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Globetrotting athletes make splash with the Wetskins

Iredell and Dibb land in D.C. after starting careers abroad

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Washington Wetskins, gay news, Washington Blade
Kevin Iredell and Kevin Dibb of the Washington Wetskins. (Photo courtesy the Washington Wetskins)

This week in the Washington Blade All-Star series, we catch up with two globetrotting LGBT athletes who have settled in with the Washington Wetskins water polo team.

Growing up in Prince Georges County, Kevin Iredell found organized sports daunting but still participated in soccer, lacrosse and swimming.

After receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland, he attended graduate school at Tulane University where he joined the water polo team. His sports path was put on hold when he signed up for a two-year stint with the Peace Corps.

Living in a tiny village in Burkina Faso with no electricity or water, Iredell served as a health officer fostering social and behavioral change. His days were spent going door-to-door providing testing and medication for malaria.

Next up for Iredell was a backpacking adventure through Belgium, Netherlands and France in the Workaway program where he lived with and worked for local families in each of the countries.

He was starting to get antsy to settle down and began researching gay sports in D.C. while he was still living in Europe. After arriving back in the area in April 2018, he joined the Washington Wetskins.

“I wanted something that was not like the other sports offered and water polo is definitely different,” says Iredell. “It is extremely important for the LGBT community to have safe spaces outside of the bar scene. For those spaces to be focused on sports is unique and very much needed.”

Iredell has also started a new job and is working as a business manager in international development of health projects. His introductory tournament with the Wetskins was at their hosted Fall Invitational in D.C. last October. It was his first step back into competitive sports.

“It was pretty intimidating at first – whistles blowing, referees, teammates – but then it became comfortable,” Iredell says. “The sense of community is so strong with the Wetskins. We practice three days a week and I always run into teammates outside of the pool. It’s very close-knit.”

Iredell traveled with his teammates to a tournament in Toronto last April and recently returned from competing at the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics world championships in New York City which coincided with World Pride.

The Wetskins sent 30 players and fielded two full teams for the multi-day tournament.

“After meeting a lot of players from the IGLA community in Toronto, it was a blast to see them all again in New York City,” says Iredell. “The LGBT sports community is special, and I am happy to be involved in it.”

Kevin Dibb grew up in Long Beach, Calif., and spent seven years in karate with his brother and sister. Long Beach is a water polo mecca in the United States, and he began playing the sport at age nine.

He came out at age 14 and then to his teammates on the high school water polo team in his sophomore year. He spent his junior year living with a host family in Belgium.

After high school, he used his gap year to log a second senior year of high school in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange in Wuppertal, Germany.

Dibb’s undergrad work was at University of California, Santa Barbara where he was a member of their club triathlon team. He spent the first six months of his senior year in Moscow.

“Russia had just invaded Crimea and I was living in an international dorm. It was a crazy six months – super awkward,” says Dibb. “I was dating even though everything there is anti-gay. They have an active LGBT culture, but it is all underground.”

His completed his grad work at the University of Colorado, Boulder where he spent one year in Boulder and one year in Regensburg, Germany. While in Germany, he played on an underwater rugby team.

A six-month fellowship with the German Parliament brought Dibb to D.C. in December of 2017. He is now employed by the cultural program at Goethe-Institut Washington working with German-American relations.

While looking to find a club sports team in D.C., he decided to return to water polo and joined the Wetskins.

“I already had a solid background in water polo, and it was fun to jump back into something I knew well,” Dibb says. “It has worked out great I have really clicked with my teammates.”

Dibb’s first meet with the Wetskins was the Toronto tournament in April and he is glad to be back in the sport.

“It was so fun – my first time competing in water polo in ten years,” says Dibb. “It is a cool community and it has hooked me into being involved in other LGBT activities like Petworth Social Club.”

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Scottish pro Zander Murray inspires fellow soccer player to come out as gay

Murray, 30, came out during an interview posted on the website of his club, saying “the weight of the world is now off my shoulders”

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Screenshot/YouTube

Two weeks after making headlines as the first-ever senior Scottish pro soccer player to come out as gay, Zander Murray is revealing the impact his courageous decision has had on at least one closeted player. Murray tweeted a message he received that shows the difference an athlete coming out can make. 

“I just wanted to tell you that you’ve been a massive inspiration for me to come out to teammates and family,” the anonymous player told Murray, according to the tweet. 

“As a young footballer I find it difficult to be myself as it is but being gay and keeping it secret was so challenging. It felt amazing when I told my teammates, they were super supportive.” 

Murray shared the message with a heart emoji and the words: “Makes it all worthwhile young man.”

Murray, 30, came out during an interview posted on the website of his club, the Gala Fairydean Rovers, on September 16, explaining “the weight of the world is now off my shoulders.”

Screenshot/YouTube

As the Los Angeles Blade has reported, Jake Daniels of Blackpool came out as gay in May, the first U.K. male pro soccer player to come out in more than 30 years. Justin Fashanu was the first in Britain men’s soccer to come out back in 1990. Homophobic and racist media reports drove Fashanu to suicide eight years later. 

Reaction to Murray’s coming out last month has been “incredible,” he’s told reporters. One of those reaching out to congratulate him was Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley. The U.K. diver sent him a DM, Murray told a British interviewer. 

“He messaged me while I was on my way back from football training in a car with four boys. I had tears in my eyes seeing his direct message, and I messaged him back.

“I said, ‘Look I am in a car on the way back from football with four boys and I’ve got tears in my eyes and I don’t even care.’”

Prior to coming out, Murray had been “living in fear 24/7,” he told Sky Sports. “I can’t explain it. You’re hiding your phone in case you get messages from friends, constantly double-checking if you have a team night out, you’re cautious with what you’re saying.

“It’s very hard, especially for myself, I’m a character in that dressing room. I’m not quiet in that dressing room, I like to have the banter and to get stuck in, so very challenging.”

But Murray said he couldn’t have decided to come out “at a better time, at a better club.” So why now? He posted the answer on Instagram with several bullet points, including:

  • “Gay male footballers in the UK need role models. 
  • Majority are terrified to come out to friends/family/teammates (trust me a few have reached out already!).”

STV Weekend News Sunday, September 18, 2022 Zander Murray

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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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