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European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, France | ECHR

The European Court of Human Rights ordered Russia to pay Sochi Pride House and 2 other LGBTQ nonprofit groups rejected under its anti-gay “propaganda” law.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France — which last summer fined Russia $2 billion for two decades of human rights abuses — has ordered Vladimir Putin’s government to cough up another $41K to three nonprofit LGBTQ groups.

One of those groups is Sochi Pride House, an arm of Pride House International, whose aim was to provide a welcoming place for LGBTQ athletes and fans attending the 2014 Olympic Games, and to combat homophobia in sports.

The human rights court also ordered the Russian government to pay damages to the Rainbow House and the Movement for Marriage Equality for banning it from registering.

According to Human Rights Watch, a 2012 law requires all groups to register with the Russian Justice Ministry as “foreign agents” if they receive even any funding from sources outside Russia and engage in what is considered “political activity.”

Sochi Pride House and the other groups attempted to register starting in 2006, according to HRW.

In 2012, a Russian judge rejected Sochi Pride House’s appeal to register, and in 2013 the Russian government enacted its anti-LGBTQ law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.”

AP Photo Greg Louganis, left, with Russian LGBT Sport Federation co-President Konstantin Yablotskiy.

Pride House International responded by partnering with the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, which set up the Russia Open Games. In attendance was Olympic diving legend Greg Louganis, who in 2013 joined a coalition of entertainment execs, actors, musicians, athletes and human-rights organizations in launching Uprising Of Love, a social movement dedicated to supporting the Russia Freedom Fund, which works for long-term, systemic change in the status and treatment of Russia’s LGBT community.

Pride International also launched “remote” Pride Houses all around the world.

Pride House International Manchester, UK

Another response was to have same-sex couples share pictures of themselves holding hands, Hold Hands in Sochi, which also spread internationally. A gallery of photos from these efforts can be viewed by clicking here and here.

In its ruling, the ECHR found Russia’s rejection of the groups violated the applicants’ right to freedom of association. The sole basis of Russia’s rejection was that the groups promoted LGBTQ rights, the court ruled, effectively discriminating against them based on their sexual orientation.

The ruling took five years due to a huge backlog of 10,000 cases not yet heard by the ECHR.

Human Rights Watch posted this statement on its website reacting to the ruling:

“As it was debated and passed in 2013, the law contributed to an intensification of stigma, harassment, and violence against LGBT people in Russia. The law has been used to shut down online information and mental health referral services for children, and to discourage support groups and mental health professionals from addressing LGBT issues with children. It has further entrenched antipathy toward LGBT people.

“The law has rightly been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Council of Europe.

“The European court’s new judgement, which found Russia responsible for discrimination and violation of freedom of association, is a cautionary reminder to the Russian government that the baseless and vitriolic gay propaganda law should be repealed.”

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An image still from “Beautiful Boxer” (2004)

These LGBTQ sports films examine queerness and athletics issue through historic and fictional lenses.

Our list of nine feature-length LGBTQ sports documentaries that provide behind-the-scenes glimpses of heroism and homophobia in athletics was such a hit, we’re following up with a look at feature-length narrative LGBTQ sports films. These movies examine queerness and sports through historic and fictional lenses.

We only chose films where sports play a major role and LGBTQ issues are shown explicitly, leaving out films like “Beautiful Thing” and “A League of Their Own” where sports plays a background role and the queerness remains suggested, respectively.

Interestingly, many of the films listed here originate from Europe and many, unsurprisingly, deal with closeted athletes. But, one in particular deals with disabilities, two deal with trans athletes and three deal with combat sports. Lots of drama abounds on- and off-field in these flicks, but there are also a few comedies to keep you laughing as the action unfolds.

“Personal Best” (1982)

Personal Best (1982) Official Trailer # 1 - Mariel Hemingway HD - YouTube

After the U.S. Olympic teams boycotts the 1980 Moscow Summer Games, track-and-field star Chris Cahill — played by Mariel Hemingway — trains hard to achieve her “personal best,” and ends up falling in love with Tory Skinner, a more experienced runner played by Patrice Donnelly. But when a new sexist coach joins the team, he threatens to disrupt their intimate dynamic. Veteran actor Scott Glenn plays the coach.

“Like It Is” (1998)

Like It Is (1998) Directors Teaser Trailer | Paul Oremland - YouTube

Craig works as a backroom bare-knuckles fighter in London, taking on increasingly dangerous brawls to make ends meet. When he meets a young music promoter named Matt and then gets a job working at a club, Craig thinks his life is on the up-and-up. But when Matt’s demanding boss, Kelvin, notices that Matt’s loss of focus, his meddling could seriously endanger both men.

“Broken Hearts Club” (2000)

The Broken Hearts Club (2000) Trailer | Greg Berlanti - YouTube

Dennis is a 28-year-old gay man who plays on a West Hollywood softball team with his close, catty pals. But as he catches feelings for a 23-year-old named Kevin, the men’s lives start unravelling, making Dean wonder whether his friends are really all that great. Interestingly, this film was directed by gay producer Greg Berlanti (husband of gay soccer player Robbie Rogers) and stars actor John Mahoney who lived in the glass closet until his 2017 death. It was also one of the only gay films during its time not focused on homophobia and HIV.

“Beautiful Boxer” (2003)

Beautiful Boxer (2003) - Movie Trailer - YouTube

One of the only queer sports biopics that isn’t a documentary, “Beautiful Boxer” recreates the life story of Parinya Charoenphol, a real-life trans woman Muay Thai fighter, actress and model who made history in 2017 by defeating a male fighter. Starting off as a young priest at a Buddhist temple, Charoenphol eventually joined a Muay Thai fighting camp and earned enough money to support her family and get gender confirmation surgery before she jump-kicked her way into the Asian international spotlight.

“Fighting Tommy Riley” (2004)

Fighting Tommy Riley (2005) - Movie Trailer 2 - YouTube

The straight-washed trailer above only hints at the gay storyline buried in this film’s second half. In it, the titular character, an aspiring nearly-Olympic boxer, trains with a boxing coach who has a mixed reputation. An intimate moment between the two threatens to tear them apart as Tommy’s star just begins rising.

“Guys and Balls” (2004)

Guys And Balls (2004) Trailer | Sherry Horman - YouTube

Despite its cliched and dated jokes about leather bears and trans athletes, this German comedy follows Ecki, a reviled soccer player who gets booted from his local football club after he’s discovered making out with a dude. Determined to redeem himself, Ecki pulls together a ragtag soccer team made up of queer players to take on the team that ousted him.

“Eleven Men Out” (2005)

Eleven Men Out Trailer - YouTube

When Iceland’s bad-boy football star Ottar Thor comes out as gay, his entire life deflates quicker than a punctured soccer ball. His teenage son, boozing wife, judgmental teammates and conservative family don’t understand why he bothered. But when he’s given a choice to return to the pro-sports closet or start playing on a smaller gay local team, Thor has to choose between a glamorous life or an authentic one.

“Summer Storm” (2004)

Summer Storm (2004) - Trailer - YouTube

In this German coming-of-age romantic comedy, Tobi, a competitive rower, attends a summertime training camp with his intensely-competitive team. However, he feels confused when he finds himself jealous of his best friend Achim’s new relationship with a girl; also, a boy named Leo from the “Queerstrokes” rowing team starts flirting with him. It all culminates in a literal storm that makes Tobi “come in from the rain.”

“Like a Virgin” (2006)

like a virgin (trailer) - YouTube

It’s unlikely you’ll find an English-language version of this Korean film, but it follows the travails of Oh Dong-ku, a Madonna fan who works part-time to save for gender reassignment surgery. However, her alcoholic father and local coach thinks she’d make a great competitor in ssireum, Korean folk wrestling, and there’s a massive cash prize if she can commit to training and win a tournament. What’s a girl to do?

“Morgan” (2012)

MORGAN (2012) - Official Trailer (HD) - YouTube

Morgan once raced as a competitive cyclist until a crash turned him into a wheelchair user. He feels increasingly depressed until he meets Dean, a lover who encourages him to compete once more. Morgan feels determined, but must make a decision when a physical ailment threatens his life. The director, Michael Akers, co-wrote the screenplay from interviews with wheelchair-using gay men, and it’s one of the few films in existence to deal with gay men and disabilities.

“Handsome Devil” (2016)

Handsome Devil | Official Trailer - YouTube

Sensitive redhead Ned isn’t as obsessed with rugby as his elite boarding school classmates. So when he’s forced to room with a rugby player, Conor, he’s less than thrilled — until the two bond over a love of music and a shared secret. As Conor’s teammates pressure him to abandon Ned, Ned finds himself increasingly sick of his school’s homophobic snobbery, bringing both boys to a breaking point that could end their friendship.

“The Pass” (2016)

The Pass 2016 Official Trailer - YouTube

English football teammates Jason and Ade party in their undies the night before a career-defining championship game. Cocky and cunning Jason — played by gay actor Russell Tovey— seems determined to get under Ade’s earnest exterior. What happens that night — and the next day at the game — haunts both men 10 years later when they compare their respective paths in a hotel room once again.

“1:54” (2016)

1:54 Trailer | TIFF Next Wave Film Festival 2017 - YouTube

In this French-Canadian drama, 16-year-old Tim finally faces up to five years of bullying when he takes on his tormentor, Jeff, by competing against him to qualify for the nationals in the 800-meter dash. But as Tim gets ever-closer to achieving the 1:54 qualifying time to make the nationals, Jeff’s bullying and intimidation tactics escalate, forcing Tim to take drastic measures to protect himself and his dignity.

“Battle of the Sexes” (2017)

BATTLE OF THE SEXES Trailer (2017) - YouTube

When lesbian tennis great Billie Jean King played her historic 1973 tennis match against then-retired champion Bobby Riggs, she wasn’t yet publicly out. However, her much touted “Battle of the Sexes” match against Riggs threw sexism in pro-sports into stark relief as commentators and Riggs himself doubted the value and capability of female athletes. This film, loosely based on the true story, examines the this sadly timeless issue while conveying King’s clandestine relationship with her female secretary. Interesting side note: Billie Jean King told Outsports the filmmakers originally planned to leave out her same-sex romance, until she insisted it be part of the film!

“Mario” (2018)

Mario Film - LGBT Football Film - Official Trailer - YouTube

When two Swiss pro-soccer players develop feelings for one another, their love threatens to affect their careers, team dynamics and on-field performance. Their managers fear that public knowledge of their relationship will hurt the franchise, and their teammates aren’t initially supportive either, leaving the two men unsure how to proceed.

Let us know if we missed any of your favorite LGBTQ sports films — you can tweet us @outsports, comment here or on Facebook or Instagram, or email us at outsports@gmail.com

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Layne Ingram is the women’s basketball coach at Lansing Community College in Michigan. | Kevin W. Fowler

Layne Ingram could not come out quietly as a trans man after the success he had as a high school and college basketball player.

Being Out is a feature that looks at LGBTQ people in sports who have come out since Outsports first published in 1999. Today: Basketball coach Layne Ingram.

Every trans person has their own journey, but for Layne Ingram, his athletic success on his high school girls basketball team and the University of Michigan women’s team made his coming out much more public.

“How do I respond to the lady in the mall from the church I grew up in?” Ingram asks on his blog, TheRightLayne. It was one of the many dilemma’s he wrestled with after he came out publicly in 2017.

Ingram was smart in allowing a local Lansing, Mich., reporter to write about his journey and he said it made it easier not to have to explain his story to everyone he met. One example was at his 20th high school reunion.

People that I recognized but didn’t remember told me they read my story and thought it was great. They had conversations with me; told me about their lives and children. You know human stuff. It was AMAZING. I felt fine; accepted, maybe even loved. By the end of the picnic, after the police had come and killed a rabid raccoon, I was on a high and ready for the night.

Ingram, the head women’s basketball coach at Lansing Community College, is dedicated to using his public platform to educate people about issues facing the trans community. His blog is a great primer for anyone wondering what trans people go through on a daily basis.

Here are Ingram’s answers to our six Being Out questions:

What do you love the most about basketball?

The things I love most about basketball are the life lessons learned and relationships built. As an adult looking back, I can see that basketball, in effect, saved my life. It taught me how to work hard, how to be a good teammate, how to fail and succeed and gave me relationships and experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise had. It allowed me a place to be exactly who and how I was. It was a place to channel pain, frustration and excitement. It was a safe place to just be.

What does it personally mean to you to be LGBTQ+ in sports?

It means a lot. Especially when our society is doing all that it can to erase the existence and decrease the credibility of the LGBTQ+ community. I want to stand up and stand out and show our kids that they are not alone, that they matter, that they will be OK. They can achieve any and every thing they want to.

I hope that my story inspires people to be exactly who they are and to be proud of it because no one can do it like them. There are too many kids taking their own lives, too many families not being accepting and too many people scared to be who they are.

I want people to know that I am here for them and they are loved. That’s what it means to me.

Photo by Kevin W. Fowler Layne Ingram

What advice would you give to LGBTQ+ kids in athletics or who want to participate in athletics, the kind of advice the younger you wish you had heard?

This is a tough question to answer because I lived for 36 years of my life in the gender I was born into. I played basketball as a girl and woman. I didn’t know then what young people know now. I think if you want to play a sport then fight for it.

Find places that accept you while we continue to work on making sure that all sports in all places are inclusive to all people. Basketball players are just basketball players to me; we all have to put the ball in the basket. If you can do that, then work every day to be the best player you can be and it will happen.

Who is someone that inspires you?

Right now, the youth of America are inspiring me because I believe that they are going to save us. The millennials and younger generations are incredibly smart and unafraid of saying what they think and believe. This generation understands that we are all created equal and that equality for all does not mean oppression for others.

What are you passionate/excited about right now?

I’m super into advocating for trans youth and my blog, https://therightlayne.blog. I have been getting out to speak and hold workshops to let kids know that they aren’t alone. To answer questions about what it’s like to come out to family and at work.

It makes me happy to be able to have the chance to talk with them and show them that things will work out and that they are OK!

I’m loving my blog because it’s a safe space for me to share my story and experiences and give advice and encouragement to those who need it.

What is your most memorable sports moment?

My most memorable moment in sports is probably still my second half performance in the NCAA tournament my junior year against Virginia where I went in at halftime with 0 points and scored 27 in the second half. It was fun — the glory days.

Layne Ingram is a former collegiate and professional basketball player and current head women’s basketball coach at Lansing Community College in Michigan. He is a fierce LGBTQ+ advocate and out trans man. He can be reached at laynedingram@gmail.com or @the_right_layne on Twitter.

If you are out in sports in any capacity as openly LGBTQ and want to be featured in Being Out, drop Jim an email (kandreeky@gmail.com).

Being Out archive.

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Sonny Kiss and ROAR of the Jaguars | YouTube

Sonny Kiss’ sashayed his way to the ring and took out “The Librarian” in his emotional AEW singles debut.

All Elite Wrestling’s pledge that it is “for everyone” was on full display from minute one at Saturday’s Fight For The Fallen event, as out gay pro wrestler Sonny Kiss made an impactful singles debut in Jacksonville, Fla.

Kiss opened the event’s pre-show, The Buy-In, in a one-on-one contest against “The Librarian” Peter Avalon, who was accompanied to the ring by “The Librarian” Leva Bates. Yes, they’re both librarians. It’s a thing.

But the Concrete Rose stole the show as soon as he came through the tunnel of the Daily’s Place Amphitheater. Flanked by the Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleaders, the Roar of the Jaguars, Kiss showcased his dance background in a routine full of confidence and shade.

Thank you ⁦@AEWrestling⁩ and ⁦@SonnyKissXO⁩! We had an awesome time! pic.twitter.com/6j5yPDqeL2

— ROAR of the Jaguars (@ROARoftheJags) July 14, 2019

The crowd ate up the statement entrance as Kiss, clad in a decoratively-cut Jalen Ramsey jersey, entered the largest stage of his career. He went on to easily dispatch Avalon using his unique mix of acrobatics and twerking.

It seemed like the weight of the moment didn’t hit Kiss until after scoring the pinfall. He appeared near tears afterward, holding his head in his hands before blowing a kiss to the crowd in thanks and admiration.

But, according to fellow AEW wrestler Dustin Rhodes, Kiss was very nervous heading into the show.

“He came in our room and he was just nervous. I put my arm around him and said, ‘Sonny, just relax. You’re nervous, and when you’re nervous that means you care. When you stop being nervous, you will not care anymore. You’re going to go out there and you’re going to do fine.’ “

That encouragement was extra powerful for Kiss because of Rhodes’ history in the industry. The 30-year veteran holds a special place in the hearts of many LGBTQ pro wrestlers and fans due to his portrayal of the queer-coded character Goldust in WWE. Kiss is one of those fans and publicly thanked Rhodes for his advice.

I love you, @dustinrhodes ❤️ thank you! https://t.co/stmtFBaEVV

— ☀️Sonny Kiss☀️ (@SonnyKissXO) July 15, 2019

The entrance and match received a lot of love online over the following days, flooding Kiss’ Twitter feed with love and adoration. Kiss has clearly been accepted by the AEW audience and continues to broaden it by provided much needed representation. His ability to remain strong in the face of hate is the only thing that rivals his ability in the ring.

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Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

The British diver qualifies for the Tokyo games with a bronze medal at the World Championships.

Less than three years after a performance at the Rio de Janeiro games filled with epic highs and lows, Tom Daley is officially returning to the Olympics in 2020. And he’s hoping to resolve some unfinished business.

This past Monday, Daley and partner Matty Lee won a bronze medal at the 2019 FINA Diving World Championships in Gwanju, South Korea in the Men’s 10 meter synchro competition. In doing so, they automatically qualified for a spot in next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. In the wake of their victory, Daley was ebullient:

“Bronze is as good as gold in my eyes, just to be able to get to the Olympic Games in the first place. That is often the hardest thing because in the synchro event there’s only eight teams that get to qualify. To be able to do it this far out in advance, I’ve never been in this position with any synchro partner in the past.”

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images As soon as Daley and Lee regain the ability to stand right side up, they’ll be wearing World Championship bronze medals.

The British duo’s performance climaxed in a back 3.5 somersault that was executed just short of perfection, earning several 9s and 9.5s from the judges. It also inspired coach Jane Figueiredo to react with the kind of enthusiasm that usually is only seen in South Korea following the phrase “Please welcome... BTS.”

Qualifying for the Olympics capped a momentous few months for Daley, who took home three bronze medals at the Diving World Series in Russia, won the gold in London, and waded into activist waters on behalf of trans athletes with husband Dustin Lance Black.

It was also the first step in what Daley hopes will be a redemption narrative in 2020. While he earned a 2016 Olympic bronze medal in the Men’s 10 meter synchro with then-partner Dan Goodfellow, Daley remains motivated to avenge his last place finish in the Individual 10 meter semifinal during the Rio Games. After participating in three Olympics, Daley is still looking for his first gold medal.

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images Daley and Goodfellow, moments after winning Olympic bronze and moments before becoming very wet.

Following his synchro victory, Daley now turns his attention to the Individual 10 meter event at the World Championships held on Friday, July 19. In addition to re-establishing himself on the most famous athletic stage in the world, Daley has additional motivation to do well both later this week and in 2020 as the Tokyo games will be his first as a father. Daley illuminated what drives him simply and profoundly:

“For me being able to train and dive is all the more important now because I have someone I want to make proud.”

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Avery Saffold plays defensive back for Amherst.

Avery Saffold felt he had to live up to an image of being a black athlete from the city. Then he decided to be himself.

Sports have been at the forefront of my life since I was a toddler.

I grew up playing football and basketball at the highest level in national tournaments and state championships. I transferred to a high school on Chicago for the sole purpose of playing a sport and went on to be a captain of the football team.

It was safe to say that being an athlete was my sole identity.

Although being an athlete is something that has provided me with much happiness and an escape from reality, it is only a fraction to the complete whole of who I am.

In the final years of high school and into college I realized I am much more than that: I am a student, a son, a brother, and I am gay.

Being a black man from the south side of Chicago has bred me in a certain way. Boys are taught to be tough and have a “dog” mentality. We are taught that no one is better than us and everything is a competition.

Along with this “South Side” mentality comes a sense of hypermasculinity that prompted me to feel like I could never be gay and a strong male.

I attended an all-boys Catholic high school on the south side of Chicago, knowing very little about my sexuality or how it would affect me down the road. It was a terrifying experience not to have anyone to confide in at a time when I was trying to figure out who I was as a person.

I was able to bond with my classmates over football. In one of my first interactions with a teammate, he said he thought I was gay because of the way I spoke, but he changed his mind when he saw me play football.

This interaction distinguished what the rest of my high school experience would be like. I was able to make friends, but I felt like I had to leave out the part of me that made me whole.

For years I felt restrained and that I could never be my true self around my friends, teammates and family. I would listen to my classmates talk about something being “gay” or calling someone a “faggot.”

I witnessed the ignorance of some of my family members towards the LGBTQ+ community on social media. Given these instances, I wondered if I would ever be accepted by those who were closest to me.

I was able to blend in as the two-sport jock and football team captain but always remember feeling different from my peers.

I was able to blend in as the two-sport jock and football team captain but always remember feeling different from my peers. I was the same as my classmates on the outside. I talked like them, dressed similarly, watched the same TV shows and movies and liked the same music. We were the same, but I felt like me being open about my sexuality would make me undesirable to my heteronormative peers.

Avery Saffold

Once I graduated high school, I looked at college as an opportunity to finally rebrand myself. I was excited to go to Amherst College in Massachusetts. I loved all the coaches and was eager to meet my new teammates.

I came into college thinking that I would be in a new environment and that I would be able to create a new identity for myself as the athlete who was also gay. Instead, I found it easier to hide who I am.

Not only was I an athlete, but I was a black male athlete from the south side of Chicago playing a contact sport. I felt like I had to live up to an expectation. I thought that I would lose respect from teammates, coaches and opponents, which made it harder to share my full self.

I would often feel lonely or lost because I didn’t have anyone to confide in. Reading the stories in high school of athletes who are like me on Outsports made me feel empowered that I wasn’t alone. Through those stories, I finally started to accept myself, which was the first step to me sharing myself.

Sophomore year of college I decided to open up to two of my best friends. Although I knew they would have my back, it felt great to open up to even a few people.

I felt myself go through periods when I felt very confident in myself and times when I was completely discouraged. One morning as I was abroad in Prague, I decided that I didn’t want to hide anymore.

Petrified at the reaction I’d get, on April 23 this year I posted this online:

“I don’t really know where to start but I feel like it’s time I share my true self. If there’s anything that the past 8 months have taught me, it’s that those closest to you will care for you unconditionally and those are the people I want in my life. Being abroad has taught me that there is so much more in the world and that I don’t have to be a certain way because I play football, am from the south side of Chicago, or look a certain way. It has also taught me that I am the polar opposite of frat boys if I didn’t know that already. I look forward to growing as a person with those who love me for who I am. I’m gay.

Everyone should be comfortable to be themselves no matter what race they are, if they play a sport, etc. I hope I can help to make people think differently about social norms and not make assumptions. I also hope I can help others feel like they are free to be themselves as others have done for me.”

The first text I got in response was from one of my teammates that read: “I just wanted to let you know what you did was hella brave and I respect the hell out of you for it. I’m always here for you no matter what, love you man.”

Following this, countless people expressed their respect and support for me as a friend and teammate. I felt like I could breathe again. The feeling of not having to put up a front continues to bring me happiness every day.

Avery Saffold was reelected captain for this season.

Since coming out, it has meant the world to me to receive countless texts that commend me for being the person I truly want to be. They have shown me that I don’t have to be subject to certain stereotypes just because I play football and that it is beautiful to be unique.

The biggest hurdle to get over in my journey was fearing myself.

I hope to be another voice confirming that there are others like us. We are not alone. I want black athletes to know that you can be your full self and be a leader in your sport no matter where you’re from.

The biggest hurdle to get over in my journey was fearing myself. If your friends and family truly love and support you, they will be there for you no matter what.

This past season we went 8-1 and were runners-up in the conference. As a captain of the team, I recorded 30 tackles, two interceptions and made all-conference first team for the second year in a row. I was reelected captain for this upcoming year, and look forward to a championship season with my team.

Avery Saffold, 21, will be graduating from Amherst College in the spring of 2020. He is a Psychology major and aspires to work in the NBA after he graduates. He also plays defensive back for the Amherst Mammoths Div. III football team. He can be reached by email at (avery.saffold@gmail.com), Instagram (@averysaffold), or Twitter (@asaff_18).

Story editor: Jim Buzinski

If you are an out LGBTQ person in sports and want to tell your story, email Jim (kandreeky@gmail.com).

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James O’Leary

The former League of Legends European Championship caster wishes he’d “had the courage to stand up and fight for our community to be more inclusive” earlier in his career.

If you’ve tuned into a prominent European competitive League of Legends tournament in recent years then you’re probably familiar with shoutcaster James “Stress” O’Leary. The Cardiff-born commentator spent three years as one of the most prominent voices of the European League of Legends Championship Series, now known as the LEC.

He’s also an out gay man, placing him firmly in the minority of the esports community.

He’s faced a fair share of both supportive and hateful comments since revealing his sexuality openly. The man, much like other out LGBTQ esports figure, showed bravery just for choosing to live his truth amidst the industry’s rampant toxicity. But O’Leary recently revealed that his “one big regret” was not always being out while working in esports.

In an interview with Gayming Magazine, O’Leary revealed that he initially came to esports as a means to distract himself during a breakup. He was out to friends and family before entering the booth and “never really hid the fact” that he was gay during those early days. That all changed when he moved to Berlin.

“Moving to Germany, I initially kept my personal life private. It took until a year after moving to Berlin for me to tell any of my colleagues, and another 6 or so months to make it public in any way,” O’Leary told Gayming. “Even after a very quiet coming out, I never pushed the fact I’m gay on broadcast, and it pains me every time I think about it.”

The decision to not promote and support the LGBTQ community from his public position remains the one thing he wishes he could change. “I really wish I’d had the courage to stand up and fight for our community to be more inclusive,” O’Leary said. “I know that at any time, countless numbers of LGBTQ+ identifying viewers were watching, and by hiding myself, I wasn’t out there telling each and every one of them that they are welcome.”

Insta question prompted me to want to talk more about this:

I’m going to post about LGBTQ+ issues a lot more, not just during pride month.

I failed to use my platform to make LGBTQ+ viewers and players feel welcome when part of the #EULCS and I won’t make that mistake again. ️‍ pic.twitter.com/SL1URRymV3

— James ‘Stress’ O’Leary (@StressCasts) June 14, 2019

In the time since he did come out publicly, O’Leary hasn’t faced much backlash from the famously trollish esports fan community. League of Legends is infamous for the amount of hate speech and abusive language used by its overall player base. That toxicity expectedly bleeds into its esports fan base as much of its audience is made up of those that play the game.

The issue isn’t exclusive to League, though. Activision Blizzard’s wildly popular Overwatch League dealt with multiple code of conduct violations by OWL-contracted players for the use of homophobic and racist language and imagery during its inaugural season in 2018.

But O’Leary is quick to recognize that just because he doesn’t see a glut of online hate doesn’t mean that other LGBTQ esports fans and employees don’t. “every so often you get a stark reminder that the world isn’t fully at the point of equality, and I’m aware that I’m saying this as a cis-gendered white male, that has many privileges others don’t.”

O’Leary also offered some sound advice to LGBTQ people wanting to work in esports.

“My biggest piece of advice would be to be yourself to whatever degree you’re comfortable with. It’s not easy to be openly LGBTQ+ anywhere in life, and no one should hold it against you if you’re not ready to show the world who you are. That being said, try to be surrounded by people who you can be true to yourself around, you’ll be a lot happier for it!”

O’Leary currently works for LEC participant Splyce and moonlights as a ring announcer and commentator for Berlin-based pro wrestling promotion German Wrestling Federation.

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Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

The NBA center plainly answered questions about his sexuality in an interview with Fox Sports.

“I’m not gay,” declared NBA center Dwight Howard, in a new interview with Fox Sports.

The Memphis Grizzlies player once known as “Superman” addressed rumors about his sexuality that have been swirling since last November, and the reaction people had to those rumors, which he said gave him new perspective on himself, on gay athletes, and others.

“I think that liberated me,” Howard told reporter Kristine Leahy. “Because I saw how a lot of people would feel, whether they’re gay or they’re straight. Whether they have issues. People are afraid to be who they are. They’re afraid to just step out and be. Because they’re afraid of what other people might say or think about them. That situation made me realize you’re not like this, but just be you, be free.”

That statement led to a request for clarity from Leahy, which Howard provided.

“I’m not gay,” said Howard. “It’s a lot of people who are and they have to hide, and there’s people who have mental issues and they have to hide. There’s people who have different problems in life and they have to hide. They have to put on the mask every day, and it’s like, I don’t wanna wear no mask, I just wanna be.”

"I'm not gay... It hurt at first to go through it. I sat at home and I was like 'I never want to come outside again.'" @DwightHoward spoke on the allegations that he was gay.

( : @FairGameonFS1 | @KristineLeahy) pic.twitter.com/WcXz2WtOfY

— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) July 16, 2019

The interview comes amid a legal battle in Georgia between Howard and a self-identified gay man, author Masin Elije. As ClutchPoints.com reported, Elije has twice before made accusations that celebrities were in a same-sex relationship with him, and those accusations turned out to be false.

Howard has consistently denied Elije’s claims, calling them “false” in an interview with TMZ, and did so again in this new interview with Fox Sports.

“I went through a situation last year that really just set me free,” Howard said. “It ended up being a situation that was—it went viral. People were talking about it, and it upset me because I didn’t even know who the person was. Why would somebody who I never met, never had any contact with, make up a whole story about me? I saw all the hate, the pure hate, from people that I’ve never met before, just pile up everywhere I went.”

Elije claimed in social media posts last fall that he had a sexual relationship with Howard, and said Howard sexually harassed, threatened and even plotted to kill Elije if he talked about it publicly... which he did, releasing audio recordings of a man he said was Howard. In March, Black Sports Online broke the news that Elije was suing Howard in Georgia. He also claims Howard cheated on him by having a sexual relationship with a transgender woman; some reports have incorrectly identified Elije as trans.

Howard counter-sued in April, as Black Sports Online reported.

Elije today responded to the Fox Sports interview on Twitter.

None of this will matter in court. He can continue his rants to protect his image but he knows, like I know, like our lawyers know I HAVE PROOF he harassed & threatened me AND threatened my lawyers! I said what I said, I stand by what I said. https://t.co/rrGQjHDQ9t

— Ah-Mazìn (@MasinElije) July 16, 2019

The Grizzlies are Howard’s seventh team in ten seasons, and according to a source who spoke to ESPN, he is about to be traded again, or released, before the 2019-2020 season begins in October.

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Luis Fenero and Eric Radford celebrated their marriage with friends and family in Spain.

Victor Lax, courtesy of Eric Radford

Figure skaters Luis Fenero and Eric Radford got married in Spain after a two year engagement.

Add two more gay athletes to the growing list of LGBTQ people in sports getting hitched.

Eric Radford and Luis Fenero got married last week in northern Spain, near where Fenero was born. The two figure skaters got engaged just over two years ago when Radford proposed on one knee not far from where the two men would eventually marry.

The wedding, not surprisingly, included big names in figure skating. Radford’s best men featured Olympians Dylan Moscovitch and Patrick Chan.

Last year Radford lit up the ice in South Korea, winning two medals — one gold, one bronze — at the 2018 Winter Olympics with skating partner Meagan Duhamel, who was also at the wedding. Fenero is a former national champion in Spain with ice dancing partner Celia Robledo.

Not only is Spain Fenero’s birthplace and the country he represented competitively on the ice, but it was also one of the first countries to legalize same-sex marriage, in 2005.

According to Instagram, the two are now in Greece celebrating with friends.

Congratulations on tying the knot, guys! Having been with my partner for over 16 years I can tell you the secret to longevity: Make the choice every day to be together forever, and you will be.

You can follow Eric Radford on Instagram and Twitter. Luis Fenero is also on Instagram.

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Will FIFA have the guts to finally apply its nearly two-year-old policy against anti-gay soccer chants?

FIFA, the world organization that governs international soccer matches, recently launched a new simplified “disciplinary code” that highlights referees’ ability to end matches if fans utter homophobic or racist chants.

The newly highlighted ability has existed since May 2017, leaving us to wonder how many referees will actually use it, what FIFA will do if they don’t and whether other stakeholders — like local governments, broadcasters, viewers and sponsors — will take action to end the hateful chants once and for all.

What the “new” policy actually says

The new code — which went into effect Monday, July 15, 2019 — states, “A match is automatically forfeited if the referee decides to suspend it after having applied the three-step procedure.”

The three-step procedure is as follows: “Referees would first stop the match and request a public announcement to insist that the discriminatory behavior cease. If this has no effect, he or she can then suspend play again and, if the racist, behavior persists, abandon the match.”

The new code further explains that if a football team’s spectators use homophobic chants, then the club can be fined at least $20,312 for a first offense. FIFA has mostly used this tactic to no great effect as the the fines represent a tiny fraction of each team’s massive overall revenue.

The new code continues:

“[Subsequent offenses can require] disciplinary measures such as the implementation of a prevention plan, a fine, a points deduction, playing one or more matches without spectators, a ban on playing in a particular stadium, the forfeiting of a match, expulsion from a competition or relegation to a lower division.”

It also says individuals who’ve been directly discriminated against “may be invited by the respective judicial body to make an oral or written victim impact statement,” and that “if a match is abandoned by the referee because of racist and/or discriminatory conduct, the match shall be declared forfeited.”

Mexico will almost certainly put the FIFA to the test next

The team most likely to test the “new” disciplinary code is Mexico whose fans have long used the word “puto” (“faggot”) as an insulting homophobic chant.

In 2014, the Mexico World Cup coach Miguel Herrera defended such chants as a “not that bad” tactic to throw goalies off their game, even though numerous Mexican journalists say the slur harms LGBTQ fans and players alike.

In April 2016, the Mexico football team declared the slur discriminatory and even created a campaign to fight it. But six months later, Mexico reverted to saying the chant wasn’t homophobic and the Mexican Football Federation even appealed FIFA’s fines for the chants.

And they continued. Mexican fans chanted “puto” at Chile the day after the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, during a 2017 stadium game and at their country’s 2018 World Cup final against Germany.

Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

But here’s the thing: In 2017, Mexico asked fans not to repeat the slurs, stating, “If they suspend the game or if they expel you from the stadium; we lose, you lose, we all lose.” It worked. During the country’s June 2017 match against New Zealand, “puto” was nowhere to be heard.

In order to work, referees will actually have to apply the policy, and they should as it has basically been done before: In 2013, FIFA made Bulgaria and Hungary play a World Cup qualifier in an empty stadium after fans uttered racist chants — but as far as we know, FIFA has never cleared a stadium over homophobic chants... and it’s well past time they did.

FIFA and the refs need to put up or admit (again) that they don’t care

In June 2014, FIFA claimed “puto” isn’t a gay slur even though it’s widely in Spanish-speaking countries to mean “faggot.” In response, over 20 LGBTQ and allied organizations wrote a letter to FIFA explaining how the chants also undermine the inclusive values of broadcasters, viewers, venues, sponsors and advertisers alike.

FIFA’s toothless fines against the chants have laid fertile ground for the criticism that the organization itself is homophobic, especially since it chose Russia and Qatar, two countries with harsh anti-LGBTQ federal laws, to host its 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

But if FIFA won’t step up, state and cities with LGBTQ public accommodations ordinances could take steps to end anti-gay slurs for the hostile, unwelcoming environment they create for LGBTQ players and fans alike.

Some fans have stepped up to end the chants, according to ESPN.com:

U.S.-based Mexico fan group Pancho Villas’ Army has inserted a “no goalkeeper chant” clause into the group’s membership and made abstaining from shouting the anti-gay chant a condition for buying tickets for games in their section, in a bid to help put an end to the chant often heard in stadiums when the Mexico national team plays.

But beyond FIFA, other sports organizations — like Major League Soccer and CONCACAF — should do their parts to shut the chants down too. Sports broadcasting companies bear some responsibility when it comes to re-broadcasting these slurs on TV as well.

While FIFA controls the audio feed and can silence or bleep the slurs out, so can ESPN, Univision, Fox and other sports broadcasters, especially since the chants often occur when the opposing goalie kicks the ball (though sometimes fans use them more often).

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