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Kluwe: Rabidly homophobic Vikings fired me for being pro-gay

Coach Priefer: "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows."


Swimming toward gold

Dustin Sigward, sports, Gay Games, DCAC, gay news, Washington Blade

Dustin Sigward will compete at the Gay Games in August. (Photo by Kevin Majoros)

This is the first in a series of spotlights on the LGBT athletes from the Washington area who will be competing in the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland/Akron. Dustin Sigward will compete in swimming for the District of Columbia Aquatics Club (DCAC). He is also a member of the Stonewall Kickball League.


WASHINGTON BLADE: What is your swimming background?

DUSTIN SIGWARD: My swimming experience is almost strictly from high school in Florida. I joined the swim team my freshman year and was barely able to put my face in the water. I was raised in Virginia and my experience with pools was limited to the occasional birthday party or the random summer day. Through hard work and playing water polo, I went from dog paddling to competing in the state championships in three years. I would say that puberty had something to do with it, but I am still waiting for the time I can shave every day. I wanted to swim in college at the University of Florida whose roster at the time included Ryan Lochte. Since I put myself through school, it was not possible to work multiple jobs, attend classes and keep up with the two-a-day workouts and mandatory weight lifting that comes with Division 1 swimming. I have been swimming with DCAC for a little over a year and I am faster than I ever was in high school. At the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics Championships (IGLA) in Seattle last year, I took home six gold medals.


BLADE: Did you play any other sports growing up?

SIGWARD: I played water polo for three years in high school. It’s a grueling sport and it really helped me step up my swimming game.


BLADE: What events will you compete in at the Gay Games?

SIGWARD: I have not registered for my events yet, but I probably will not be swimming anything over 100 meters unless it is in a relay. I will definitely be competing in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and 50 butterfly.


BLADE: What will your training regimen consist of leading up to the Gay Games?

SIGWARD: I will be training in the pool three-to-four times a week and lifting weights five days a week. I would like to include some yoga, but do not see that happening with a full-time job, part-time bartending, kickball and the obligatory post-kickball flip cup.


BLADE: What is it about swimming that keeps you in the sport?

SIGWARD: Along with the health benefits, swimming is a great full body workout with low impact. If you look at some of the guys on our team, you would think we had found the fountain of youth. I also feel a great sense of achievement when I break a personal record or set a goal and can see measurable progress towards it. It is just a great sport for an introvert. I like to say that I am like a cat; I like to be people-adjacent. I like seeing them, but don’t necessarily want to interact with them for too long. Swimming is incredibly cathartic and it puts me in the zone and gives me a chance to get to know a bunch of new people without getting overwhelmed.  Most of the practice is spent counting laps and singing show tunes to myself.


BLADE: Any embarrassing swimming stories to share?

SIGWARD: In high school, I was very shy and the process of getting fitted for my first Speedo was a horrifying ordeal. The female coach inspected our suits for a proper fit and just as she was about to tug at my waistband, I heard a shriek from one of the female swimmers and saw an accusatory finger pointing to the fact that most of my scrotum was hanging out of my suit. I have since grown to love Speedos but I am quite diligent about how neatly put away everything is and a few people on DCAC have commented about my suits being a little too conservative.


BLADE: Have you been to the Gay Games? What are you most looking forward to?

SIGWARD: This will be my first Gay Games and I am looking forward to beating a few personal records and maybe getting a team record in the process. Mostly I am going to enjoy traveling with a bunch of really great people.


Vikings investigate homophobia allegations

Chris Kluwe, National Football League, gay news, Washington Blade, Minnesota Vikings

Chris Kluwe (Photo by Joe Bielawa)

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe claims his advocacy for marriage equality prompted the team to cut him from its roster last year.

Kluwe claimed in a Jan. 2 post to the website Deadspin that special teams coach Mike Priefer said in “one of the meanest voices I can ever recall hearing” during a November meeting that, “We should round up all the gays, send them to an island and then nuke it until it glows.” The outspoken same-sex marriage advocate went on to say Vikings owner Zygi Wilf backed his efforts, but head coach Leslie Fraiser asked him to stop his efforts.

Priefer has denied Kluwe’s allegations as CBS News reported.

The Vikings stressed Kluwe’s performance and salary — and not his activism in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples — contributed to the decision to release him from the roster. The team has launched an investigation into their former punter’s allegations.


Countdown to the games

Mark Hertzendorf, sailing, gay games, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Hertzendorf says any serious sailer has accumulated some embarrassing stories. (Photo courtesy Hertzendorf)

This week in the continuing series on the LGBT athletes of Washington who will compete at the 2014 Cleveland/Akron Gay Games, we visit with Mark Hertzendorf of the Rainbow Spinnakers Sailing Club.


WASHINGTON BLADE: What is your sailing background?

HERTZENDORF: I took my first sailing class when I was a freshman in college at SUNY-Oswego on Lake Ontario. Although I sailed a bit on Lake Ontario that year, the training didn’t really take hold until years later. It was several years before I found out about Rainbow Spinnakers Sailing Club at Capital Pride. Since joining the Rainbow Spinnakers, I haven’t stopped sailing. I began sailing with them on the Potomac River from Belle Haven Marina using Flying Scots. After a number of years, I started dividing my time equally between sailing on the Potomac River and sailing in Baltimore Harbor mostly on Sonar23s — a racing boat popular in this area. More recently I’ve spent time sailing and fixing up my Catalina 25 currently located at Belle Haven Marina.


BLADE: Did you play any other sports growing up?

HERTZENDORF: My only other form of consistent exercise has been swimming.


BLADE: Will you be racing in the competitive division or the recreational division at the Gay Games?

HERTZENDORF: The Rainbow Spinnaker’s team will be racing in the recreational fleet. It’s a bit of a misnomer perhaps to refer to one of the fleets as recreational and the other as competitive. Both fleets will be competing fiercely. The terms are generally used to distinguish between fleets that will fly a spinnaker downwind, versus those that will rely on the standard jib or genoa sail. So, perhaps ironically given our name, our team will not be flying a spinnaker.


BLADE: Tartan Yachts is supplying the fleet to be used at the Gay Games. Will it be difficult to navigate a boat that is new to you?

HERTZENDORF: Navigating a new boat should not be difficult. I’ve sailed on many different types of boats, as have the other team members.


BLADE: What will your training regimen consist of leading up to the Gay Games?

HERTZENDORF: Our team members have limited racing experience since that hasn’t been the focus of Rainbow Spinnakers. Most of the team has signed up for a racing seminar at J-World in Annapolis. We haven’t settled on specific training schedule, but we intend to participate in local races throughout the season in preparation for the Games.


Mark Hertzendorf, sailing, gay games, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Hertzendorf (Photo courtesy Hertzendorf)

BLADE: What is it about sailing that keeps you in the sport?

HERTZENDORF: There is nothing like being out on the water. A famous quote says, “A bad day on the water is always better than a good day on land.” There is always something new to learn and opportunities to improve your skill set. As you get older, you just get bigger boats.


BLADE: Any embarrassing sailing stories to share?

HERTZENDORF: Too many to count. If you don’t have any embarrassing stories to tell, you haven’t been a serious sailor. My favorite such story is the time I tried to impress my friends in Seattle with my relatively new sailing skills. The first day visiting my friends I rented a boat from the Center for Wooden Boats on Lake Union.  Inside of an hour I had managed to sail into a houseboat. A guy in a rowboat with his dog attempted to rescue me, but the effort ultimately required a power boat from the CWB. I swear it wasn’t my fault. Apparently the keel of the boat had not been lowered before they handed her off to me. This was a strange, old-fashioned wooden boat where the adjustment had to be made deep in the hull. This made it impossible for me to tact into the wind.


BLADE: Have you been to the Gay Games? What are you most looking forward to?

HERTZENDORF: This will be the first time I’ve participated in a serious race.  I am really looking forward to the opening ceremony and competing.


Retired German soccer player Thomas Hitzlsperger comes out

Thomas Kitzlsperger, soccer, sports, gay news, Washington Blade

Thomas Kitzlsperger (Photo by Egghead06; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Recently retired soccer player Thomas Hitzlsperger has become the first German footballer to come out as gay.

“I am expressing my homosexuality because I want to promote the discussion of homosexuality among professional athletes,” he told the German newspaper Die Zeit that published excerpts of the interview on its website on Wednesday.

The Associated Press reported the 31-year-old midfielder played 52 games for Germany between 2004-2011 that included an appearance in the 2006 World Cup. Hitzlsperger also played for the English Premier League teams West Ham and Everton, Stuttgart and Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga and the Italian soccer team Lazio.

Injuries forced the midfielder to retire last September.

“Homosexuality is not an issue in England, Germany or Italy, at least in the locker room,” Hitzlsperger told Die Zeit.

Hitzlsperger said he takes issue with stereotypes associated with gays.

The retired midfielder told Die Zeit while he has never been “ashamed” of who he is, he has struggled to cope with some of his teammates’ homophobic remarks.

“Think about it: There are 20 young men sitting around a table and drinking,” Hitzlsperger told Die Zeit. “You let the majority of it go, as long as the jokes are reasonably funny and the garbage about homosexuals is not massively offensive.”

Several of Hitzlsperger’s former teammates applauded him for coming out.

“Brave and right decision,” tweeted German forward Lukas Podolski. “His outing is an important sign in our time.”

Former England captain Gary Lineker on Twitter congratulated Hitzlsperger for “bravely being the first player to have played in the [English Premier League] to ‘come out.’” Former NBA center John Amaechi also applauded the retired German midfielder.

“It’s certainly too bad that he didn’t come out last year while he was still with Everton, but his coming out now is still another step,” wrote Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of, an LGBT sports website, after Die Zeit published excerpts of its interview with Hitzlsperger. “European soccer has long been the most homophobic corner of the Western sports world. It makes the NFL look like a local GLAAD chapter.”

Hitzlsperger came out nearly a year after Robbie Rogers of the Los Angeles Galaxy publicly declared his homosexuality.

Swedish footballer Anton Hysen came out as gay in 2011.


Road to the Gay Games

Lindsey Warren-Shriner, DCAC, District of Columbia Aquatics Club, gay news, Washington Blade, gay games

Lindsey Warren-Shriner says the daily routine of swimming has been a good discipline for her. (Photo by Kevin Majoros)

This week in the continuing series on the LGBT athletes of Washington who will be competing at the 2014 Cleveland/Akron Gay Games, we visit with swimmer Lindsey Warren-Shriner of the District of Columbia Aquatics Club.

Warren-Shriner was recently awarded the Rick Meier Windes Memorial Award in recognition of excellence in distance swimming for her performance at the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics Championships in Seattle in 2013.


WASHINGTON BLADE:  What is your swimming background?

LINDSEY WARREN-SHRINER:  I took an introduction to competitive swimming class during the fall of my (high school) freshman year to fulfill my P.E. requirement and tried out for the varsity swim team that winter and didn’t make it. I took the class again during the fall of my sophomore year and made the team that winter.

That first year, I was one of the slowest swimmers and didn’t even compete with the team at championships. By my senior year, I had started to focus on distance events and dropped more than 30 seconds from my 500-yard freestyle time in one season. That led to me talking to swim coaches as I visited colleges, which was not something I would have expected even a year earlier.

I went on to swim for Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania for two years and then transferred to Bowdoin College in Maine, in part because they had a phenomenal swim program.   I have been swimming with DCAC since I graduated and moved to D.C. almost four years ago, and I have also done several triathlons and open water races.


BLADE:  Did you play any other sports growing up?

WARREN-SHRINER:  I did a lot — soccer, basketball, softball and tennis — and was really bad at all of them. I definitely wasn’t great when I started swimming either, but I liked it from the beginning and was more motivated to get better than I had been with any other sport.


BLADE: What events will you compete in at the Gay Games?

WARREN-SHRINER:  I’ll be doing all of the distance events — the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter freestyle events and the 400-meter individual medley.


BLADE:  What will your training regimen consist of leading up to the Gay Games?

WARREN-SHRINER:  I usually go to six or seven DCAC practices a week. I don’t really like going to the gym so I stick with swimming. We practice for an hour and a half and I usually end up swimming almost 4,000 yards a day. We also have one night a week where we have a distance-oriented workout which is good preparation for the events I swim.


BLADE:  What is it about swimming that keeps you in the sport?

WARREN-SHRINER: Since I started swimming competitively much later than most of my college teammates, I wasn’t ready to stop swimming when I graduated. I found a great team in DCAC that has motivated me to keep swimming in the almost four years that I have been living here. All of my closest friends in D.C. are swimmers and I love to still have the routine of going to practice every day. While I was fortunate to have had incredibly supportive teammates and coaches as an out athlete in college, being on an LGBT team and a part of that community here has definitely kept me in the sport of swimming as well.


BLADE: Any embarrassing swimming stories to share?

WARREN-SHRINER: At the conference championships in my junior year of college, each team had a few high-tech racing suits that got passed around for each of the swimmer’s best events. The suits were extremely tight and impossible to put on without help.

When it was time for me to put the suit on before I swam the 1,650-yard freestyle, my teammates put plastic bags around my feet to get the suit over my ankles, and four of my teammates literally pulled the suit up my legs half an inch at a time while I stood, not helping at all, in the locker room. It was completely ridiculous but I ended up having a great race!


BLADE: Have you been to the Gay Games? What are you most looking forward to at the Gay Games?

WARREN-SHRINER: I have never been to the Gay Games, but I have gone to two IGLA championships with DCAC. I love traveling and competing with the team and I am particularly excited for the Gay Games since it is so much bigger than IGLA. I am very excited to be competing at such a big event for LGBT athletes and representing one of the largest LGBT swim teams in the world.


Ladies on the move

Maryland Stingers, sports, gay news, Washington Blade

The Maryland Stingers. (Photo courtesy the team)

Despite a lot of changes in rugby in this part of the country, the Maryland Stingers, a local women’s team, is gearing up for a busy spring.

The Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union (MARFU) was an association of youth, high school, collegiate and adult men’s and women’s rugby teams in the Mid-Atlantic United States.

In August of 2013, MARFU ceased to exist because of some reshuffling being done by USA Rugby. With approximately 6,800 players from about 180 clubs, MARFU represented the largest territorial rugby union in the United States.

MARFU was split in two and renamed the Mid-Atlantic Conference (NCR4) which now consists of two geographic unions — Capital Geographic Union and East Penn Geographic Union. The teams completed their fall 2013 season under the new designations and are still waiting on the competitive matrix schedule for the spring season.

The Stingers, a women’s Division 2-South club team, are launching their practice schedule in February in anticipation of matrix play beginning in March. The Stingers, who have a presence at Capital Pride every year, are a diverse group of lady rugby players with varying levels of skill and age.

“Because of the transient nature of the D.C. area, recruiting new players is an ongoing process,” says Taryn Michelitch of the Stingers. “In addition to former rugby players, we get a lot of crossover from lacrosse and soccer. Beginners are also always welcome.”

The Stingers’ schedule consists of spring and fall seasons played under the rugby fifteens rules and a summer season played under the rugby sevens rules.

Practices for the spring and fall seasons are held under the lights at Duvall Field in College Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Practices for the summer season are held at the Tacoma Education Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9 p.m.

Dues for the team are tiered with first-year members paying a lower amount. All players must join USA Rugby to compete.

For those who have never played Rugby, the Stingers offer skills practices at the beginning of each season.

“We start the seasons out with ‘rookie practices’ consisting of non-contact skills,” Michelitch says. “An experienced player will spend concentrated time with the rookies going over skills and rules.”

In addition to league play, the Stingers compete in rugby tournaments throughout the year. In the past they’ve competed at Ruggerfest in Manassas, Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington and Cape Fear in Wilmington, N.C.

Despite their busy schedule, the lady Stingers find time to give back to the community.  Periodically during the year, they can be found doing clean-up on Duvall Field.

They have also volunteered their time in the United States Quad Rugby Association. The University of Maryland Rehabilitation and Orthopaedic Institute is home to Maryland Mayhem, a collision (wheelchair rugby) team.

Look for the Stingers to start bi-weekly practices in February for the spring season.

“Our roster of players usually ranges from 20 to 30 players,” Michelitch says. “We have a core group of women who play consistently from year to year which is why the team has remained active since the early 1980s.”


Batter up

Gay Games, Glenn Conklin, CAPS, gay news, Washington Blade

Glenn Conklin, first at left standing, with his CAPS teammates during last summer’s North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance Softball World Series in Washington. (Photo courtesy Conklin)

Growing up, Glenn Conklin was much more passionate about tennis than he was softball. Though he would tag along to practices and warm up with his younger sister, who was quite serious about the game, tennis was his main sport.

But times have changed. Though he eventually ended up competing in major junior tennis tournaments and attended the University of South Carolina on a Division I tennis scholarship, softball is now the sport Conklin is most invested in. In August he’ll travel to the Gay Games in Cleveland with the Chesapeake and Potomac Softball League (CAPS), the league of which he’s enjoying his third season currently.

“I have become addicted to playing softball because of my teammates and the great friends I have made along the way,” the 35-year-old Warwick, N.Y., says. “Softball is wonderful because everything I do on the field is a shared experience with 15 or so other guys. We triumph together and we fall together. I have a great appreciation for the skill and talent it takes to play the sport and I keep coming back because I know the more I play, the better I will get. I have a great deal of room to get better.”

Conklin, by day a Human Capital Strategist for Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, spends a lot of his free time playing softball. The CAPS, which came in ninth out of 50 teams in its division at the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance Gay Softball World Series held in Washington last summer, also have a travel team the Conklin co-formed with CAPS Commissioner Ed Vincent. Last year, members played tournaments in Las Vegas, Atlanta and Columbis, Ohio. This year, they’ll be in Philadelphia for Memorial Day weekend and in the Bourbon Street Classic in New Orleans in December, in addition to the Gay Games.

This will be Conklin’s first time at the Gay Games. He’s looking forward to what he hopes will be a “loud and proud contingent of (D.C.) athletes to represent our area.”

To prepare, he’s focusing on playing as much as possible in the months ahead, building up game speed and regular trips to the batting cages to work on hitting.

“Stamina and endurance are everything in a tournament that spans multiple days where you may need to play 10-15 games in the span of five days, so I will take cardio and endurance training more seriously this summer to make certain I am ready to play whenever I am needed,” Conklin says.

He also, of course, hopes to stay free of injury as well.

“I do seem to be more prone to injury than others,” he says. “One time as I was sprinting through first base, I clipped the first baseman’s leg, flew forward in a mid-air roll, banged my head on a rock and knocked myself unconscious. Who says softball is a non-contact sport?”

And as with any athlete going to a major tournament, he has envisioned what it would feel like to stand on the podium at Firestone Atadium in Akron, Ohio, hearing the National Anthem and winning a gold medal.

“I am looking forward to giving it 100 percent at the softball diamond and being a leader for my team,” he says. “I expect the competition to be focused and intense, but friendly. I am looking forward to spending time with my teammates and sharing this experience with them, and I am looking forward to making new friends from all over the globe.”


Change is coming to homoerotic world of NFL

Kate Clinton, gay news, Washington Blade

Kate Clinton is a humorist who has entertained LGBT audiences for 30 years.

The Super Bowl High Holy Days approach, signaling the end of the Concussion Season. Unless you’ve been under a rock, and I say that with some envy, you know the game between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will take place in Metlife Stadium in New Jersey, unless there’s another “traffic study” from Gov. Conehead. The Jets and the Giants RSVPed their regrets weeks ago. Much has been made of Colorado and California, two states with legalized marijuana, thus The Stoner Bowl.

We’ve seen the effects on tennis players at the Australian Open of whatever is the polar opposite of the polar vortex: passing out, cramping, vomiting, dehydration, Sharapova’s barks at only a raspy .02 decibels. But apparently the Aussie organizers were unable to see the signs and ordered play to continue. I have already ordered one of those neat ice vests for the summer!  We can only hope that the Polar Vortex Redux that is again sitting over the Northeast will be gone by Super Bowl game day.

But 2013 saw a remarkable thaw in the hard-packed perma-frost of homophobia in sports. What was once a glacial pace of change is moving as fast as actual glaciers are moving now. Organizers and fans can see the effects.  According to OutSports, in 2013, 77 athletes came out in their sports. Not in sad memoirs 40 years later. LGBT organizing through the Sports Projects Collaboration at NCLR and straight allies organizing through campaigns like “You Can Play,” to name just two, make playing out less of a career death wish.

Football is one of the last bastions of homophobia in sports. It is also one of the most brute, blunt, homoerotic of sports. Especially if you are watching on a friend’s 120-inch plasma flat-paneled TV. Cup-less is in. I’ve always thought players wear facemasks so they can’t kiss. But change is happening in the NFL, even if it can only be gauged by the resistance to it. Stories of locker room bullying, columns rationalizing those reigns of terror and harassment of straight players who speak out in support of LGBT causes are yellow flag infractions in the monolith of maleness.

As more and more players come out during their playing careers, I look forward to the coverage. Sports commentators pride themselves on knowing what a player is thinking just by looking at them. They are sports clairvoyants.  “You know what he’s thinking as he leans over his putter, Jim? He’s thinking he’s got to make the putt, to make the cut, so he has a chance at the prize money, which he desperately needs for an operation for his four-year-old.” If he is thinking that, he will not make the putt. Why not sign up for Affordable Health Care?

But what if the golfer is an out-and-proud gay man? The sportscaster is a bit wary, perhaps clueless.  “You know what he’s thinking as he leans over his putter?” He pauses, looks worriedly to Jim,  “Is ‘putter’ OK?” Jim nods. He continues, “He’s thinking, ‘Look at the color of these shoes! They looked fine at the hotel. They totally fight with the putting green!’” I can’t wait.

After the Stoner Bowl confetti settles, and the Metlife zeppelin leaking NJ hot air pot vape, heads back to its mooring, the coverage turns to the Olympic Games in Sochi with Billie Jean King and other gay athletes leading the U.S. delegation in the opening ceremonies. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Putin has assured LGBT athletes they can have a safe, relaxed time if they don’t talk to the children. All bets are off post-Olympics. Again the resistance matches the change we make.


UMass basketball player comes out as gay

Derrick Gordon, gay news, Washington Blade, basketball, Division I, University of Massechusetts

Derrick Gordon came out to fans on his Instagram account with the statement, “This is the happiest I have ever been in my 22 Years of living…No more HIDING!!!” (Photo via FlashGordon Instagram)

A University of Massachusetts guard has become the first member of a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I basketball player to come out as gay.

“I’ve always loved sports but always felt I had to hide and be someone that I’m not,” Derrick Gordon told ESPN in an interview published on its website on Wednesday. “I am telling my story so that athletes never feel like they have to hide. You can be true to yourself and play the sport that you love.” reported Gordon disclosed his sexual orientation to his teammates on April 2 after the team lost to the University of Tennessee in the NCAA tournament. The website said Wade Davis, a gay former National Football League player, and Gordon’s high school basketball coach, Anthony Nicodemo, worked with the UMass guard to help him come out.

“I was deeply moved watching Derrick open his heart to his UMass basketball family,” said Davis, who is the executive director of the You Can Play Project, in a GLAAD press release. “His desire to invite his teammates into his life speaks to how athletes view their teammates as their family,” said Wade Davis, Executive Director of the You Can Play Project.”

Gordon came out roughly two weeks after Mitch Eby, a football player at Chapman University in California, publicly announced his sexual orientation.

Michael Sam, a defensive lineman at the University of Missouri, in February came out.

The potential mid-round NFL draft pick is poised to potentially become the first openly gay professional football player.