled due to the pandemic. The 2020 Series was cancelled and eventually we received the 2022 award to host.

Blade: Was there a theme behind your bid?

Rhonda Jackson: Yes, our goal was to elevate the player experience both on and off the field. Every player was treated as if they were the best softball player on the planet. We wanted the players and the city to be the center of attention. We attended a Mystics game and a Nationals game, which were both great to experience as a community. 

Mace: We were excited for the opportunity to show off D.C. and we are really proud of what we are doing here as an LGBTQ softball community. We wanted to share it.

Blade: Let’s talk softball. How was the Series?

Mace: ASANA has 28 member cities, and we had a total of 47 teams from 21 cities competing in the B through E Divisions. The games were held at Watkins Regional Park and Fairland Regional Park.

Jackson: Everyone was treated as an elite athlete, and it didn’t feel like a local or regional tournament. The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation did an awesome job of getting the fields in shape for the Series. They were a big part of the player experience. When we arrived on the first day it was a spiritual moment. Everything was perfect and there were a lot of smiling faces. I hope we created memories that last a lifetime.

Blade: How many local teams competed?

Jackson: D.C. fielded five teams – DC Sharks won their division, DC Swag finished third in their division and Spartas finished fourth in their division.

Blade: And I understand congratulations are in order for you, RJ?

Jackson: During the Series, I was inducted into the ASANA Hall of Fame. My competitive teams, my local teams and the CAPS Board were all there. I could feel the love.

Mace: The Hall of Fame dinner was magical. Actually, every day of that week was incredible. It is truly amazing to have players from across the country come and play at your home ballpark. I made a ton of new friends and Friday night under the lights was a really special moment.

Jackson: The whole week was about special moments, connecting with new and old friends, giving folks an opportunity to thrive, and creating a safe, inclusive space to compete.

Blade: And congrats to you, too, Tony for being inducted into the CAPS Hall of Fame this year.Right after the ASANA World Series ended, you headed to Dallas to compete in NAGAAA Softball World Series with other CAPS travel teams. How was the tournament?

Mace: We had two teams from D.C. make it to the Division championships – DC Big Blue won the Masters D Division and DC Scruff finished second in the D Division. It is always great when your sister teams play well and seeing everyone pull together from the D.C. community to celebrate the DC Big Blue victory was heartwarming.

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