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NHL bans ‘Pride Tape’ use by all 32 teams for 2023-2024 season

The use of ‘Pride Tape’ was promulgated by NHL and NHLPA in an effort to eradicate homophobia under the NHL’s Hockey Is For Everyone banner



Washington Capitals players use Pride Tape during warmups at Hockey is for Everyone night in Washington, D.C. (Screenshot/YouTube Washington Capitals Hockey)

NEW YORK, NY. – In a move first reported by LGBTQ sports blog Outsports, the National Hockey League has banned the use of ‘Pride Tape’ across all 32 teams in the league. This comes a week after ESPN reported the league clarified in a memo, sent out to all team franchises, regarding ‘special initiatives’ teams could participate in including LGBTQ+ ‘Pride Nights.’

ESPN’s Ryan Clark reported that one section of the memo stated: “Players shall not be put in the position of having to demonstrate (or where they may be appearing to demonstrate) personal support for any Special Initiatives. A factor that may be considered in this regard includes, for example, whether a Player (or Players) is required to be in close proximity to any groups or individuals visibly or otherwise clearly associated with such Special Initiative(s).”‘

This past June, the NHL’s Board of Governors agreed that players will no longer wear special rainbow-colored Pride-themed jerseys during warm-ups next season. 

The specially-designed jerseys will continue to be manufactured and sold, and players will still have the option to autograph or even model them. The autographed Pride jerseys are typically auctioned off to raise money for LGBTQ+ charities in each team’s hometown. 

But from now on, no pro hockey player will be wearing those rainbow jerseys during warm-ups. 

The change was prompted by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s recommendation, which he signaled was coming in a March interview with CTV News: “This is one issue where players for a variety of reasons may not feel comfortable wearing the uniform as a form of endorsement,” said Bettman. 

A grand total of seven NHL players, out of 1,123, decided to skip pregame warmups on Pride Nights when their teammates wore the special rainbow-themed jerseys before games, starting with Ivan Provorov, as the Los Angeles Blade reported in January

At that time, the Russian defenseman played for the Philadelphia Flyers, and claimed a religious exemption based on his Russian Orthodox faith. Provorov’s decision was defended by coach John Tortorella.

He was followed by James Reimer, a goaltender for the San Jose Sharks, and Canadian brothers Eric and Marc Staal of the Florida Panthers, who also cited their religious beliefs for not participating. Canada is home to the vast majority of NHL players, followed by American, Swedish and Russian athletes. 

Commissioner Bettman’s recommendation was criticized by many players – including two-time Stanley Cup Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos who told reporters at the time: ”It was 98 percent or 99 percent of other players that wore the jersey and enjoyed wearing it and were proud wearing it, whatever jersey it was, whether it was the Pride, the military night, the cancer nights.

In its story, categorizing the NHL banning Pride Tape, as the league creating its own ‘Don’t Say Gay’ policy, Outsports noted that the action taken is, as far as Outsports is aware, “the most stifling, anti-LGBTQ policy any pro sports league in North America has ever issued.”

The message the NHL is sending: Hockey is not for everyone.

The use of ‘Pride Tape’ was promulgated by NHL and NHLPA in an effort to eradicate homophobia under the NHL’s Hockey Is For Everyone banner, and has been a program that has proven to be widely performative under the supervision of NHL’s executive vice-president Kim Davis.

One person noted on background to Arun Srinivasan, a contributing writer for Yahoo Sports Canada, that use of ‘Pride Tape’ is a small but important act of solidarity with LGBTQ+ communities, allowing NHL players to show their support in a visible way on the ice.

The NHL, the NHLPA and their partner You Can Play have yet to comment on Outsports’ original report.



NFL’s Kirk Cousins: Anti-LGBTQ group’s ‘Ambassador for Christ’

The Vikings proudly boast they were the first in the NFL to host a summit and fundraiser focused exclusively on LGBTQ inclusion in sports



Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. (Photo Credit: NFL/Minnesota Vikings)

ORLANDO, FL. — Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has made no secret of his Christian faith; just the opposite. But his recently recorded sit-down interview with the chief operating officer of the rabidly anti-LGBTQ group, Focus on the Family, has caused a massive backlash by fans. 

Even though their chat did not include references to what the group’s website calls the gay and lesbian “lifestyle” or the “threat” of “transgenderism,” Cousins used coded language that reinforced the group’s dogma that “same-sex attractions” are a “choice.”

“There are consequences to the choices you make in life, good or bad,” Cousins told Focus on the Family COO Ken Windebank in the Nov. 3rd Focus on the Family Broadcast on YouTube. “And if you sow good things you’ll reap good things. But if you sow poor decisions, you’ll reap poor decisions.”

Their conversation was recorded before a packed house at the Sand Lake campus of his father’s mega church in Orlando. Don Cousins is lead pastor at Discovery Church.  The church also has two other campuses in the Central Florida city that ranks fourth highest in the nation for gay and lesbian couples and was ranked the most LGBTQ+ friendly travel destination in the U.S.

In fact, Cousins and Windebank sat in front of a large projection of Lake Eola, site of Come Out with Pride’s annual celebration of the city’s thriving LGBTQ+ population, held Oct. 21, just two weeks before their talk. 

Reports revealing their conversation followed complaints by an anonymous fan of the Minnesota Vikings, who alerted LGBTQ sports journalists about the video.

“It doesn’t matter how innocuous the content in the video is,” said the fan. “Focus on the Family has consistently pushed for abhorrent policies and to enshrine their views into American law. For the Vikings’ franchise quarterback to partner with them is shocking, disappointing, and runs counter to the image the Vikings have tried to project.”  

The Vikings proudly boast on the team’s website that they were the first in the NFL to host a summit and fundraiser focused exclusively on LGBTQ inclusion in sports, back in 2018, and that a front office employee who’s in her 8th season with the team is an out lesbian. 

The fan also noted what they saw as the hypocrisy of the four-time Pro Bowl player, who Focus on the Family calls an “Ambassador for Christ” and whose Instagram bio describes him as “Believer. Husband. Father.”

“It also runs counter to Cousins’ public image, that of ‘all are welcome’. Focus on the Family has built their political arm on trying to drive people they don’t approve of out of American society.”

It’s easy to see what Focus on the Family says about homosexuality, since it’s right on the group’s website

“Focus on the Family is committed to upholding God’s design for the expression of human sexuality: a husband and wife in a marriage relationship. We also hold to the scriptural truth that a relationship with God through Jesus Christ brings transformation and power over sin. We reach out with compassion and respect to individuals, families, and churches affected by homosexuality.”

Focus on the Family has been headquarted in Colorado Springs since 1977. In the 1990s, the group’s anti-LGBTQ leaders led the fundamentalist charge in support of Amendment 2, a Colorado ballot measure that banned municipalities from including LGBTQ people in their anti-discrimination policies. Although the initiative passed in 1992, in 1995 the Supreme Court found that it violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Almost a decade ago, Cousins himself called homosexuality a sin, saying he’d still welcome a gay teammate because “nobody’s perfect” and he would try to teach him to “follow Jesus.”

“Now, there are a lot of teammates in my locker room right now who may not have a homosexual lifestyle, but they have sins, too,” he told MLive in 2014. “They’re not perfect. So, I don’t say they can’t help us win. Nobody’s perfect. To that degree, we’d welcome him into our locker room and say come help us win, and hopefully I can love him like Jesus and hopefully show him what it means to follow Jesus.”

Fans expressed their anger at Cousins in social media posts: 

Neither Cousins nor the Vikings responded to a request for comment.

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Rapinoe exits early as Ali Krieger & team win championship

Gotham FC win National Women’s Soccer League trophy in Krieger and Rapinoe’s final appearance on the pitch



Megan Rapinoe speaks to reporters following the championship match Saturday in San Diego. (Screenshot/YouTube)

SAN DIEGO — One last time, two soccer icons took to the field in San Diego Saturday night as Seattle’s OL Reign faced New York’s Gotham FC at Snapdragon Stadium. 

In what was the absolutely last, concluding and final end to their respective careers in professional soccer, following more than a few “farewell” games, Megan Rapinoe limped off the pitch and Ali Krieger raised the National Women’s Soccer League championship trophy. 

And Krieger’s teammates raised her up in victory as well. 

History will record World Cup winner Esther González as scoring the go-ahead goal for New York on a header in first-half stoppage time, and that Gotham beat the Reign 2-1. 

But what true women’s soccer fans will take away from this clash of the champions is watching the pink-haired legend who won two World Cups, an Olympic gold medal and a bronze inexplicably fall to the ground in the third minute. 

As Maitane Lopez of Gotham was dribbling the ball outside the penalty area, Rapinoe ran toward her and suddenly went down. After laying there for a few minutes, Rapinoe refused the stretcher and accepted help from two trainers for the long walk along one end line and then down the sideline to the Reign’s bench.

Rapinoe said later she realized too late how long that walk would be, and told reporters it felt like someone kicked her and she felt “a huge pop” in her Achilles. 

“You don’t always get to have the perfect ending,” said Rapinoe after the match, appearing in good spirits and wearing a walking boot on her right foot. She joked that she’s now just a normal person facing surgery and rehab.

“I’ve had so many perfect endings, even just thinking back to 2019, that was the most perfect whole script you could ever write personally and as a team, just what it meant. On balance, I don’t think anything that negative about it,” said Rapinoe. 

Upon her early exit, Krieger ran over and hugged her former teammate from the U.S. Women’s National Team.

“It’s devastating to see one of the best players in the world have to step out because of injury in the first five minutes of the game,” said Krieger, who told reporters she was “gutted” for Rapinoe. “To have such a buildup to this moment, to have her of anyone, that was devastating, because it does change the game. You want to play against the best players.”

Krieger said she thought Rapinoe hurt her ankle. “I was really upset for her,” she said, and shared part of their conversation. “I said, ‘Just wrap it up and I’ll see you back out here in a couple minutes.’ Then when I saw the sub come on, obviously it was a different story. Immediately you have to switch back on to your team and my job. You have to kind of shut that out.”

Rapinoe announced that she was stepping away from the game for good before this past summer’s Women’s World Cup. At the 2019 World Cup in France, Rapinoe scored six goals, including a penalty in the final against the Netherlands. When she posed with her arms outstretched in victory pose at that championship game, it was an image that conveyed just how dominant was Team USA.

Krieger was also on that 2019 team as well as the U.S. World Cup team that won the title in 2015.

“I don’t think I could dream of a better ending for myself,” Krieger said. “I just want to ride off into the sunset and enjoy this with my family and friends and kids, most importantly, and my teammates. My back hurts, my calves hurt. I love it so much and it’s so much fun. But it’s time. This is the perfect ending for me.”

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LA Kings partner with Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN)

Hockey Fights Cancer has been an incredibly powerful initiative in terms of raising money for research and raising awareness



Courtesy of the National Hockey League

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Kings have partnered with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) for a special awareness night where they will host pancreatic cancer survivors at the LA Kings vs. Florida Panthers game on World Pancreatic Cancer Day, November 16th, at Arena. 

The Kings and fans will come together to celebrate the lives of pancreatic cancer survivors, promote awareness, and raise critical funds to fight the disease. Food and beverages will be provided, and each survivor attending will be given a gift bag filled with special items. In addition, survivors in the suite will be honored with a special spotlight during intermission. 

Courtesy of the LA Kings NHL Hockey

Friends and family looking to attend this event can purchase tickets at this link with a portion of proceeds going to PanCAN’s Purple Stride fundraiser 2024
WHO:Los Angeles area survivors will be in attendance) 
WHEN:Thursday, November 16, at 7:30 PM PDT Arena, 1111 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90015

Hockey Fights Cancer, a campaign started by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association, turns 25 this year. To mark the anniversary, will be telling stories about Hockey Fights Cancer and those impacted by the disease all season long. Today, columnist Dave Stubbs looks at the origins of Hockey Fights Cancer.

It was launched modestly Dec. 3, 1998, with a three-page news release, under the logos of the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association.

“The hockey world unites to fight cancer,” the release was headlined, Hockey Fights Cancer (HFC) born as a joint initiative of the NHL, NHLPA, NHL Officials Association, the League’s then-27 teams and a broadcast and corporate partner.

Nearly 25 years later, HFC has grown beyond what anyone in 1998 likely believed it might, more than $32 million raised in its mission to raise awareness of cancer and support the countless number whose lives have been touched by the disease.

Hockey Fights Cancer 2023 Game Schedule

“Hockey Fights Cancer has been an incredibly powerful initiative in terms of raising money for research and raising awareness and making people understand the need for education and prevention,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said with HFC’s 25th anniversary approaching next month. “And as importantly, when somebody is inflicted with cancer, knowing that there is a support system, and that the NHL family is there. So it has been an all-encompassing effort which has raised a lot of money at the same time.”

The Commissioner’s view is shared by Marty Walsh, executive director of the NHLPA, who has seen cancer from up close. The former mayor of Boston was diagnosed at age 7 with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare, aggressive kind of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that primarily affects children.

“As a cancer survivor, I am honored to join the Hockey Fights Cancer team, along with the players, the League and the clubs, as we continue to raise funds for research, increase awareness and provide further support to those who are dealing with this terrible disease,” Walsh said. “The hockey community is one that is committed to fighting cancer together.”

The life-changing work with the American Cancer Society and Canadian Cancer Society, partners of the NHLPA and NHL in patient services, continues this season with the fifth year of the Stanley Cup® Hope Lodge Tour with the Stanley Cup set to visit five Hope Lodge locations across the U.S. and Canada, as well as the return of the ‘HFC Assist‘ program.

Youth hockey teams are encouraged to sign up for ‘HFC Assist’ to lend their efforts to the cause and receive resources, including a toolkit with best practices and thought starters for fundraising. To date, hundreds of youth hockey teams have hosted their own Hockey Fights Cancer events with proceeds continuing to support the American Cancer Society and Canadian Cancer Society.

Continuing the tradition, all 32 NHL Clubs will host a Hockey Fights Cancer in-game awareness night this season with original storytelling, special ceremonies, and fundraising efforts for local charities.

Fans can purchase official Hockey Fights Cancer merchandise online at and and donate to the NHL and NHLPA’s Hockey Fights Cancer initiative powered by the V foundation by visiting

For all Hockey Fights Cancer news, follow @NHL and @PR_NHL and join the conversation by using the official hashtag #HockeyFightsCancer.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) leads the way in accelerating critical progress for pancreatic cancer patients. PanCAN takes bold action by funding life-saving research, providing personalized patient services and creating a community of supporters and volunteers who will stop at nothing to create a world in which all pancreatic cancer patients will thrive.

For 18 years in a row, PanCAN has earned a Four-Star Rating from Charity Navigator – the highest rating an organization can receive. This rating designates PanCAN as an official “Give with Confidence” charity, indicating strong financial health, ongoing accountability and transparency.

For more information visit

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Travis Shumake wants his share as he makes racing history

Shumake made history as the first openly gay driver to compete in a televised national National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) circuit event 



Travis Shumake (Screenshot/YouTube NHRA)

In 2022 Shumake made history as the first openly gay driver to compete in a televised national event in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) racing circuit 

By Rob Salerno | LOS ANGELES – When his car hits top speed, Travis Shumake may just be the fastest homosexual on earth.

A second-generation drag racer, Shumake has been turning heads as America’s first openly gay professional motorsports star, hitting speeds of more than 300 miles per hour on the track.

Since making his debut last year, he’s helped make one of the most macho, heteronormative sports more welcoming to the queer community, bringing new fans to the $6-billion world of motorsports.

He’s also largely financing his race team with small donations and personal loans.

So why isn’t he being chased down by national corporate sponsors, like most racecar drivers?

Shumake blames it on the Bud Light effect – corporations becoming overly cautious of partnering with LGBTQ celebs after Bud Light incurred months of bad press, a boycott campaign, and even a bomb threat, after it partnered with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

“It kind of puts everyone on pause. Some of the bigger companies and chains have told me, ‘We love it, we just need to take a beat. Lets’ talk in 2025,’” Shumake says. “I think that’s my biggest challenge right now in the post Bud-light era. I used to be like this very highly valued property in motorsports, and now I’m like untouchable.”

Travis Shumake (Photo by Chadwick Fowler)

But Shumake says this time is actually an opportunity for corporations to prove their loyalty to queers who have stuck by them.

“Modelo should step up. Or Bud Light could be a hero, like, ‘hey, we messed up but we’re gonna thoughtfully partner with an LGBT person,’” he says.

Motorsports is often thought of as going hand-in-hand with alcohol and tobacco sponsorships, but Shumake is also making the case for sponsors from corporations in the apparel and personal care businesses – and why not? With his rugged good looks, lean physique, and perfect teeth, he could easily model for Old Navy or Crest Whitestrips.

The morning I spoke with him, he tells me he’s reached out to 300 potential sponsors.

“It can’t just be liquors and cigarettes,” he says, noting that the 30 million racing fans in America are a huge market to reach out to.

Shumake positions his quest for sponsorship as a fight for LGBT equity.

“I feel like I’m fighting for our piece of the LGBT in motorsports pie,” he says, explaining he’s turned down sponsorship offers from queer organizations – although he proudly places logos for GLAAD and Human Rights Campaign on his race car for free. 

“I don’t want gay money. I want the Bass Pro Shop money. We are a huge piece of the economy, and we are not getting our fair share,” he says.

Finding sponsorships has become an even bigger concern since Shumake took the step of buying his own racing team this summer. 

Running his team – including paying his crew, insurance, fuel, and travel costs – costs around $3.2 million per year, according to Shumake’s estimates. 

“Every time I turn on the race car, I spend about $20,000,” he says. “That’s why there’s never been a professional gay race car driver, because you need a company that has that money to spend.”

But for Shumake, transitioning from driver to owner-driver was an important part of confronting homophobia that still exists in the sport.

 “It’s been a struggle being a gay guy in the sport and wanting to be my authentic self but also make these old conservative guys happy,” Shumake says. “At the end of last season, guys on my team wouldn’t wear my crew apparel. And there’s nothing gay about it, but they just don’t want to be associated with me. And there was nothing I could do because it wasn’t my car.” 

Even as an owner, he says he still encounters homophobia at the track. He says stories frequently get back to him about other drivers and crew members “talking shit” about him. 

Photo by Sadie Gleen

“That makes it tough to hire people. When you’re spending $100,000 on one person’s payroll, you wanna make sure they’re down to clown. You’re on Team Travis,” he says. “If I’m going to be paying for your lodging, you don’t get to go down to drink in the lobby and talk shit. You have to be fully in, because we need to be educating and changing people and I need that to start in my organization.” 

Despite that, Shumake says he is witnessing a slow change in the culture sport, something he can attest to since the sport has been part of his life since he was born. His father, Tripp Shumake, was a race car driver who won two National Hot Rod Association national events. 

“I grew up around the sport, so I thought everyone’s dad drove race cars,” he says. “To me it’s a piece of my family history, and I want to prove to that my family is open and inviting.”

“As a multi-generational, I get someone from every walk of life to say, ‘I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve wanted to come to a drag race my whole life.’ Or, ‘me and my husband have been coming for years. And now we finally have someone to authentically root for.’” 

He says his visibility has also helped build a network of queer fans and drivers, which has also given him an opportunity to help out younger fans and drivers entering the sport. 

“I think that’s been the most rewarding part. The youth is the coolest part. I made that girl a drag racing fan. You’re going to be a drag racing fan for the next 40 years,” he says.

Travis Shumake makes first runs in his own Top Fuel Dragster:


Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Gay Games 11 begin in Hong Kong & Mexico- where is everyone?

Competitions and concerts are underway on two continents over nine days but Reuters reports registrations fell far below expectations



Photo courtesy of Gay Games 11 Hong Kong 2023 organizing committee.

HONG KONG — Organizers call it the world’s largest inclusive sports, arts and culture event: The 11th Gay Games, delayed by a year and cohosted by the cities of Hong Kong and Guadalajara, Mexico. They got underway Nov. 3rd, and for the first time in the 40-year history of the games, they are being held in a city in Latin America and another city in Asia. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gay Games 11 runs through Nov. 11.

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GOP governors demand ‘guaranteed’ fairness on trans athletes

Gov. Kristi Noem’s joint letter opposing NCAA trans policy filled with lies, inaccuracies and transphobic claims



Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, anti-trans pundit Riley Gaines & South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem meeting at the July, 2023 Republican Governors Association gathering in Aspen, Colorado. (Photo Credit: Republican Governors Association/Facebook)

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

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

Not good enough, say the governors. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NBA referee is first out trans nonbinary in U.S. pro sports

Flores is eager to be a role model for queer youth, who are under attack by right wing politicians & extremist religious factions



“I feel one hundred percent myself now,” says Che Flores. (Photo Credit: National Basketball League)

LOS ANGELES — Che Flores, who pronounces their first name “Shay,” is no stranger to basketball. But basketball has never ever seen someone like Flores on the floor. 

After refereeing at least 1,000 games over 14-years in three countries, working in three professional leagues as well as college athletics and deciding the fate of 10 championship games, Flores started their second season in the National Basketball League this week. 

What’s different is that Flores did so as their authentic self: On Oct. 24, they came out as transgender nonbinary. 

“I can go through the world and even my job a lot more comfortably,” Flores told GQ Sports in their first interview about coming out. “One piece I was missing for myself was that no one knew how I identified,” they said. “Being misgendered as ‘she/her’ always just felt like a little jab in the gut.”

Maybe because it’s GQ, or maybe it’s because the reporter is cisgender but also happens to be the brilliant former editor of Jezebel, Emma Carmichael, her otherwise insightful profile of Flores starts with, you guessed it, a focus on clothing choices. Cue the trans trope. 

Flores is quoted denouncing polo shirts and khakis as clothes that they say they will “never freaking going to wear again.” And for their September trip to Brooklyn, ostensibly for the NBA referees’ annual preseason meetings, but more importantly, to announce their coming out, Carmichael relates that, “Packing felt different, less constrained. They felt they could finally dress in clothes that made them feel at ease in their body and true to their gender identity—clothes in line with who they really are.”

“When I started refereeing, you had to look a certain way,” Flores told GQ. “This is the first time I’m comfortable expressing myself through my own fashion and not having to worry about it. I feel one hundred percent myself now.”

Moving on from the clothing trope, Carmichael revealed what happened behind-the-scenes at the NBA, when Flores came out to Monty McCutchen, the NBA’s head of referee training and development during the middle of last season. 

“He immediately just called me ‘Che,’ with no problem, which just makes you feel more comfortable, and easier to let him know everything that was related to my gender,” Flores told GQ.

As a child, Flores said they were seen as a “tomboy,” the oldest child of a Mexican American father and Costa Rican mother in Highland Park in northeast L.A. 

“When I grew up, it was either you chose this feminine role or this masculine role and you identified as a lesbian and that was it,” they said. “That word never felt right with me. But I didn’t have any idea what else was out there to identify as.” Now 44, Flores said they came out as gay at 19, and despite “a bumpy start,” their parents are now strong LGBTQ+ advocates. 

And so is Flores, who is eager to be a role model for queer youth, who are under attack from coast to coast by right wing politicians, extremist religious leaders and conservative school boards and sports organizers. 

“I just think of having younger queer kids look at somebody who’s on a high-profile stage and not using it,” Flores said. 

“And I’m not using the league to an advantage in any way. This is just to let young kids know that we can exist, we can be successful in all different ways. For me, that is most important — to just be a face that somebody can be like, ‘Oh, okay, that person exists. I think I can do that.’”

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National Hockey League reverses ban on Pride tape

Earlier this year, the NHL also adopted a policy banning players from wearing the rainbow-colored Pride jerseys during warm-up sessions



A Washington Capitals player uses Pride tape during warmups at Hockey is for Everyone night in D.C. (Screen capture via Washington Capitals YouTube)

NEW YORK – The National Hockey League confirmed in a short statement on its website on Oct. 24 that it has reversed a decision earlier this month to prohibit its players from placing tape on their hockey sticks representing social causes, including rainbow-colored Pride tape in support of the LGBTQ community.

The reversal by the NHL came after a groundswell of opposition surfaced opposing the ban from a wide range of LGBTQ and LGBTQ supportive sports organizations as well as from some NHL team hockey players. The national LGBTQ advocacy organization GLAAD was among the organizations speaking out against the Pride tape ban.

“After consultation with the NHL Players’ Association and the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition, Players will now have the option to voluntarily represent social causes with their stick tape throughout the season,” the NHL said in its statement.

The LGBTQ sports publication Outsports, which was the first to break the story about the NHL ban on the Pride tape and other cause-oriented tape displays used by NHL players, has pointed out that the use of the tape has always been a voluntary decision by the players.

At the time it adopted the ban on Pride tape and tape denoting other social causes, the NHL said it was responding to concerns raised by some players who objected to what they believed was the appearance that they were supporting causes they did not support. Some said they objected to the Pride tape on religious grounds.

Several sports publications, including Hooked On Hockey Magazine and Daily Hockey Dose, reported that Washington Capitals star player Alex Ovechkin was among a small number of Russian players who raised objections to the display of Pride tape. Ovechkin was also reportedly among the players who objected to players wearing Pride-colored jerseys during practice sessions.

Hooked On Hockey reports that some of the Russian players, who have family members living in Russia, were fearful that their family members could be persecuted, and the players might be detained if they visit their families in Russia under the anti-gay laws adopted under the authoritarian rule of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Earlier this year, the NHL also adopted a policy banning players from wearing the rainbow-colored Pride jerseys during warm-up sessions on the ice. The Pride jerseys were never worn during games.

The NHL did not object to teams continuing to have the Pride jerseys made and sold, with players autographing the jerseys. Some teams have sold the jerseys in auctions to raise money for LGBTQ charities.

Outsports editor and publisher Cyd Zeigler said the NHL’s decision to ban the Pride tape was completely unjustified, calling it “the most stifling, anti-LGBTQ policy any pro sports league in North America has ever issued.”

Zeigler told the Blade the policy was unjustified, among other things, because the players were the ones who decided whether to place the Pride tape on their hockey sticks.

“No one ever complained that someone didn’t do it,” Zeigler said. “So, this is the league just overreacting to a handful of Russian players who didn’t like it,” he said prior to the NHL decision to reverse the policy. “I think that’s what happened. They kowtowed to Vladimir Putin and to the Russians.”

The NHL said from the start that the ban on Pride jerseys and Pride tape would not change its policy of supporting NHL teams that have been holding annual Pride Night Out games in support of the LGBTQ community. All 32 NHL teams, including the Washington Capitals, have hosted Pride Nights or “Hockey is for Everyone” nights in recent years.

Other media reports had surfaced that several players on different teams had indicated plans to defy the now-rescinded NHL policy by displaying Pride tape on their sticks in upcoming games, a development that would place the NHL in the difficult position of deciding whether to penalize those players with a fine or possible suspension from playing.

CBS News reports that Travis Dermott, a player on the Arizona Coyotes hockey team, became the first player to defy the NHL policy banning Pride tape on Oct. 21 when he placed the tape on the shaft of his stick in his team’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.

In response to a question from the Washington Blade submitted prior to the NHL’s decision to reverse its ban on Pride tape, a spokesperson for the Washington Capitals did not say whether the Capitals would comply with the Pride tape ban or penalize their players for defying the ban. But the spokesperson, Sergey Kocharov, said the Capitals remain strongly supportive of the LGBTQ community.

“The Capitals stand proudly with and support the LGBTQ+ community,” he said in his statement. “We strive to create and cultivate an inclusive atmosphere for all our players, staff, and fans and are committed to fostering an environment that welcomes all,” he said.

“Although all players are free to decide on their level of involvement and engagement on Pride Night, and their efforts may vary from season to season, our commitment in this space won’t waiver,” his statement continues. “Everyone is treated with respect and dignity regardless of their sexual orientation or identity, and we will continue to advocate for full LGBTQ+ equality.”

In recent years, the Capitals have entered a small Capitals float in the D.C. Capital Pride Parade. Miguel Ayala, president of Team DC, the local LGBTQ sports organization that helps organize Pride Night Out events with D.C. professional sports teams, said the Capitals have scheduled the next Pride Night Out at the Capitals for March 20.

Ayala told the Blade that while Team DC was disappointed over the NHL decision to ban Pride tape and Pride jerseys, the organization planned to continue to work with the Nationals on the Pride Night Out event.

“The NHL has listened to its loyal fans, hardworking team players, and trusted community members and made the decision to reverse the unnecessary and hurtful policy that banned support of Pride and LGBTQ people,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD in an Oct. 24 statement.

“The NHL has been a longtime supporter of a number of community causes and inclusion, and this decision is reflective of its values which align with the majority of those who follow hockey,” Ellis said.

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Out gay coach leads Las Vegas Aces in back to back championship

Las Vegas is the WNBA’s first back-to-back champions since the Los Angeles Sparks won it all in 2001 and 2002



Becky Hammon (Photo Credit: Sportswomen of Colorado)

NEW YORK — Everyone invested in the WNBA had pretty much figured the Las Vegas Aces had no chance to repeat as champions this season. Going into Wednesday’s Game 4 with two wins over the dramatically overpowering New York Liberty, the team was down two starters, had only eight players available for action and despite securing two wins in the finals, the Aces were facing a team that was literally built to dethrone them as returning champs. 

“This team over here,” head coach Becky Hammon told her players before their first game last Sunday at Barclays Arena in Brooklyn, “was put together to take you out,” as reported by USA Today.

And for awhile, it looked as though the Liberty would even the series at two apiece. 

Down as many as 12 points, the Aces fought hard to beat New York 70-69 Wednesday in the arena that, as The Athletic put it, had been a house of horrors for them this season.

Instead, the Aces turned Barclays into a fun house, winning the series 3-1 for their second consecutive championship under Hammon. 

Becky Hammon won second consecutive crown with thrilling 70-69 victory over NY

“This one’s sweeter,” said Hammon, who is partnered with former basketball player and coach Brenda Milano. They have been together since 2015 and are raising two sons, Samuel and Cayden. 

“(Repeating) is hard to do,” she said after the game. “We went from darling to villain real quick.”

Las Vegas is the WNBA’s first back-to-back champions since the Los Angeles Sparks won it all in 2001 and 2002. 

As The Athletic reported, never before in WNBA Finals history had a team lost two starters between games; All-Star point guard Chelsea Gray and forward Kiah Stokes. The fact the Aces would need to win in an arena where they were 0-3, losing each game by an average of 20 points, appeared to be a mountain too high to climb.

But not to Hammond.

“This group has been forged out of adversity,” she said Tuesday. “They weren’t put together based on super-team expectations. They sucked for a long time (before winning last season).”

Hours before Wednesday night’s game, she drove that point home: “We’re built for this.”

The Aces, the league’s top third-quarter team, dominated that part of Game 4, 23-12, and didn’t let up into the final period, outscoring New York 16-2. With 5:26 remaining, the game was tied, 60-60, as the Aces and Liberty traded baskets, until New York called a timeout with 8.8 seconds left and trailing by one, 70-69.  

New York coach Sandy Brondello had a play for out gay MVP Breanna Stewart to execute. Although the Aces had held Stewart to just 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting that night, he underestimated how well the Aces’ Alysha Clark would defend the basket. The ball landed in the hands of Courtney Vandersloot, who took her shot but air-balled to end it. 

“I put the ball in the hands of the MVP,” said Brondello. “It just didn’t work out. I’d do it again. It was the right call.” 

 “We made up a defense,” said Hammon after the game, “And they executed the crap out of it.” 

“Fortune favors the bold, Becky!” added Clark, who scored 10. Cayla George had 11; They both started with Gray and Stokes out. Clark also grabbed eight rebounds. Jackie Young chipped in 16 points.

Hammon has invested 16 years in the WNBA, and as The Athletic reported, she was a six-time All-Star with two first-team All-WNBA honors. As a coach, she was the first full-time female assistant in NBA history, with the San Antonio Spurs, the first female head coach in the NBA Summer League, the first woman on a coaching staff at an NBA All-Star Game, the first female acting head coach in an NBA game and the first rookie coach to win a WNBA championship. 

This summer, Hammon was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, alongside Gregg Popovich, coach of the Spurs, who joked he was considering getting tossed from his own game so he could watch Hammon and the Aces. 

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Diana Nyad comes out in support of trans inclusion in sports

“After a lot of deep diving,” trailblazing swimmer reverses her stance & expresses regret, “we should all have equal opportunities to play”



Diana Nyad/Instagram

LOS ANGELES — Ten years after making history as the first and only person to swim unaided from Cuba to Florida, without a shark cage, Diana Nyad has reversed course on her well-publicized opposition to inclusion of transgender athletes in sports. 

“I am today firmly on the side of inclusion,” Nyad told Out Magazine, which named her as one of its Out 100 on Tuesday. “Trans women athletes deserve our utmost respect. I stand with them in the world of sports and in the fight for full equality for all trans people. We are all sisters and siblings under the blue sky, and we should all have equal opportunities to play the sports we choose, the sports we love.”

Nyad, 74, told out trans journalist Mey Rude she now regrets what she wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post in February 2022. In that essay, she believed “the physical disparity” between cisgender women and trans athletes, like college swimmer Lia Thomas, “remains too great for equal performance potential.” Nyad added, “it’s the science, the biology, that must drive the argument.” 

So what changed? 

“I have come to understand that the science is far more complex than I thought, and there are clearly more educated experts than I who are creating policy to ensure that elite sports are both fair and inclusive of all women,” Nyad told Out. “I regret weighing in on that conversation and any harm I may have caused.” 

Nyad, an out lesbian whose historic swim in 2013 is the subject of a forthcoming Netflix film starring Annette Bening and Jodie Foster, said she felt it necessary to speak out amid the current wave of transphobia in sports and society,

“Also, in recent times, the climate for the transgender community has turned dire and dangerous. I now see how all women are negatively affected by the ways transgender women are targeted by discrimination and abuse in sports and elsewhere.”

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