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Memo to Sharks: Just do it
by Roger Brigham

The 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants received major community kudos this year when they became the first American pro sports team to make an It Gets Better video for a national anti-bullying campaign that has produced some 20,000 videos, including one from President Barack Obama. But the San Jose Sharks front office has turned down the request of a longtime fan to make a team video for the campaign, saying it is "too busy."

"While Sharks sports and entertainment praises the efforts of the It Gets Better campaign, we receive hundreds of requests each season to get involved in a vast array of worthy and admirable causes – yet it is simply not possible to say yes to all such requests," the Sharks said in a press statement.

Sharks fan and gay rights activist Gloria Nieto, who made the request of the team, has started an online petition at http://www.Change.org to ask Sharks executives to have the team make the video.

The Giants have the longest and strongest tradition of Bay Area pro franchises courting the LGBT market and addressing LGBT concerns, and most of the other local franchises have LGBT Nights and other efforts. The Sharks have been a little slow to address gay fans but did hold their first LGBT Night last season, though club executives downplayed the significance of that. (See http://www.ebar.com/columns/column.php?sec=sports&id=334.)

A 2005 study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network indicates that 65 percent of LGBT students are bullied because of their orientation or perceived orientation, students hear anti-gay taunts dozens of times in a day and teachers almost never intervene.

Memo to Sharks players: Your executives may be too busy, but nothing is stopping the rest of you. You make money; now make a difference. You don't need to be sponsored by Nike to know you should Just Do It.

Gay Bowl XI

The same weekend rains that disrupted the start of the American League Championship Series in the Dallas area plagued flag football's Gay Bowl XI in Houston. After pool play on Friday, October 7 and two rounds of championship play the next day, the finals rounds of the 25-team tournament were washed out.

The New York Warriors, Phoenix Hellraisers, San Diego Toros and San Diego Bolts all had advanced to the semifinal round before play ended.

San Francisco Crash lost 28-7 to the Warriors and edged the Jacksonville Surge 20-19 in the first day of pool play, then advanced to the championship bracket with a 27-21 victory over the Houston Hurricanes. In that bracket they were crushed by the Phoenix Hellraisers, 41-0, in the first round.

The Gay Bowl is run by the National Gay Flag Football League. Although numerous members of the league who played in the tournament boast of non-discrimination in the club membership policies, including no restrictions on participation by heterosexuals, the Gay Bowl is one of the few LGBT sports events that restrict participation by heterosexuals. Bowl rules stipulate that clubs are pledged not to have more than a 20 percent straight composition on Gay Bowl teams.

A league player survey this year found that "Straight players in the Gay Bowl has the potential to be a hot topic. While there is very strong support for allowing straight players to play, most believe that the number per team should be limited. The general opinion seems to focus on the difficulty for truly enforcing a straight player limit and that, in a league preaching tolerance, excluding certain people seems counter intuitive. Still, there are those that have a strong opinion that straight players should not even be allowed to play – that this is first and foremost about gay athletes."

Overall the survey found 90 percent of players wanting straight players allowed in the Gay Bowl but 70 percent supporting a limit on their participation.

Memo to flag football players: The great service that LGBT sports provide is a safe and accepting forum in which LGBT individuals can excel at and compete in the sports experience and empower themselves through the respect that fosters. But both the experience and the respect are meaningless if they are a ghettoized phenomenon that does not engage the broader community around us. The longer you keep your self-imposed barriers up, the longer you will fear them coming down and the less opportunity you will have to breath free and excel at your best, and for others outside our community to recognize and share your experience.

Every four years you play in the Gay Games and there is no restriction there to straight participation. The world doesn't stop spinning.

Gay Games protesters lose lawsuit

Volunteers for America, which advocates an anti-gay message in protests and ministries, has been told it may not sue the city of Chicago for arresting three of its volunteers during the Gay Games in 2006, Courthouse News Service reports.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court ruling issued October 5 tosses out the federal claim by Michael Marcavage, James Deferio, and Faith Deferio that the city violated their First and 14th Amendment rights when it arrested them resisting its crowd control efforts.

"At oral argument, the plaintiffs were asked to provide whatever evidence they had of the officers' hostility toward their message; none was offered," Judge William Bauer wrote for the court panel. "This shows that the restrictions were content-neutral. The alternate locations were within view and earshot of those traveling to the Games. We harbor no doubt that from these locations, the plaintiffs had ample opportunity to capture the attention of the Games attendees and supporters; they were only limited by their own stubborn refusal to move there."

The court did order that the permit restrictions policies be reviewed to see if it is appropriate for them to be employed for groups as small as the Volunteers for America protesters.

The Courthouse News report is available at http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/10/05/40335.htm.

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