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Gay cheer coach fired at Murrieta Valley HS, Team wants him back

Henderson’s sexuality was the basis of his dismissal, his attorney said. He called the investigation into the anonymous letter “improper.”

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Students rally in support of their coach (Photo by Toni McAllister/PATCH)

By Toni McAllister | MURRIETA, CA — Murrieta Valley High School fired Michael Henderson, head coach of cheer and stunt program, after he served three years in that job.

The coach, 31, believes he was fired because he is gay. He filed a wrongful termination lawsuit alleging that the process leading to his dismissal was “flawed.”

Many of his student athletes and their families agreed.

Michael Henderson sued the high school, arguing wrongful termination based on his sexual orientation.

They gathered Wednesday afternoon at a rally at the high school in support of the coach. About two dozen student athletes and family members wearing the MVHS Nighthawks’ red and black colors turned out with signs that read, “Bring Back Coach Mike.” Many passing motorists honked, although it’s unclear if the drivers knew what the hubbub was about.

The coach’s tenure at the high school put the school in the national cheerleading spotlight. Victories include fourth-place finalist in the 2021 National High School Cheerleading Championship and sixth-place finalist the year before, among other titles.

Senior Kendell Winters started on the cheer team her freshman year under a different coach; Henderson came in shortly thereafter. She described “Coach Mike” as a tough leader who “has our best interests at heart.”

“He always wants the best for you,” she said. “I hope we’re able to get him back.”

Henderson described his reaction to the June 16 dismissal as simply “shock.” Just eight days earlier, he received a “glowing” end-of-season review from high school Athletic Director Darin Mott and Principal Ryan Tukua, he said.

“There was no hint that anything was wrong,” Henderson said.

But two days later, on June 10, Mott told the coach that someone sent an anonymous complaint letter against him. Officials told him that an investigation was launched and that he just needed to sit tight.

“I never saw the letter,” Henderson said. “I wasn’t even given a chance to respond. I was never interviewed about any of it.”

Instead, on the day of his dismissal, district officials told him he was being let go because the cheer program “was taking a different direction,” he said.

Murrieta Valley Unified School District declined to comment on Henderson’s firing. “State employment and federal privacy laws prohibit the comment and/or discussion of specific personnel actions,” spokesperson Monica Gutierrez said.

Henderson’s sexuality was the basis of his dismissal, his attorney, Terry Davis, said. He called the investigation into the anonymous letter “improper.”

“The anonymous letter was sent to MVUSD by what is believed to be a couple of disgruntled cheer parents who were angry with their child’s position or participation level in the team,” Davis said.

The investigation into the letter “was spearheaded by devout Mormon MVUSD Board Member Paul Diffley, who made calls to several unnamed sources impeding due process of the investigation,” Davis said. “One question related to his sexual orientation raised red flags, leading many to believe that it was a substantial factor in the district’s decision to terminate Mr. Henderson’s employment.”

Diffley told Patch that the matter was a personnel issue in litigation and declined further comment.

Patch was unable to track down student athletes and/or family members who may have been unhappy with Henderson’s performance.

The new 2021-’22 cheer season has just started, so it’s unclear what changes, if any, will come at the high school.

Kim Altenhofel, a cheer parent and president of the school’s cheer booster club, said Tukua contacted her twice and Diffley spoke with her once as part of the investigation into Henderson.

In all of the conversations, the officials were seeking feedback about the cheer program and the coach, she said. The investigation seemed to center on allegations of verbal and mental abuse by Henderson, she said.

Altenhofel insisted she never witnessed any abusive behavior by the coach.

“The kids loved him. They are heartbroken,” she said.

Rick Winters, Kendell Winters’ father, said he was never contacted by anyone within the district. He said Henderson was wronged.

“My daughter excelled in his program,” Rick Winters said. Student athletes were expected to maintain good grades and participate in team events under Henderson, he added.

“Coach Mike had high expectations, but I want that for my kids. That is real life,” Rick Winters said.

A June 17 MVUSD Board of Trustees meeting was packed with MVHS cheer athletes and their families, who spoke in support of Henderson. Because his dismissal was not on the meeting agenda, the trustees were prohibited from addressing the comments.

Henderson continued to coach several of his student athletes off campus at Corona-based Prime Cheer and Stunt.

Toni McAllister has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has been on editorial staffs with a number of national and local media outlets. She is a graduate of Cal State Long Beach with bachelor’s degree in journalism. Reach her at [email protected]

The preceding article was previously published at PATCH and is republished by permission.

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First Out gay active NFL player Carl Nassib announces retirement

The NFL player says his ‘Next Chapter’ is to focus on his mobile platform- ‘I really feel like the luckiest guy on the planet’

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WEST CHESTER, Pa. — Carl Nassib, who made history in 2021 when he became the first active player in the National Football League to come out as gay, announced Wednesday he is retiring at age 30. 

“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” the free agent wrote in a post on Instagram. “But after seven seasons and just over 100 NFL games I am officially retiring from football to focus on my company Rayze.” 

Rayze is a mobile platform that connects people willing to give of themselves with those who need it most, born of an experience in Tampa, Fla., where Bucs players volunteered as mentors to kids being held in a nearby juvenile detention center. Rayze’s website says the company serves to “shine a light on opportunities that need volunteers, while making nonprofit engagement, volunteer recruitment, and donating as simple and intuitive as possible.” 

“It really feels like just yesterday starting out as a walk-in at Penn State,” Nassib wrote in his post. “Football has given me more than I ever could have imagined. I can truly hang up my helmet for the last time knowing I gave it everything I had.” 

Ever since he came out in 2021, the former defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has become a philanthropist for the LGBTQ+ community, especially for queer youth, personally donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project. That year, the NFL matched his donation, and in 2022, Nassib himself matched donations dollar for dollar, up to $100,000. 

According to the Bucs, Nassib played in 99 regular-season NFL games with 38 starts,  recorded 187 tackles, 25.5 sacks, 45 tackles for loss, 59 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, one interception and 19 passes defended. In 2016, he the Cleveland Browns drafted him with the second pick in the third round. At Penn State, Nassib was a star player, leading the nation in sacks and forced fumbles during his senior year with the Nittany Lions in 2015.

“It was not an easy decision. It really, really wasn’t,” Nassib told People magazine in an exclusive interview timed to coincide with his Instagram. 

“This would have been my 23rd football season. I’ve been playing football since I was eight years old, and I’m really excited to move on to the next chapter of my life,” he said. 

Nassib says he began considering retirement last season before becoming a free agent, when he said he was “staying at the Bucs facility until 9 p.m. every night working on Rayze.”

“I feel like it’s my calling and it’s what I’m meant to do,” Nassib says of the app. “I’m really excited to move on to the next chapter of my life and to give Rayze everything that I have.”

In July, he posted that he had accepted an appointment to the board of directors of the local United Way chapter in his hometown of West Chester, Pa. 

Nassib said he is also going to work with the NFL in a new role, in matters related to the league’s philanthropic endeavors and its “diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

“I think that I can provide a very rare and specific view of how life is for an out gay player, and I think that there are some amazing opportunities that I can also learn,” he told People.

“Maintaining that relationship shows that the NFL is continuing to support me. They’ve supported me so much over the last two years, and I really couldn’t have done it without that support,” he said.

Nassib said the NFL’s offer to utilize him in this new role “continues to show people that you can be yourself and compete at the highest level.”

But what he’s most excited to do with his time now, he told People, is to spend the holiday season with his family and his boyfriend, retired Olympian Søren Dahl. 

“I’ve spent 11 out of 12 Christmases away from my family, many of them alone in my apartment,” said Nassib. “I haven’t spent Thanksgiving with my family since 2010, so I am really, really looking forward to spending time with my family, my friends, and those special moments. And that’s something that I’ve been looking forward to for years.” 

That’s one of the many reasons why he wrote on Instagram: “I really feel like the luckiest guy on the planet.”

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Out gay tennis stars make LGBTQ+ history at U.S. Open

No. 13 seed Kasatkina is a former Top 10 player and a major semifinalist and will be back Monday night at 7 p.m. EDT to face Aryna Sabalenka

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Daria Kasatkina (Photo by Pete Staples/USTA)

FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. — Following her historic triumph over another out gay tennis player, Daria Kasatkina will try to advance tonight with a victory in Round 4 at the U.S. Open. 

Kasatkina, Russia’s #1 ranked female tennis player, will return to the last 16 after her dramatic contest on Court 17 Saturday ended with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen. 

Both Minnen and Kasatkina are 26. It’s believed to be the first time two out gay tennis players have clashed in a competitive single match in a Grand Slam main draw.

Although gay tennis icons Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova and others have gone head-to-head before Saturday, many did not come out until after their matches.

Despite losing to Kasatkina, Minnen walked off the court in high spirits following the match, saying it was a “pleasure” to make history with the Russian tennis star.

Minnen previously made history in the summer of 2019, when she played doubles at Wimbledon alongside her former partner Alison Van Uytvanck. In July that same year, they faced each other for the first time, in a singles match in Germany. 

Belgian star Minnen also made history later in 2019, when she competed against her former partner Alison Van Uytvanck during a World Tennis Association Tour event in Karlsruhe.

That match, which ended with Van Uytvanck’s victory over Minnen, concluded with a momentous gesture in support of LGBTQ+ visibility in tennis: They kissed at the net.  

Minnen and Kasatkina have met only once before in competition: at the Granby Championship first round in August of last year in Quebec. Kasatkina won that tournament.  

Minnen matched her best U.S. Open performance at these championships, beating Venus Williams in Round 1 and Sachia Vickery in Round 2. Over the first six games of the match, Minnen stayed even with the former world No. 8, saving a break point in the fourth game, and two more in the sixth.  

No. 13 seed Kasatkina is a former Top 10 player and a major semifinalist and will be back Monday night at 7 p.m. EDT to face Aryna Sabalenka. 

As PinkNews reported, Kasatkina said she’s “felt much better” since coming out in July 2022. 

“I put this pressure out of my shoulders because when you have to think about tennis but also to think about some deep things inside your head, it’s just not good,” she said. “I remember after saying all these things, I just felt much better. That was one of the best decisions of the [past] year and I’m happy with the outcome.”

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Out sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson is fastest woman in the world

Richardson was in her first major global outdoor meet as she missed the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021, for testing positive for cannabis

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Sha’Carri Richardson (Screenshot/YouTube NBC Sports)

BUDAPEST, Hungary – Ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Out sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended after testing positive for marijuana. This week, Richardson ran a championship record 10.65 seconds in the final at the track and field 2023 World Athletics Championships on Monday (21 August), taking 0.02 seconds off the previous best set by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce last year and also breaking her personal record.

“I would definitely say it’s a good start,” Richardson said in the press conference in Budapest afterward when asked about her result in her debut major international championships. “From the beginning of the journey, I’m honoured, I’m blessed, it was a great competition and brought out the best in myself. I’m not back, I’m better, and I’m going to continue to be better.”

Jamaican sprinter Shericka Jackson was clearly disappointed. “I definitely have to go back and look at tonight,” she told reporters. “I think I executed as best as possible. Coach and I will have to discuss what I did, I can’t tell you what I did different from what I did in Jamaica.”

Defending champion Fraser-Pryce, who placed third told reporters: “Congrats to Sha’Carri and Shericka, it was really a fantastic race. Last year I ran the 100 in a Championship record and it took a Championship record tonight, so that’s really remarkable.”

Richardson was in her first major global outdoor meet as she missed the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021, having served a one-month suspension for testing positive for cannabis at the American trials which led to her non-selection by Team USA, and did not qualify for last year’s World Championships in Oregon.

American Sha’Carri Richardson becomes the fastest woman in the world:

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Spain wins first-ever Women’s World Cup title, defeating England

Each team featured four out queer players on its roster in the final contest as Spain takes home the trophy after a record setting World Cup

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Spain hoists the trophy after winning the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup final. (Screenshot/YouTube Fox Sports)

SYDNEY, Australia — A tension-filled final match in the FIFA Women’s World Cup was decided by one goal, as Spain shut-out England early Sunday morning in Australia, 1-0. 

Each team had four out women playing in the decisive title game, as PinkNews reported: Lauren Hemp, Bethany England, Jess Carter and Rachel Daly for England’s Lioness team, and Alba Redondo, Irene Paredes, captain Ivana Andres and Teresa Abelleria for Spain’s La Roja team.

The score was tied 0-0 when Hemp had a shot on goal in the 4th minute but it wound up right in the goalkeeper’s arms, and that happened again in the 20th minute. But earlier, in the 16th minute, Hemp had yet another shot on goal, this time hitting the crossbar.

Hemp turned 23 during the World Cup tournament. Her partner is Coventry United footballer Ellie Butler, who plays as a forward for Women’s Championship club team.

Also in the 16th minute, Spain’s Salma Paralluelo found Redondo, who managed to get a shot off on goal, but England’s Mary Earps was there to make the save and keep the match scoreless. 

Earps had another big save in the 17th minute. But then the tide shifted in the 29th minute, when Mariano Caldentey fed the ball to Olga Carmona. With her left leg, Carmona smashed the ball into the back of the net to give Spain the 1-0 lead. 

Spain nearly scored again before the half. As Fox News reported, La Roja had possession 64% of the time through the first half. Both teams had two shots on goal, but Spain had five total shots against England’s three. Spain had 14 crosses, five of them successful; England was 1-for-6. Of their 303 passes, Spain finished 85%, while England had just 178 passes, with 73% of them on target.  

In the 54th minute, Hemp blew yet another chance to tie the match when she kicked the ball just wide of the net. Then in the 65th minute, England’s hand ball penalty gave Spain a penalty kick opportunity to score again. Earps dove to deny Jenni Hermoso’s attempt to give Spain a two-goal lead. 

Despite Earps’ miraculous save, England was unable to take advantage of the shift in momentum, even with roughly 13 minutes of stoppage time. The Lionesses did a better job possessing the ball in the second half but failed to capitalize on that, even on one final rush in the 104th minute and a corner in the 105th.

After only making it to the Round of 16 in 2019, the women of Spain won their first World Cup title in three tries. At 32, Paredes, a former captain and one of only three senior players on the team who have won more than 100 caps for La Roja, was unsure she’d ever reach this milestone. 

But they did. 

Paredes is married to field hockey defender Lucia Ybarra and together the pair welcomed a little boy Mateo, in September 2021.

Spain takes home the trophy after a record setting World Cup, in which the champion USWNT was eliminated earlier than ever before, and a record number of out LGBTQ+ players and coaches took part

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Trans women have “no right to participate” in Women’s Chess

International Chess Federation released new guidelines targeting trans female players. The guidelines also strip trans men’s titles

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Photo by Erin Reed

By Erin Reed | LAUSANNE, Switzerland, – In recent months, the discussion surrounding transgender participation in sports has intensified. Several sports organizations have ruled that transgender women cannot participate in their competitions.

This trend has expanded beyond traditional sports like swimming, touching even disc golf and billiards, based on perceived “advantages” of transgender athletes. The reaction to trans people in competition has grown to include non-sporting contests like beauty pageants and Jeopardy! after seeing transgender success.

Now, FIDE, the world’s foremost international chess organization, has introduced guidelines that would revoke titles from transgender men and bar many transgender women from competing, asserting that trans women “have no right to participate.”

The regulations, reported online by French transgender FIDE master, Yosha Iglesias, spell out a list of policy changes that apply to transgender competition in chess. Among the policy changes:

  • Transgender men must relinquish their titles after transitioning.
  • Transgender women can keep their male titles.
  • Transgender women have “no right to compete” in the women’s division.
  • Transgender women will be “evaluated” by the FIDE Council on if they will be allowed to compete in a process that may take up to 2 years.
  • FIDE can mark transgender players as “transgender” in their files.
  • Gender changes must be “comply with the player’s national laws” and may include birth certificate documents (despite many nations refusing to change transgender birth certificates)

See the main page on transgender participation from the organization:

The unveiling of these regulations drew widespread ridicule, with numerous individuals challenging the notion that transgender women possess a “natural advantage” in chess. According to the chess news site Chessbase, the women’s category in chess exists to encourage increased participation among women, not because women inherently perform at a lower level in the game. Thus, the typical arguments against transgender women competing don’t hold water, as it’s implausible to claim that transgender women have an unfair advantage.

This isn’t the first instance of scrutiny regarding transgender participation in non-physical competitions. In 2022, transgender Jeopardy champion Amy Schneider set the record as the highest-winning woman in Jeopardy history. Following her success, several anti-trans voices online claimed she unfairly took the title from “real women,” suggesting that transgender women possess an inherent advantage in trivia over cisgender women.

The regulations are harmful and discriminatory towards transgender individuals. The logic behind revoking titles from transgender men transitioning from the women’s category is not explained anywhere in the document. Additionally, these rules would delay transgender women from competing for up to two years while their gender is examined, and could even prohibit them indefinitely. Given that the usual “unfair advantage” argument doesn’t logically apply in this context, these regulations appear to unfairly target transgender individuals while sidestepping even the usual arguments against trans competition.

The enforcement of these policies remains unclear. Iglesias took to Twitter, asking, “Am I woman enough?” She listed the FIDE council members, sharing photos that depict the majority as older cisgender men, adding, “these people will decide.” The documents don’t specify how decisions regarding a transgender member’s participation will be made. Until further clarity, transgender international chess players face uncertainty about their continued involvement in the sport.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

Website here: https://www.erininthemorning.com/

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Brittney Griner leads Phoenix Mercury team into history books

Mercury set a WNBA record with 45 points in the first quarter. No team in league history has ever scored that many points in a quarter

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Brittney Griner shown in this file screenshot from the Phoenix-Atlanta Game, August 2023.

PHOENIX, Ariz. — The Phoenix Mercury head to Seattle tonight with a two-game winning streak and a historic home victory over the Connecticut Sun that landed them in the WNBA’s annals of fame. 

Center Brittney Griner and her teammates guards Maria Jefferson, Diana Taurasi and center Megan Gustafson combined to set a WNBA record, with 45 points in the first quarter of Thursday’s game, shooting an incredible 94.1% from the floor in that quarter alone. No team in league history has ever scored that many points in a quarter.  

As The Spun reported, the Mercury enjoyed a 21-point lead until the Sun roared back in the second quarter and cut their lead to four at halftime. Phoenix won by six, 90-84. 

Out lesbian Brittney Griner led her team with 21 points and 10 rebounds, with Jefferson right behind her with 17 points and five assists. Taurasi and Gustafson finished with 16 and 10 points respectively. 

Griner will be looking for payback tonight against Seattle, a week and a day since she returned from a three-game mental health break. The Storm beat the Mercury at home at Footprint Center in Phoenix on Aug. 5, in her first game back on the hardwood. As the Los Angeles Blade reported, Griner decided to put her mental health first for awhile. 

“You can’t plan for when you might need some time,” Griner told ESPN when asked if there had been a specific plan coming into the WNBA season for her to have a break. “I just want to shout out the Phoenix Mercury organization. From the jump, they were there for me, making sure I was good, letting me know that at any moment if I needed some time off, I could do that.”

Despite the Mercury’s 97-91 loss in her comeback game, Griner scored 22 points, six rebounds and four assists. 

So far this season, she’s played in 21 of the Mercury’s 27 games after missing all of the 2022 season because of her arrest in Russia and the 10 months she spent in a gulag before being freed in a prisoner exchange
Although she was off the court for the Mercury’s games at Chicago and Indiana and against Atlanta, Griner was on hand for that win over the Dream, watching as Taurasi made history of her own by hitting the career 10,000-point mark.

Phoenix Mercury vs. Connecticut Sun | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS :

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World Cup Elimination: Women’s Team USA loses to Sweden

‘This Is Like A Sick Joke,’ says Megan Rapinoe on World Cup elimination as Team USA loses in penalty kick shootout decided by centimeters

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‘This Is Like A Sick Joke,’ says Megan Rapinoe on World Cup elimination as Team USA loses in penalty kick shootout decided by centimeters. (Screenshot/YouTube Fox Sports)

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Sweden’s superior goalkeeper, three missed penalty shots by Team USA and technology called the “Video Assistant Referee” combined to eliminate the Americans from the FIFA Women’s World Cup Sunday. 

Sweden defeated the world’s top-ranked team, 5-4, on penalties after a scoreless draw in the round of 16, the first round of the knockout stage. The stunning result of their best performance so far in this tournament shocked the U.S. women, who had never finished worse than third at any previous World Cup. 

“This is like a sick joke,” said Megan Rapinoe, 38, as she reflected on what she’s said will be her final World Cup game. “For me personally, this dark comedy. I missed a penalty.” 

When Rapinoe’s critical shot went over the crossbar, her immediate reaction was to hang her head and laugh at herself, before rejoining her teammates in tears. 

Then Sophia Smith went way wide, and Kelley O’Hara’s shot hit the post. 

The deciding goal by Lina Hurtig was so close, the referees had to turn to technology to determine if it was good. 

Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, who scored a penalty against Sweden’s goalkeeper Zecira Musovic of Chelsea for Team USA in the shootout, thought she had saved the game and extended it to an extra penalty kick period when she swatted Hurtig’s shot up and away from the net. But VAR showed the ball had fallen back down, just barely over the goal line, and all the way over, as is required by the rules. 

“We just lost the World Cup by a millimeter,” said Naeher. “That’s tough… We had great chances, hats off to the Swedish goalkeeper for a number of great saves on her end to keep it at 0-0. I’m proud of the battle, proud of the group. We showed that American mentality again that’s been standard for this team. To come up short hurts, it’s going to hurt for a long time.”

As Naeher said, the match was scoreless through 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes of extra time, and Team USA came close so many times, especially when Alex Morgan, their leading goal scorer, was in control. But Musovic stood in her way as well as against Trinity Rodman and Lindsey Horan. 

“I’m devastated, it feels like a bad dream,” said Morgan. “I feel like we dominated tonight but it doesn’t matter… we are going home, it’s the highs and lows of the sport of soccer.”

“I thought we played really well,” Rapinoe said. “I’m so happy for us that we went out like that, playing the way that we did, and having a ton of joy on the ball.”

But their biggest joy went unfulfilled. Rapinoe had gone into the tournament hoping to win her second World Cup, a third consecutive title for her team. 

Sunday’s match was historic on multiple levels. No other team has dominated the World Cup like the U.S Women’s National Team. The Americans boast four titles in their trophy cabinet, the most by any women’s soccer team. And up until this game, in every World Cup appearance, the USWNT has managed to at least secure a spot in the semifinals. Their loss marks the earliest exit by the USWNT at any major tournament, having reached the semifinals at all but one World Cup and Olympics. In an eerie coincidence, it was at the 2016 Olympics in Rio that the USWNT lost on penalties to Sweden.

This was also the first 2023 World Cup game to go to extra time. Until Sunday, no 2023 World Cup game had gone to penalty kicks. And it took a seventh round of penalties to determine the winner. 

So now the Americans head home and to their respective clubs, while Sweden advances to play Japan in a quarterfinal Friday in Auckland, New Zealand.

“This is the balance to the beautiful side of the game,” said Rapinoe after the match. “I think it can be cruel and, not our day, but I still feel really grateful and joyful and…” The out lesbian icon’s voice cracked as she paused to sum up her feelings to a Fox Sports reporter.

“I know it’s the end, and that’s sad, to know this is the only time I’ve been in one of these, this early, says so much about how much success I’ve been able to have, and just how much I’ve loved playing for this team and playing for this country. It’s been an honor.” 

Rapinoe then wiped away tears, calling their victory to win equal pay, “changing the world forever” — as well as the teammates she’s played alongside — that is what has meant the most to her. 

The USWNT thanked fans on social media and First Lady Jill Biden shared a message of thanks to Team USA. 

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Phoenix Mercury: No Brittney Griner for next couple of away games

Griner will not travel with the team for the two-game road trip to Chicago and Indiana (July 30-August 1) to focus on her mental health

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Brittney Griner & her wife Cherelle, Vice-President Kamala Harris & Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, met just before Griner's first pro-basketball game back between the Los Angeles Sparks & the Phoenix Mercury in May after her release from a Russian penal camp in December 2022. (Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson)

PHOENIX, AZ. – WNBA All-Star Phoenix Mercury center player Brittney Griner will not travel with the team for the next series of away games the team announced Saturday in a tweet.

“Mercury center Brittney Griner will not travel with the team on its upcoming two-game road trip to Chicago and Indiana (July 30-August 1) to focus on her mental health. The Mercury fully support Brittney and we will continue to work together on a timeline for her return.”

Griner, affectionally known as ‘BG’ to family, friends and her fan base, had returned to the game in May after being released from a Russian penal camp last December. She played in the game between the LA Sparks and Phoenix Mercury at Crypto.com Arena in downtown Los Angeles.

Traveling with the team in June, returning to their home hardwood, Griner and her Mercury teammates were harassed by a right-wing extremist at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. That incident sparked concerns over her safety.

Blaze Media YouTuber Alex Stein posted video of himself shouting at Griner in the Texas airport. Among his taunts: “Do you still want to boycott America, Brittney?” “She hates America” and “What about the merchant of death, Brit?”

Russian authorities released Griner from a gulag in December, almost ten months after the out lesbian was detained at a Moscow airport on drug charges. The Biden administration made a prisoner swap with the Russians that conservatives have condemned because it involved a notorious arms dealer.

In the aftermath of that incident, the Women’s National Basketball Players Association is calling on the league to immediately change their travel protocols, which prevent teams that can afford to charter flights from doing it so as not to create a competitive advantage. 

In a statement, the league said Griner has been approved to fly charter for WNBA games. Phoenix Mercury officials did not explained why she was not doing so ESPN reported.

It’s unclear if Griner will return to play to start the team’s next home game as of Sunday.

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Tom Daley: “I don’t feel I was ready to hang up my trunks!”

“I realized that I wasn’t ready to be done. I don’t feel I was ready to hang up my trunks and move on with that part of my life”

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Tom Daley returns to YouTube after a 24 month long hiatus. (Screenshot/YouTube Tom Daley Channel)

LOS ANGELES – Vlogging on his YouTube channel for the first time in approximately 23 months, Tom Daley announced Saturday that while he hasn’t formally made a decision yet, he is seriously considering competing in the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris, France.

Clearly emotional at times, the Olympic Gold Medalist said that he wasn’t ready to “let go of diving yet.” Daley related that during a recent trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado, home to the U.S. Olympic Training Center, he and filmmaker husband Lance Black, who were in the Springs with their oldest son Robbie to pick-up their newborn son Phoenix, toured the U.S. Olympic facility.

It was during that tour Daley said that he realized; “I don’t feel I was ready to hang up my trunks!”

Daley with his oldest son Robbie touring the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum – Colorado Springs (Screenshot/YouTube)

“Coming out the museum,” Daley said on the video; “I realised that I wasn’t ready to be done. I don’t feel I was ready to hang up my trunks and move on with that part of my life. Especially when my son Robbie said to me, ‘Papa I want to see you dive at the Olympics – and that kinda lit a new flame, a new fire inside of me to want to see where this goes.”

Reflecting on this being a potential recreational activity at first he noted that it would be an opportunity to see if his body would be ready for the rigors of Olympic training required to compete again.

Tom Daley/Instagram

The champion British diver noted that “Paris 2024 was definitely a goal.” Although he acknowledged that it may not be possible. The 29-year-old athlete has been competing in his sport of diving since at the age of 14, he was selected to represent Great Britain in the 10m platform at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

Daley stated that he was quasi-retired having taken the past two years off since the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He stressed that he felt the drive to role model for his sons but admitted “I don’t know where this is going to go.” He added that he was documenting his desire to get “back in the pool” in part because “I wasn’t ready to let go of diving yet – so the journey begins.”

Daley recently moved to Los Angeles from London with his husband and their two sons, Robert – known as Robbie (age 5) and newly arrived Phoenix (age 3 months).  Daley whose enthusiastic passion for his knitting is well known, has recently partnered with Lion Brand Yarn for a new venture.

Daley founded his own Made With Love fashion label in November 2021, stemming from his genuine love for knitting and crochet and his desire to share it with the world and encourage others to take up the hobby.

“I don’t feel I was ready to hang up my trunks!” | Tom Daley | I’m back on YouTube! 

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Banned trans swimmers may compete in new ‘Open Category’

That ban followed the landmark victory by American trans swimmer Lia Thomas in March 2022, at the NCAA championships in Atlanta

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World Aquatics Congress, World Championships Fukuoka 2023. The 20th edition of the World Championships take place from 14 to 30th July. (Photo: World Aquatics/Facebook)

FUKUOKA, Japan — A year and a month after banning transgender competitors, the head of World Aquatics told the World Aquatics Congress that his organization is setting up an “open category” that will include trans swimmers, at some point in the future. 

“This is a very complex topic,” Husain Al-Musallam said at the meeting in the southwestern Japanese city of Fukuoka. “But I am delighted to tell you today that we are now making plans for the first trial of an open category, and we hope to be able to confirm all the details soon.” 

“Our sport must be open to everybody,” said the first vice president of FINA, the International Swimming Federation, according to the Associated Press.

Al-Musallam did not disclose any details of how the “open category” would work or when it would be held among other races. Generally speaking, such a category would allow all competitors, cisgender men, women, transgender and nonbinary athletes to compete against one another, instead of in categories delineated by binary sex. 

As the Blade has reported, FINA members voted to restrict transgender athletes from elite women’s competitions at a meeting in Budapest in June 2022. The final vote tally of the representatives was 71.5% approval for the new policy which requires transgender athletes show that “they have not experienced any part of male puberty beyond Tanner Stage 2 or before age 12, whichever is later.”

Tanner Stages describe the physical changes people undergo during puberty. 

The move effectively eliminated trans women from being eligibile to compete in the women’s category. 

That ban followed the landmark victory by American swimmer Lia Thomas in March 2022, when she won the women’s 500-yard freestyle at the NCAA championships in Atlanta, becoming the first transgender NCAA Division 1 champion. 

Thomas competed for the University of Pennsylvania women’s swim team after beginning her medical transition, having quit the men’s squad at the Ivy League school in 2019. She was allowed to compete despite a change in transgender participation policies by USA Swimming that would have disqualified her. The NCAA ruled in the weeks prior to the championship meet that Thomas was qualified to swim. 

Thomas graduated in 2022 and is pursuing a law degree, having expressed an interest in civil rights and public interest law in recent interviews. She told Sports Illustrated in 2022 she planned to continue to train with the intention of swimming in the U.S. Olympic trials in 2024, but that was before the ban and this new announcement of an “open category.” 

In addition to World Aquatics, aka FINA, other sports organizations that have banned trans athletes include Union Cycliste Internationale, the British Triathlon Federation, the International Rugby League and World Athletics. The U.S. Disc Golf Pro Tour recently canceled five events where one trans athlete, Natalie Ryan, might be able to compete because of discrimination laws in those locales, as the Blade reported.

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