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BLADE ALL STARS SPOTLIGHT: D.C. Furies

Local players enjoy chess-like challenge, physical rigors of rugby

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DC Furies, gay news, Washington Blade
Sam Moorhead (left) and Liz Linstrom on the field. (Photo courtesy Furies)

This week in the Washington Blade All Star series, we meet two athletes from the D.C. Furies who are thriving in the sport of rugby. The Furies are a Division 1 team and play fifteens matches in the spring and fall, along with sevens tournaments in the summer.

When her wife Kirsten was reassigned to Andrews Air Force Base in April, 2018, Sam Moorhead checked in to play with a local rugby team but didn’t click with them. She sought out the Furies that summer and found her place with the team.

Growing up in Greenville, S.C., Moorhead played club soccer and was also on her high school soccer team. She started her freshman year at University of South Carolina playing pick up soccer before switching over to club rugby.

“I was like a deer in headlights at first, but quickly found out that I liked the analytical aspect of the sport,” Moorhead says. “Depending on what position you play, there is time to think and it becomes similar to being in a chess game.”

Her eligibility ran out in college and Moorhead continued in the sport by joining an adult women’s club in Columbia where she met her future wife. Moorhead plays as a fly-half and her wife was playing as an 8-man. The two faced off on occasion in practice and scrimmages.

“I am the finesse player making tactical decisions and trying not to get hit,” Moorhead says. “After several tackles by Kirsten, I learned that whenever I heard her distinct footsteps, I should just fall down.”

The pair moved to Dayton, Ohio, for Kirsten to pursue her master’s at The Air Force Institute of Technology. When they arrived in D.C., it was important for Moorhead to seek out a rugby team.

“It’s a built-in community that transcends community pretty quickly and becomes family. You meet people who have a small interest, but are vastly different,” Moorhead says. “Rugby gives me stress relief and it never gets boring. I could play forever.” 

After playing with the Furies last fall and elite sevens with them this past summer, Moorhead was nursing an injury for their first double-header match of the season last weekend. She stepped in and played anyway showing her commitment to the team. 

“We bleed for each other and the cost of your body makes the connection even deeper,” Moorhead says. “After every match, I can’t wait to get back on the field.”

Liz Linstrom grew up in Woodbridge, Va., and played basketball and soccer through middle school and high school, along with playing club soccer. Looking for something different, she started playing rugby in her first year at William & Mary.

“I was in great shape for my first practice and 15 minutes later, I was bent over, breathing hard and experiencing muscle fatigue,” Linstrom says. “I took that as a challenge.”

She ended up tearing an ACL in her freshman year and remained active in rugby through non-contact drills and coaching. Even though she was aggressive with her post-surgery recovery, she was out of the sport for one year.

Linstrom returned to the pitch for the National Small College Championships at the end of her sophomore year where her team captured third place. She had recovered mentally and physically and was at the top of her game.

She experienced another ACL tear in her senior year and faced a different path because of where she was in her career.

“The second tear was more traumatizing because I was at the end of my college career and I knew how long it would take to recover,” Linstrom says. “After graduation I didn’t even look for jobs, I just focused on recovery.”

One year later, Linstrom joined the Furies and spent the summer of 2018 building her skills, testing her limits and gaining back her confidence. By the middle of their fall season, she was back into full-contact rugby. Despite the injuries, she remains dedicated to the sport.

“I think as a woman, there are not a lot of opportunities to show aggression like you can in rugby. Other sports such as lacrosse allow the men to be more aggressive than the woman,” Linstrom says. “There is still a stigma around women being powerful and rugby gives us the opportunity to show different strengths.”

Linstrom is a utility player who floats into different positions, sometimes inside centre, sometimes as a flanker. She suffered a concussion this summer and is currently sidelined for matches, but still practicing. Going forward, she has thought about what her path might be in the sport.

“I will always contribute in any way that I can, but I want to find a position that I can specialize in,” Linstrom says. “I don’t care where I am playing as long as I am playing. I always want to be ready to hop in and be my best.”

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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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