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Soccer lover calls D.C. United career ‘very rewarding’

Rory Molleda grew up watching soccer, now he works as a team coordinator for D.C.’s largest team

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Rory Molledo, lgbt, gay news, Washington Blade

Soccer has been a life-long passion for Rory Molleda. (Photo courtesy D.C. United)

Rory Molleda knew growing up that he wanted to work in professional sports. He spent his youth attending D.C. United games and right out of college, he landed an internship with the organization. Six months later, he was offered the position of team coordinator and his lifelong dream came true.

Molleda was born in Venezuela and grew up in a soccer family. His father was a professional soccer player in Spain and Venezuela and his mother played soccer at Virginia Tech. When he was 5, the family moved to Alexandria, Va.

Except for a short stint in ice hockey, his main sport was soccer and he was part of a travel team playing year-round by age 10. When it came time for college, he ended up picking Guilford College, a small liberal arts school in North Carolina.

“It was big switch for me after attending high school at Robinson which has 4,500 students. Guilford has an enrollment of 1,200 and 30 percent of the students are athletes,” Molleda says. “The campus has a hippie feel and it was like living in a bubble. It’s different from the rest of North Carolina.”

Molleda, who plays left midfielder and left wing, didn’t get a lot of game time during his first two years at Guilford. His time spent on the bench didn’t detract from what it meant to him to be part of a team.

“It was great to contribute as a player my last two years,” Molleda says. “But it was those first two years, traveling with the team; it meant just as much to not play.”

He says he had great support from his family who came to games, with his mom often coaching him from the sidelines. During his senior year, his sister began her four-year stint playing soccer for Hofstra University.

After graduating with a sports management and Spanish double major in 2013, he moved back to the area and began his internship with D.C. United in operations, assisting with youth soccer tournaments. He sent his resume out to 60 organizations before the offer came from United. He coordinates the logistics of team travel.

“My office is in the locker room and I get to hang out with professional athletes every day,” Molleda says. “I am also traveling with the team once a month and am the person responsible for setting the players up to succeed in their away games. It’s very rewarding.”

As for his own soccer career, he began playing soccer with Metro Sports shortly after arriving back in the D.C. area. In 2016, he spotted the LGBT-based Federal Triangles Soccer Club at Capital Pride and signed up for a couple of their teams in the District Sports leagues. This past summer he played in their Summer of Freedom league for the first time.

“I didn’t come out until after college and I had no idea that gay soccer was a thing,” Molleda says. “It is special to have so much in common with a group of people. Joining the Federal Triangles has had a positive impact on me and has changed my life.”

Along with playing several nights a week with the Triangles, Molleda also gets to play soccer at work once a week with office workers, trainers and coaches. He initially struggled with what it meant to be gay in the world of professional sports but has taken some inspiration from openly gay LA Galaxy player Robbie Rogers.

“A co-worker asked about the HRC sticker on my car and I lied,” Molleda says. “Since that moment I don’t live in fear anymore. I am just living my life and doing the things I want to do.”

Molleda says that making an announcement at work would be a distraction from the team and he prefers to let it happen naturally. Recently three United players walked by while he was in line at Nellie’s Sports Bar and they just waved and said, “Hey.”

“There have been support moments, especially from Ben Olsen (United head coach), and I consider that a good affirmation of acceptance,” Molleda says. “We all want normalcy in our sports environment and I am incredibly happy to be a part of this team.”

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Sports

Brittney Griner, wife expecting first child

WNBA star released from Russian gulag in December 2022

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Cherelle and Brittney Griner are expecting their first child in July. The couple shared the news on Instagram. (Photo courtesy of Brittney Griner's Instagram page)

One year after returning to the WNBA after her release from a Russian gulag and declaring, “I’m never playing overseas again,” Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner and her wife announced they have something even bigger coming up this summer. 

Cherelle, 31, and Brittney, 33, are expecting their first child in July. The couple shared the news with their 715,000 followers on Instagram

“Can’t believe we’re less than three months away from meeting our favorite human being,” the caption read, with the hashtag, #BabyGrinerComingSoon and #July2024.

Griner returned to the U.S. in December 2022 in a prisoner swap, more than nine months after being arrested in Moscow for possession of vape cartridges containing prescription cannabis.

In April 2023, at her first news conference following her release, the two-time Olympic gold medalist made only one exception to her vow to never play overseas again: To return to the Summer Olympic Games, which will be played in Paris starting in July, the same month “Baby Griner” is due. “The only time I would want to would be to represent the USA,” she said last year. 

Given that the unrestricted free agent is on the roster of both Team USA and her WNBA team, it’s not immediately clear where Griner will be when their first child arrives. 

The Griners purchased their “forever home” in Phoenix just last year.

“Phoenix is home,” Griner said at the Mercury’s end-of-season media day, according to ESPN. “Me and my wife literally just got a place. This is it.”

As the Los Angeles Blade reported last December, Griner is working with Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts — like Griner, a married lesbian — on an ESPN television documentary as well as a television series for ABC about her life story. Cherelle is executive producer of these projects. 

Next month, Griner’s tell-all memoir of her Russian incarceration will be published by Penguin Random House. It’s titled “Coming Home” and the hardcover hits bookstores on May 7.

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Sports

Applause and criticism for Staley’s trans-inclusive stance

South Carolina Gamecocks women’s coach made comments on Sunday

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South Carolina Gamecocks women's basketball head coach Dawn Staley. (NBC News Today YouTube screenshot)

If not for a conservative transphobic blogger, this moment should be a celebration of NCAA women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley and the women of the South Carolina Gamecocks.

On Sunday, they concluded their undefeated season with a decisive win and a championship title. But when Staley faced reporters before that big game, Outkick’s Dan Zakheske asked her an irrelevant, clickbait question about transgender women in sports, referring to them as “biological males.” 

Staley could have ignored the question, or stated she had no opinion, but instead the legendary coach offered a crystal clear endorsement of trans women competing in women’s sports, something outlawed in her home state of South Carolina for girls in kindergarten through college. 

“I’m of the opinion,” said Staley, “If you’re a woman, you should play. If you consider yourself a woman and you want to play sports or vice versa, you should be able to play. That’s my opinion.”

Zakheske clearly wasn’t satisfied with that declaration of allyship and Staley swiftly cut him off. 

“You want me to go deeper?” she asked. 

“Do you think transgender women should be able to participate,” he started to say, when the coach stole the ball and took it downtown on a fastbreak. “That’s the question you want to ask? I’ll give you that. Yes. Yes. So, now the barnstormer people are going to flood my timeline and be a distraction to me on one of the biggest days of our game, and I’m okay with that. I really am.” 

Staley is herself a Hall of Fame player a leading voice for diversity. 

Reaction to her comments were swift, from LGBTQ rights organizations, athletes and inclusion opponents. 

“Coach Staley simply spoke the truth that trans women are women and should play if they want,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, in a post on Instagram. “All of us can take a page from Coach Staley’s playbook as a sports leader and as a person of high integrity guided by faith, compassion and common sense.” 

A White House pool reporter revealed President Joe Biden called Staley Sunday evening to congratulate her and the Gamecocks on their championship win. But it’s not clear if she and the president, an outspoken supporter of trans rights, discussed her remarks on trans athletes. 

A number of Black leaders in the LGBTQ movement applauded Staley for taking a stand. 

“Coach Staley has always been a trailblazer, but she’s also shown that true leadership is about advancing justice and equality for everyone,” said Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson. “By expressing her full-throated support for transgender athletes’ inclusion in sports, she’s sending an important message — our shared humanity matters. 

“Coach Staley showed courage and vulnerability, in choosing to answer the question and make a powerful statement of support for trans people on one of the biggest days and biggest stages in sports history,” said Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in a statement. “Not only does that make her a leader we can all aspire to like, it makes her a class act. She has etched her legacy in the history books with her play, her coaching, her heart and her smarts.”

In congratulating Staley on her championship title victory, Dr. David J. Johns, the CEO and executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, also commended her for “her unwavering advocacy and support for transgender people in sports.” 

“In a time when transgender athetes face unjust scrutiny, discrimination and exclusion from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, her courage to speak truth to power and in support of inclusion and fairness sets a powerful example for us all, and is a testament to her integrity and compassion.”

The NBJC leader was referring to Monday’s announcement by the NAIA, the governing body of athletic programs at small colleges nationwide, voting 20-0 to essentially ban trans women from competing with other women beginning Aug. 1, as ESPN reported.

“It is a shocking and devastating development that the NAIA, an organization that has done so much to open doors, is now slamming those doors shut on transgender athletes,” said Sasha Buchert, Lambda Legal’s senior attorney and director of the organization’s nonbinary and trans rights project. 

“Instead of standing up in support of transgender young people, the NAIA has simply turned its back on them — permanently depriving them of the benefits of competition. Would that they had the courage of victorious University of South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley, who didn’t miss a beat in clarifying that transgender women should be able to play.” 

However, praise for Staley’s stance was not universal. 

Riley Gaines, failed former college swimmer and paid shill for the anti-inclusion organization, Independent Women’s Forum, called Staley “entirely incompetent or a sell-out” on Fox News. “Personally, I don’t think she believes what she said.” 

Gaines has turned her fifth-place tie with out trans NCAA champion Lia Thomas into a career as a crusader against inclusion and a former advisor to the presidential campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Val Whiting, a former Stanford University and professional women’s basketball player, tweeted her strong disagreement with Staley. “A lot of my basketball sisters feel differently but trans women do not belong in women’s sports. It’s not fair nor safe for biological women. There has to be another solution for trans women to be able to compete athletically besides having them compete against biological women.” 

Zaksheske’s Outkick colleague, anti-trans pundit David Hookstead, also went all-in with a transphobic post. 

“Dawn Staley says she supports men who identify as women competing against real women in sports. Her view could literally destroy women’s basketball forever. Why won’t more people stand up for women?”

Hookstead then boasted that Staley blocked his account. 

Republican South Carolina Congresswoman Nancy Mace retweeted Zaksheske’s account of his interaction with Staley, calling her support of trans athletes “absolute lunacy.” That in turn won praise from Caitlyn Jenner, who retweeted Whiting and posted her thanks to Mace, along with this comment: “There is nothing complicated about this issue!” 

What is complicated is that Jenner has never explained why she has competed with cisgender women in golf ever since her transition almost a decade ago. 

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Caitlyn Jenner backs NY county transgender athletes ban

‘Let’s stop it now while we can’

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Caitlyn Jenner endorses Nassau County's transgender athlete ban during a press conference. (YouTube screenshot)

Caitlyn Jenner flew from Malibu to New York this week to join her fellow Republicans in their nationwide quest to keep transgender girls and women from competing in sports with other women. 

“Let’s stop it now while we can,” said the Olympic gold medalist, at a news conference carried live by Fox News Channel. 

Republican Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman organized the event so that Jenner could speak in support of his February executive order banning trans athletes at more than 100 county-owned facilities. 

“Trans women are competing against women, taking valuable opportunities for the long-protected class under Title IX and causing physical harm,” said Jenner without providing supportive evidence of her claim. Jenner said the ban would defeat “the woke agenda.” 

Her comments drew praise from former NCAA swimmer and paid shill Riley Gaines, who represents the Independent Women’s Forum and has also worked with the failed presidential campaign of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida on his anti-trans athlete platform.

“If the left wants to fight this battle on this hill, it’s a losing battle,” said Jenner. “We will win the battle.” She claimed she spoke on behalf of women and girls, contradicting her past statements in support of trans girls competing according to their gender identity and despite the fact she herself still competes in women’s sports.

Shortly after the ban was announced last month, New York State Attorney General Letitia James and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, both Democrats, denounced it and accused Blakeman of “bullying trans kids.” 

James called the order “transphobic and deeply dangerous,” and argued that it violates the state’s anti-discrimination laws. The state attorney general challenged it in court March 1 with a “cease and desist letter,” demanding that Blakeman rescind the order, saying it subjects women’s and girls’ sports teams to “invasive questioning.”

As the Los Angeles Blade reported, Blakeman’s legal team countered with its own lawsuit on March 5, claiming her cease and desist letter violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

“Not only was the executive order legal, but we had an obligation to defend it,” Blakeman said Monday. 

The order has also been challenged by the New York Civil Liberties Union, which filed suit last week on behalf of a women’s roller derby league based in Nassau County that welcomes trans women and would be barred from using the county’s facilities by Blakeman’s executive order.

Just days before the Long Island news conference, Jenner joined Olympian Sharron Davies, who also campaigns against trans inclusion in sports, for an conversation with a British newspaper, the Telegraph, which has been outspoken against trans inclusion. 

They recalled that in their day, tests to determine sex were mandatory in order to compete, and Jenner said she has been “pushing” for sex tests to return to sports, decades after sports organizations around the world abandoned the practice because they were unreliable. “If they continue down this road, it will be pretty much the end of women’s sport as we know it.”

“I can still hit a golf ball 280 yards,” Jenner continued, not mentioning she plays from the ladies’ tee. She did however opine about not being “a real woman,” acknowledging that many trans women disagree with her view. 

“They keep saying, ‘Oh, I’m a real woman, I’m a real woman,’ and I’m going, ‘No, you’re not,’” said Jenner. “I will use your preferred pronouns, I will treat you as a female, you can run and dress and do whatever you want, I have nothing against that, it’s fine, but biologically you’re still male.”

She added: “​Let me explain — I am biologically male, OK? I’m XY. There’s nothing I can do to change that. If you believe in gender dysphoria, and I think most people do realize it’s not a disease, it’s a mental condition, just like some people are left-handed and some people are right-handed, it’s kind of the way you’re born and I’ve dealt with it my entire life.“

“I consider myself a trans person, I am still genetically male, I changed all of my ID right down to my birth certificate so technically yes, I am female, but on the other hand I know I’m not.”

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