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LGBTQ Sports history: Two Trans NCAA athletes compete head-to-head

Lia Thomas’ college swimming career is over, Iszac Henig said he couldn’t comment on whether he’d be back with the Bulldogs next year

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NCAA trans trailblazer Schuyler Bailar center right with Iszac Henig (R) (Photo by Dawn Ennis)

ATLANTA – History books will record Saturday, March 19, 2022, as the first time that two out NCAA transgender student-athletes competed against one another for a national championship. And it was a sharp rebuke to those activists who complain that trans women are “destroying women’s sports” or dominating them. 

Out trans swimmer Lia Thomas, the University of Pennsylvania 5th year senior, was almost a full second slower in the 100-yard freestyle than in Saturday morning’s preliminary meet in Atlanta, Ga. She finished dead last, the eighth out of eight women, ending her college swimming career. 

Thomas, 22, did not speak to reporters following Saturday night’s final. Her only comments came on Thursday when the Austin, Texas native was named Division I national champion in the 500-yard freestyle. “I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations for this meet,” Thomas told ESPN. “I was just happy to be here, trying to race and compete as best as I could.”

Trans man Iszac Henig of Menlo Park, Calif. tied for fifth with Louisville’s Gabi Albiero, finishing at 47:32, a quarter of a second faster than he swam in the morning. Henig represented Yale, where he is a junior, as their sole entrant. After receiving his trophy, his parents, younger sister and other supporters congratulated Henig for his outstanding and historic performance in the pool.

“I was glad that it didn’t hit me until after,” he said. “I just wanted to be able to be there to race and have a good time.”

(Photo by Dawn Ennis)

NCAA trans trailblazer Schuyler Bailar gave him a hug and posed for pictures together. They’re friends, and they made plans to meet up with Thomas later in the evening to celebrate the end of finals. 

“Lia and I are friends, so it’s always nice to swim against your friends,” Henig told me. “It was incredible. She’s been great. I was really happy competing with her. I swear I couldn’t have asked for it to have gone better.”

Henig has a tattoo on his right arm that says “Let Trans Kids Play.” He spoke to me about why he wants people to see that important message. 

“There’s so many bills in different states right now trying to ban trans women from sport at all different levels,” Henig told me. “We’re not allowed to have anything on our clothes, but they also didn’t say anything about your skin. So I took that, you know, platform that I was hoping to have, to use that to say, trans athletes are like any other athlete. We just have to be able to play to build that community.”

Although he had top surgery to remove his breasts, he is not on testosterone, and postponed that part of his medical transition so he can continue to compete with his women teammates. Beth Stelzer, the founder of the anti-trans inclusion group Save Womens Sports, misidentified Henig on Thursday as a woman and suggested his operation might provide him with some advantage in the pool. 

Schuyler Bailar with Iszac Henig (Photo by Dawn Ennis)

“I actually really don’t know how to respond to that,” said Henig. “I’m not a woman. I would love to know how they’re defining ‘woman’ because I think that like womanhood is what you make it. And I’m not a woman. I’m not a woman.” He added, “I am just a guy trying to go as fast as I can.”

Henig said he couldn’t comment on whether he’d be back with the Bulldogs next year or what steps he would take in his gender transition. 

I asked Henig about Swimming World Magazine editor in chief John Lohn’s opinion that Thomas had been, in his words, “sandbagging,” or deliberately swimming at a slower speed, and about a tabloid report about an anonymous teammate of hers who accused Thomas of conspiring with Henig to prove, in her words, “Oh see, a female-to-male beat me.”

“I think anyone who’s been an athlete and as a competitive person knows that you don’t throw races,” Henig told me. “You don’t conspire to do anything. You’re just here to show up to your best.”

Contrary to the narrative spun by opponents of transgender inclusion in sports, the winner of the 100-yard freestyle was a cisgender woman: Virginia freshman Gretchen Walsh from Nashville, Tenn. Walsh won her first individual title and set a new pool record at the McAuley Aquatic Center on the Georgia Tech campus. 

“I definitely think that I never expected this to happen,” Walsh told me after her victory. “Going into this, I knew I would be racing Lia. I think at that point I was just treating everyone as a  fair competitor, because I came here to do the best, for me, and I was just overall really, really happy with my swim. So, I wasn’t trying to think about anyone else too much, just focus on me and do my best.”

“Everybody here is a competitor,” added her head coach Todd DeSorbo, who was talking to reporters about UVA winning back-to-back NCAA National Championships when asked about Thomas. I asked him if, having witnessed her and Henig compete, if he would ever coach a transgender swimmer. DeSorbo said he’d decide that question if and when it ever happens. “I think that’s a tough question to answer because it would have to happen,” DeSorbo explained. “I would need that to happen for me to know how that would unfold.”

The crowd inside cheered for Walsh, and also for Henig, but once again a scattering of boos were heard whenever the announcer said Lia Thomas’s name. 

The activists from Save Womens Sports, who since Thursday have been booing Thomas inside and demonstrating outside, told me they achieved what they had set out to do. 

Activists from Save Women’s Sports boo Lia Thomas at McAuley Aquatics Center in Atlanta, Ga on Friday, March 18, 2022.  (Photo by Dawn Ennis)

“I just feel like the mission that we came here to accomplish, we were successful, better than we could ever imagine,” Jeanna Hoch of Save Womens Sports told me following finals. “The public is definitely on our side. It’s overwhelming on social media, in the news and the person to person interactions with people here on campus. Everyone is really, really supportive of our fight.” 

Following that interview, other activists standing with Hoch surrounded this reporter and challenged me about my identity as a transgender woman and my use of the women’s public bathrooms in the aquatic center. A man wearing a Cal Athletics polo shirt named Matthew joined them in asking me whether I ever menstruated. Campus security officers started to move in when I made a reference to myself as doing “the job of mom” for my three children following the death of their mother. That resulted in activists screaming at me, “How dare you!” said Stelzer, pointing her finger in my face. “You never birthed your children. You are not a mother!” Both the activists and I recorded the clash with our phones. 

It was around this point that a senior campus security officer intervened and escorted the activists outside. But the commotion continued there, without me present. Members of the Save Womens Sports group reportedly splintered in what one reporter described as “a spectacle.”

This last night here in Atlanta was far more emotional than any other night, and never was that more true than when the press room welcomed DI national champion Regan Smith of Lakeville, Minn., a 20-year-old Stanford freshman born in Redwood Shores, Calif. 

“That was sick!” Smith said about winning the 200-back before tying for second in the 200-fly. Out nonbinary journalist Katie Barnes asked Smith for her thoughts about competing with Lia Thomas. 

“She’s followed the rules that have been in place for her. I’m all about being supportive of people that are here and not putting anyone down, and being a good sport about everything,”  she said. “I think everything that’s going on has been really crazy, but I just hope that things get worked out in the future and that, you know, everyone leaves the situation in a good place.”

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World’s largest LGBTQ sporting event returning to Las Vegas 

Registration open for the largest annual LGBTQ sporting event globally- Nominations are open for the 2nd annual Ken Scearce Leadership Award

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Pickleball competitors (Photo courtesy of Sin City Classic)

By John McDonald | LAS VEGAS – More than 10,000 athletes are expected in Las Vegas January 12-15, 2023 for the Sin City Classic. The event features 24 sports and draws participants from around the globe, said co-executive director Jason Peplinski.

“For a lot of people, LGBT sports are their safe space and they like to travel to be a part of an athletic family,” Peplinski said.

Peplinski is commissioner of the Greater Los Angeles Softball Association (GLASA). His organization created the Sin City Classic back in 2008 as a way to provide a safe space for LGBT athletes to compete and connect.

“Sin City Classic continues to grow and evolve,” Peplinksi said. “This year we see the addition of pickleball, one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and sand volleyball, adding to the diverse lineup of competitions and events that the festival offers. We’re excited that the festival continues to expand and offers ways for all members of our diverse community to participate.”

This is the Sin City Classic’s first year of full operations since the COVID-19 pandemic and the Flamingo Hotel, the oldest hotel on the Las Vegas strip, is the host hotel. Lexus is the presenting sponsor and nightclubs Piranha and The Garden are hosting events during the MLK holiday weekend.

Additionally, nominations are open for the second annual Ken Scearce Leadership Award which honors the memory and legacy of the former executive director who passed away in 2021.

To sign-up or for more information, visit www.sincityclassic.org 

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Carrying a Pride flag- protester interrupts World Cup game

Qatar’s laws against gay sex and treatment of LGBTQ people were flashpoints in the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East

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Screenshot of news coverage at the World Cup 2022 games from Al Jazeera

LUSAIL, Qatar – During a World Cup match between Portugal and Uruguay Monday, a lone protester ran across the field waving a LGBTQ+ Pride flag moments after the second half kickoff.

Video and still images show the man wearing a blue T-shirt emblazed with the Superman symbol and the phrase “SAVE UKRAINE” on the front and “RESPECT FOR IRANIAN WOMAN” on the back.

Screenshot of news coverage at the World Cup 2022 games from Al Jazeera

Qatari security personnel chased him down and then frog marched him off the playing field. Israeli Public Radio correspondent Amichai Stein tweeted video clips of the incident:

FIFA had no immediate comment on the incident the Associated Press noted reporting that in the first week of the tournament in Qatar, seven European teams lost the battle to wear multi-colored “One Love” armbands during World Cup matches. Fans also complained they weren’t allowed to bring items with rainbow colors, a symbol of LGBTQ rights, into the stadiums of the conservative Islamic emirate.

Qatar’s laws against gay sex and treatment of LGBTQ people were flashpoints in the run-up to the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East. Qatar has said everyone was welcome, including LGBTQ fans, but that visitors should respect the nation’s culture.

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Blinken criticizes FIFA over threat to fine World Cup team captains with ‘one love’ armbands

Qatar criminalizes homosexuality by death

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

DOHA, Qatar — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday criticized FIFA over its threat to sanction European soccer teams if their captains wore “one love” armbands during the 2022 World Cup.

“It’s always concerning from my perspective when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression. It’s especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” Blinken told reporters during a press conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Doha, the Qatari capital. “And in my judgment, at least, no one on a football pitch should be forced to choose between supporting these values and playing for their team.”

Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ+ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales had planned to wear the armbands in support of the LGBTQ+ and intersex community during the World Cup. The teams on Monday in a joint statement said they would not wear the armbands because FIFA had threatened to sanction them if their captains did.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death. A report that Human Rights Watch published last month noted several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment” of LGBTQ+ and intersex people while in police custody from 2019 and September 2022. 

A State Department official last week acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ+ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Blinken attended their match against Wales on Monday.

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European soccer teams won’t wear ‘one love’ armbands after FIFA sanctions threat

World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday

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Iran plays England during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Nov. 21, 2022. (Screenshot via FS1)

DOHA, Qatar — Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ+ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales planned to wear “one love” armbands during the World Cup. The teams in a joint statement said FIFA threatened to sanction them if their captains wore them.

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play,” read the statement. “We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision, which we believe is unprecedented.”

“As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings,” added the statement.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death.

Human Rights Watch last month published a report that noted “arbitrary” arrests of LGBTQ+ and intersex people between 2019 and September 2022 and several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment in police custody” during the aforementioned period. World Cup Ambassador Khalid Salman earlier this month described homosexuality as “damage in the mind” during an interview with a German television station.

Peter Tatchell, a British activist, on Oct. 25 protested the country’s LGBTQ+ and intersex rights record while standing outside the National Museum of Qatar in Doha, the country’s capital. A State Department official on Nov. 18 acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ+ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will attend their match against Wales on Monday.

England played Iran on Monday. The Netherlands on Monday will play Senegal.

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Far right angry U.S. Soccer honors LGBTQ+ people for World Cup

The logo is being used to protest Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Same-sex relationships are criminalized in the country

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USA Soccer team media area Qatar (Screenshot/YouTube Sky News Global)

CHICAGO – The decision to support the global LGBTQ+ community by the U.S. Men’s soccer team with a redesigned logo incorporating the LGBTQ+ Pride flag to its badge which will be seen at the USA Soccer team’s hotel, media areas and parties throughout the Qatar World Cup, has angered far-right homophobic groups in the U.S.

The logo is being used to protest Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Same-sex relationships are criminalized in the country with up to seven years in jail, while queer Muslim men, under Sharia law, can be punished with death.

The World Cup begins on Sunday on November 20 and the US team is slotted to play against the team from Wales on Monday the 21st.

“Our rainbow badge has an important and consistent role in the identity of US Soccer,” A US Soccer spokesperson said. “As part of our approach for any match or event, we include rainbow branding to support and embrace the LGBTQ community, as well as to promote a spirit of inclusiveness and welcoming to all fans across the globe.”

Media Matters reported that Daily Wire Host and transphobic/homophobic host Matt Walsh in a rant on his daily show said:

“The corporate gay pride stuff is just sheep’s blood on the door signaling that they are the chosen people so the angel of cancellation passes them over. But as far as symbolism goes, I think it is appropriate that they should change the colors of the American flag with the colors of the LGBT flag.

“I mean, it’s horrendous, it’s traitorous, it’s treasonous — if I was in charge of the country, they wouldn’t be allowed back into the country — but it’s also appropriate.

“Because the LGBT nation, LGBTistan we may call it, is, after all, the country that corporate America as well as the United States government seeks to represent.

“Now some people predict that we will eventually in the future become two countries, there’s going to be some civil war. But the point is we’re already two countries. There’s one that salutes the Pride flag and despises the American flag, and one that salutes the American flag and has no use for the Pride flag.

“At this point, it’s only a matter of making the split official, I suppose. Something that we will probably never do, but we should.” 

During a press conference Gregg Berhalter, head coach of the US men’s soccer team, said: “I think that when we are on the world stage and [we’re in] Qatar, it’s important to bring awareness to these issues, and that’s what Be the Change is about.”

Berhalter was referring to the campaign launched in November 2020 following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin, to put a spotlight on human rights abuses and social injustice.

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No disputing winner: Jacob Caswell is first in nonbinary category

All three of the top nonbinary finishers are a part of Front Runners New York, a group for runners who are LGBTQ

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Jacob Caswell/Instagram

NEW YORK – For the first time in the history of the six major marathons around the world, organizers of the New York City Marathon awarded cash prizes to the top nonbinary runners. 

Jacob Caswell, 25, of New York City, finished first in their category on Sunday, earning $5,000, for running the 26.2 mile race in 2:45:12. 

“None of this would be possible without so many people putting in amazing work so that I and all future runners have a more inclusive space to run in,” Caswell posted on Instagram. “A major thank you to everyone!”

This was Caswell’s first time running the NYC Marathon, but they’ve been training by competing in a half-marathon in Brooklyn—winning the nonbinary category—and as well as the New York Road Runners 10K in Queens this past June. 

“Being able to not even win but just compete as yourself, it’s just been freeing,” Caswell told The New York Times.

In the NYC Marathon, they finished 172nd overall and 24 and a half minute ahead of this year’s second place nonbinary runner, Zackary Harris of New York City. Last year, Harris, 27, finished first in the nonbinary category, but at that time there were no cash prizes. Justin Solle, 28, also of New York, finished third of the 45 nonbinary runners. 

While most of that category’s runners hail from the Greater New York metropolitan area, there were also nonbinary runners from Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Washington State and even from Germany. 

This race was only the second time a World Marathon Major race registered nonbinary competitors. Marathon organizers in Boston, Chicago, London and Berlin followed New York’s lead; Only the Tokyo Marathon has not, according to NBC News.

The Times reported the Philadelphia Distance Run became the first organization to offer equal prize money to nonbinary athletes in September.

Photo by Da Ping Luo for NYRR

All three of the top nonbinary finishers are a part of Front Runners New York, a group for runners who are LGBTQ. According to The Times, Front Runners New York is working with groups like New York City Runs to offer more opportunities for nonbinary, trans and trans nonbinary runners. 

“Nonbinary runners have been here this whole time,” Harris told the newspaper. “We’ve been forced to run in categories that don’t match our gender identities, and now we’re seeing a shift in sports to actually recognize us.”

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Black player makes history: He’s Out at Hampton University

HU’s student body is predominately Black and female with over 83% of students from out-of-state or from other countries

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Byron Perkins (Los Angeles Blade/Instagram)

HAMPTON, Va. – In an exclusive interview with Cyd Ziegler of OutSports magazine, a football athlete at Hampton University, a private, historically Black, research university spoke about his coming Out as the first openly gay athlete at the university.

In his interview, Byron Perkins, a defensive back, said; “Especially at an HU, young Black gay men need an outlet. They need a support system. There hasn’t been an out gay football athlete at an HU. I want to end the stigma of what people think. I want people to know they can be themselves.”  

HU’s student body is predominately Black and female with over 83% of students from out-of-state or from other countries. The football team, the Hampton Pirates, compete in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision.

Perkins, who is a junior, had transferred to HU from Purdue University and according to his stats has played two seasons with the HU Pirates. So far this season he has been credited with 16 tackles and two deflected passes. The Pirates current season standing overall is 4-2.

Speaking with OutSports Perkins outlined his views on coming Out and his growth as a person, a gay Black male in particular as he charts a new course in his life.

“I’ve been self-reflective and trying to prioritize what makes me happy and makes me feel alive,” Perkins said. “I thought it could be just football and school, but there was a component missing. And recently I’ve been able to figure out that I haven’t been fully happy because everyone didn’t know who I was. Authenticity is everything to me.”

Perkins also posted to Instagram revealing his sexual orientation, “I have come to understand that life is precious and I could be gone at any moment, therefore, I will no longer be living a lie. No one should have to live a life crippled by what society thinks.”

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Trailblazing Scots pro soccer athlete comes Out and inspires others

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

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Screenshot/YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshot/YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STV Weekend News Sunday, September 18, 2022 Zander Murray

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Gay men stand up to Qatar & denounce its death penalty

In advance of World Cup: “I’m a man and I love men,” a representative of soccer fans told Qatar’s ambassador

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Dr. Nasser Mohamed/Instagram

FRANKFURT, Germany – Gay men are blowing the whistle now, two months before the World Cup, demanding the host nation of Qatar change its anti-LGBTQ ways.

The Middle Eastern country where Islam is the state religion will welcome soccer players, coaches and fans from all around the planet, beginning Nov. 20, for matches that will pit nation against nation.

Qatar has promised to welcome LGBTQ foreigners, even as its own people are tortured and put to death for being who they are. 

On Monday, Qatar’s ambassador to Germany got an earful from one of those men at a human rights conference in Frankfurt, hosted by the German Football Association, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Fan representative Dario Minden spoke in English directly to Abdulla bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Thani, about who he is and who he loves, Minden told him to “abolish the death penalty” for homosexuality. 

“I’m a man and I love men. I do — please don’t be shocked — have sex with other men. This is normal,” Minden told Al Thani. “So, please get used to it, or stay out of football. Because the most important rule in football is, football is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re lesbian, if you’re gay. It’s for everyone. For the boys. For the girls. And for everyone in between. 

“So, abolish the death penalty. Abolish all of the penalties regarding sexual and gender identity,” he said. 

Although organizers promised Al Thani an opportunity to respond, the Associated Press reports that portion of the conference was closed to the public and the news media and was not televised. 

Earlier, Al Thani reportedly complained to those assembled that the issue of human rights was a distraction from the World Cup, even though the event was titled, “Sport and Human Rights.” 

“We all care about human rights,” said Al Thani. “But I would have enjoyed (it) more if I saw some concentration not only on just one subject, but the enjoyment of football and the football effect on people around the world.” 

More than five-thousand miles away in San Francisco, a gay Qatari physician has organized a petition to tell the land of his birth: Love Is Not A Crime. 

Dr. Nasser Mohamed decided to come out in 2010 following a visit to the U.S., and spent his residency in Connecticut before moving to California in 2015. 

Mohamed wrote in an op-ed published by Outsports last month that he has spent the last decade caring for the LGBTQ community in outpatient settings and growing as an activist. 

“Being an LGBT person is a criminal offense in the legal system in Qatarm as is sex between two men. There are state-sponsored conversion-therapy practices, and LGBT-affirming psychotherapy is not offered.” He wrote how law enforcement uses media and chat rooms to find, jail and punish people for being LGBTQ. 

“Visibility of the local LGBT community in Qatar, and the exposure of their treatment, are absolutely essential,” Mohamed wrote. “I am doing my part by speaking up.”

Editor’s note: Find out about Mohamed’s petition by clicking here. He is also raising money through a GoFundMe account to provide him with funding for his activism as well as security and protection.

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Tom Brady’s new out gay teammate: Carl Nassib returns to Tampa

Carl Nassib returns to Florida as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reportedly sign the NFL free agent to a one-year deal

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Carl Nassib speaks publicly for first time since coming out as gay in August 2021 (Screenshot/YouTube KUVV Fox 5 Las Vegas)

TAMPA – Carl Nassib, who made headlines in June 2021 when he became the NFL’s first out gay active player, reportedly has signed a one-year contract with his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

The 29-year-old defensive end was released by the Las Vegas Raiders in March, and became a free agent. NFL sources said that was due to his contracted salary amount—$7.75 million—and not any reflection on his sexual orientation.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news with a tweet

When Nassib came out last summer, he announced he was donating $100K to The Trevor Project, and for Pride Month this year he made a new pledge to help LGBTQ youth. He promised to match donations to The Trevor Project, dollar for dollar, up to $100,000.

Will Bucs quarterback Tom Brady welcome Nassib? As Outsports reported, he’s never made any comments about playing with someone gay. Brady’s former Patriots teammate Ryan O’Callaghan recalled that before he came out in 2017, following his retirement, there was one time that he missed the team bus and Brady gave him a ride in his car to that day’s practice.

O’Callaghan told Outsports he believes Brady would have “absolutely” accepted him if he had come out at that time.

“Being married to a super model I’m sure he’s met a few gay people in his life,” said O’Callaghan. Brady wed Brazilian fashion model Gisele Bündchen in 2009.

Legendary Boston sports columnist Steve Buckley of The Athletic came out as gay in 2011 while at the Boston Herald. He told Outsports Brady has always been friendly and cooperative, even after Buckley came out.

This is the second time around at Raymond James Stadium for Nassib. He played for the Bucs for two seasons prior to joining the Raiders in 2020. His NFL career began in 2016 with the Cleveland Browns. 

As Jason Owens reported for Yahoo! Sports, Nassib was far more productive in Tampa as a part-time starter, recording 6.5 sacks in 2018 and six sacks in 2019. The NFL’s website shows he played just 242 defensive snaps and earned 1.5 sacks last season. 

In 86 games including 37 starts, Nassib’s recorded 22 career sacks, 164 tackles, 53 quarterback hits and four forced fumbles.

In addition to Brady, Nassib’s new teammates are Akiem Hicks and William Gholston at defensive end and outside linebackers Shaquil Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. Given that the Bucs finished seventh in the NFL in sacks last season with 47, Nassib will be expected to improve Tampa Bay’s chances when their season begins Sept. 11 in Dallas.

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