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BLADE 50: paper helped forming D.C. gay sports leagues

D.C. Frontrunners, Federal Triangles et. al. used Blade to get word out

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lgbt sports leagues, DC Frontrunners, gay news, Washington Blade
The D.C. Frontrunners at an AIDS Benefit Run/Walk on Dec. 1, 1984. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

The LGBT sports movement moved into full swing 10 years ago and the Washington Blade capitalized on the changing environment by expanding its scope and establishing a dedicated sports column to report on the D.C. athletes involved in the movement.

Since that time, the Blade has showcased hundreds of local LGBT athletes who are thriving in sports community as out athletes. 

In 2013, the Blade introduced an annual sports issue which shines a light on local, national and international LGBT athletes who are breaking down stereotypes through their involvement in sports.

In the decades leading up to the LGBT sports movement, visibility wasn’t always welcomed by LGBT athletes who were mostly living in the shadows. Fear of rejection and bullying, and even fear of being kicked out of their sport, led many athletes to remain in the closet.

As the pioneers of the Washington D.C. LGBT sports community began forming clubs, there was one source that allowed athletes to share their message in hopes of finding other athletes who wanted to play sports. That source felt like a safe space which in turn would lead to the safe spaces that are now common in our local LGBT sports community.

Many of the first LGBT teams that were formed in D.C., such as the D.C. Front Runners, the Federal Triangles Soccer Club, the Washington Wetskins and the District of Columbia Aquatics Club, were producing their own newsletters and mailing them out in unmarked envelopes to protect the identities of their athletes.

Once their fears began to subside, they turned to the Washington Blade to reach a wider audience. The Blade began adding sports announcements in its Calendar section and started sharing stories in the Close Up section.

In the August 7, 1981 issue of the Washington Blade, the following ad appeared announcing the presence of gay runners:

All Gay runners interested in starting up a running club are invited to attend an organizational meeting to be held at the Gay Community Center, 1469 Church Street, N.W., August 13 at 7.

A small ad hoc steering committee has already begun considering items for the meeting agenda, including the choice of a name, the formal club structure, the possibility of organizing a seasonal race, and the options available for affiliating with local and national Gay and non-gay running organizations.

The group will also discuss the 4.4 mile fun run scheduled for 9 a.m., August 15 on the towpath along the canal, starting underneath Key Bridge.

The announcement would mark the birth of the D.C. Front Runners who are still meeting at 7 pm on Thursdays for weekly fun runs.

“As a practical matter, the Blade provided the Front Runners an opportunity to communicate to the broader community. Many of our core group of runners came from our announcements in the Blade,” says Tony Anderson, a longtime Front Runner and former club coordinator. “I remember a straight friend saying, ‘This isn’t fair, you have a news outlet that can communicate to your entire community in an effective way,’”

The same holds true for the first members of the Federal Triangles Soccer Club, who started with pickup games on the National Mall.

“The Blade was our form of communication to everybody for our pickup games in 1990,” says Jim Ensor of the Federal Triangles. “We had a lot of players get involved with the team through the Blade and many are still active with us.”

In July, 1985, a group of swimmers placed an ad in the Blade looking for water polo players. They had no idea how to play, but they wanted to be a part of something outside the bar scene.

“Everyone read the Blade because it was the only way to communicate,” says Jack Markey, a co-founder of the Washington Wetskins and the District of Columbia Aquatics Club. “It made people aware of the resources in the community — everything was in the Blade.”

Fast-forward to 2019 and Washington D.C., led by information clearinghouse Team D.C., is one of the largest LGBT sports communities in the world with more than 40 LGBT sports clubs.

Earlier this year, Europe-based sportsmedialgbt.com pointed to the Washington Blade as a leading news source on sports news and content with an LGBT emphasis.

The Blade will continue to spotlight the journeys of LGBT athletes through themed storytelling such as the Rookies & Vets series and the All Star series. This fall, a new series titled Game Changers will be introduced.

The LGBT athletes who once lived in the shadows have stepped into the light. Sharing stories sparks connections and the Blade is the connection that has endured for 50 years.

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Sports

Gay Games 11 begin in Hong Kong and Mexico

Registrations are reportedly far below expectations

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(Photo courtesy of Gay Games 11 Hong Kong organizing committee.)

Organizers call it the world’s largest inclusive sports, arts and culture event: The 11th Gay Games, delayed by a year and cohosted by the cities of Hong Kong and Guadalajara, Mexico. They got underway Friday, and for the first time in the 40-year history of the games, they are being held in a city in Latin America and another city in Asia. 

More than 2,300 athletes from 45 countries, including the U.S, Britain, South Korea and China are expected to take part in the Hong Kong games, according to organizers. Soccer is the main event this weekend. 

Dodgeball, soccer, swimming, powerlifting and track-and-field are among the events this weekend in Guadalajara, according to that event’s website.

But according to reports, the number of athletes and spectators at both venues is far below the standards set in previous Gay Games.  

These games were originally planned for just one city, Hong Kong, this time last year. The intent was for Gay Games 11 to serve as what organizers called “a beacon of hope” for the LGBTQ community in a Chinese-ruled region that challenges restrictions on gay rights. 

While it is legal to be gay in China and many of its major cities have thriving LGBTQ social scenes, same-sex marriage and adoption by gay people are illegal and there are no legal protections against LGBTQ discrimination.

To many Chinese government officials, being gay is “a malign foreign influence that is stopping youth from getting married and having children,” Darius Longarino, a senior fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School, recently told NBC News

That and the summer shutdown of the Beijing LGBT center by the government in May, affirmed the decision to divide Gay Games 11 across two continents, which was at first driven by Hong Kong’s strict COVID-19 protocols, as Reuters reported. Organizers postponed the games for 12 months due to the city’s strict COVID-19 protocols, and it was decided to divide the competitions with runner-up bidder Guadalajara in western Mexico.

Despite the locales being more than eight thousand miles apart, organizers have coordinated a series of sporting events under the slogan, “unity in diversity.” 

“Everyone aged 18/+ is welcome to participate,” according to the Hong Kong venue’s website, “regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity or even training level.” 

Inclusion isn’t as much of a problem at this Gay Games as is the lack of participants and spectators.

Original estimates for the 2022 event in Hong Kong was for 12,000 participants, 75,000 spectators and 3,000 volunteers from 100 countries. The 36 events were to include Dragon Boat Racing, Dodgeball and eSports.

But for 2023, Reuters reports registrations fell far below expectations, due in part to ongoing worries about COVID-19 and LGBTQ rights in China and concerns over safety in Guadalajara, where crime and kidnappings are common. 

One week ago, organizers in Guadalajara had registered only 2,458 participants, and Hong Kong had under 2,400, for a combined 4,839 athletes. It’s unheard of for a Gay Games to have fewer than 8,000 participants.

The games were first held in San Francisco in 1982. Organizers boast this is “one of the largest global events of their kind,” according to the Gay Games 11 website, bringing people together” to experience unforgettable moments of joy through a unique combination of sport, community and culture.” 

But according to Reuters, what is bringing people together in Guadalajara are the criminals who prey upon visitors. The city is located in the state of Jalisco, where drug cartels operate freely. 

Wayne Morgan, a senior Australian athlete who has competed in six prior Gay Games, told Reuters he was drugged and robbed last year when he visited Guadalajara for a planning conference related to this year’s games. He said he made his way to the police station and found himself in a long queue of other crime victims, where he was told: “This happens a lot.” 

A spokesperson for the Federation of Gay Games told Reuters the decision to split the event had a “significant impact on registration numbers” but added that the organizers believed the choice of two locations “allows even more people from around the world to celebrate LGBTQ+ sports with us.”

But to Morgan, splitting the host cities was “a mistake” and that low numbers could deter corporate sponsorship in the future.

“In my heart of hearts, I wish the whole thing was canceled and we could skip to Valencia in 2026,” he said. The next games are planned for Valencia, Spain.

Taiwan’s competitors withdrew their registration from the Hong Kong event in August, citing fears their participants could be arrested if they display the island’s flag or use its name. Human rights activists called for the games in Hong Kong to be canceled, accusing organizers of aligning themselves with “pro-authoritarian figures responsible for widespread persecution against the people of Hong Kong.”

In response to the low registration numbers, Hong Kong organizers canceled several events, including field hockey and Rugby 7s as well as some in the category of track-and-field. 

Gay Games 11 runs through Nov. 11.

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Sports

Republican governors demand ‘guaranteed’ fairness on trans athletes

Kristi Noem’s joint letter filled with lies, inaccuracies and transphobic claims

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Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, anti-trans pundit Riley Gaines and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem meet at the 2023 Republican Governors Association gathering in Aspen, Colo.. (Photo courtesy of Republican Governors Association's Facebook page)

Nine Republican governors, several of whom have signed laws banning transgender student-athletes from competing as their authentic selves, sent a joint letter Monday to the National Collegiate Athletics Association and its Board of Governors about its transgender student-athlete policy.

The first signatory is Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota. She and her fellow GOP governors make it clear they are telling the NCAA to abandon its current policy, which changed in 2022 from allowing trans competitors to compete, to putting the onus on individual sports organizations to decide participation rules. 

Not good enough, say the governors. 

“The NCAA has the chance to guarantee an environment where female college athletes can thrive without the concern of inequities,” the wrote. “We trust that you also want to guarantee just such an environment. But this policy allows the NCAA to avoid responsibility for ensuring the fairness of collegiate sports — therefore it must be changed.”

In addition to Noem, the letter was signed by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas, Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi, Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri, Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana, Gov. Joe Lomardo of Nevada, Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Gov. Mark Gordon of Wyoming. 

Among the many bogus claims and transphobic statements, including labeling out trans NCAA All-American Lia Thomas a “biological male,” the letter misrepresents what happened after Thomas tied with a cisgender competitor, Riley Gaines, at the NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta. In March 2022. The two women tied for fifth place in the 200 freestyle. But the governors’ letter claims Gaines was denied posing with “the first-place trophy that she rightfully earned.” 

Unlike the governors, the Los Angeles Blade was at that event and witnessed the heat, as well as the podium ceremony that followed. Not expecting a tie finish for fifth place, officials handed Gaines a trophy for another event for the photo op following their contest, and chose to give Thomas the fifth place trophy. The NCAA mailed Gaines her trophy at a later date. Gaines never finished first at that event, and has turned her alleged slight at the championships into a national anti-trans media campaign.

The letter goes on to repeat false misogynist claims about Allyson Felix being unable to compete against high school boys, accusations that trans athletes are “average male athletes stealing” the honors due women athletes and falsely claims that the issue of fairness has been determined by science. 

The letter was condemned by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming in a statement Tuesday. 

“Whatever Gov. Gordon and this letter’s cosigners might say, this isn’t about leveling the playing field for student athletes or protecting fairness in women’s sports. If it were, these governors would be tackling the actual threats to women’s sports, such as severe underfunding, lack of media coverage, sexist ideologies that suggest that women and girls are weak, and pay equity for coaches and players,” said Libby Skarin, deputy executive director for the ACLU of Wyoming, in a press release.

“This letter to the NCAA is just another attempt to erase transgender people from society while stirring up support from their base of anti-trans activists with fear-mongering tactics and discriminatory rhetoric that harm some of the most vulnerable people in our state,” Skarin said.

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Ashlyn Harris files for divorce from Ali Krieger

The former U.S. Women’s National Team stars have two children and have been married since 2019, Harris, retired from soccer in 2022

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Media reports reveal the former goalkeeper of the U.S. Women’s National Team Ashlyn Harris filed for divorce last month from Ali Krieger, the NWSL Gotham FC defender who is set to retire after Sunday’s match. 

Krieger, 39, and Harris, 37, have been together since 2010 and married in December 2019. They have two children together and according to public court documents filed on Sept. 19 in Seminole County, Fla., they must agree to a parenting plan for Sloane, 2 1/2, and Ocean, 14 months. 

Representatives for Harris and Krieger have not responded to press inquiries. The couple haven’t been seen in an Instagram post together since July. 

They met while playing for the USWNT, where they were both two-time World Cup winners. 

Harris, who retired from soccer in 2022, is now the creative director of Gotham FC and part of an all-woman executive leadership team. Krieger, who has played with the club since she and Harris were traded by Orlando Pride in 2021, will be celebrated by the club for her 17 years of dedication to the sport when she retires following Sunday’s match against the Kansas City Current. 

The couple welcomed their toddler daughter Sloane via adoption just a few months before being traded. In August 2022, they adopted their second baby, their son, Ocean. The Florida court requires Krieger and Harris to agree on child custody, support, non-disparagement and non-harassment terms as well as attend a parenting class for the divorce to proceed. 

In addition to her skills on the pitch, Krieger has used her spotlight and platform to serve as an advocate for pay equity and in support of the LGBTQ+ community. 

“I want to leave the game better than where I found it,” said Krieger upon announcing her plans to retire in March. “I believe we have accomplished a lot since we’ve started. I want to be remembered as being a good person and a good teammate who worked tirelessly to create a space for everyone to feel safe and seen, for speaking up for things that should be better for the younger generation. That’s the legacy I want to leave.”

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