Metro Weekly

Bearing All: Nashville Grizzlies Rugby Team

Gay rugby team strips down for their Bingham Cup fundraising calendar

Josh McKluey, T., Brian Jones, Kaz, Steve Mihalic and Brett Anthony

“I’m not a very shy person. So the thought of being mostly naked in a calendar didn’t really deter me from doing it,” says Jamie Williams. “It’s a great way to support the team and the brotherhood that we have, and just have a fun time.”

Williams’ self-confidence came in handy for the Nashville Grizzlies Rugby 2016 calendar, where he and Grizzlies President Jeremy Dykes bared all for the camera — save for a strategically-placed rugby ball.

“We were the first to do that shot, so we were the first two that were completely naked in front of everybody,” Williams recalls. “Everybody’s standing there staring at us, watching us take these pictures. And then after our picture was over, the guys got the bright idea, like, ‘Hey, maybe all of us should go around the corner while people taking these pictures.’ And I was like, ‘No, you don’t get to do that. All of you were standing there staring at me!'”

Bryson Shafer, Kazu Hashida
Bryson Shafer, Kazu Hashida

Now in its fourth year, the Grizzlies’ calendar — an annual fundraiser for the gay (and inclusive) rugby team — has become fairly popular among the locals, even those who aren’t LGBT.

“We’ve actually had a lot of comments from people in general, just our local scene,” says Williams. “It’s well-received, even though we are in the South. Obviously, there are some commenters who are less than kind, but I haven’t seen much of that this year in terms of negative comments.”

Typically, the team tries to sell between 300 and 400 calendars, says Thomas Hormby, secretary of the Grizzlies. At $15 each, that can translate into some serious cash for the team, who has to foot the cost of travel expenses, field rentals, transportation to and from said fields, and liability coverage in case of unforeseen injuries. Because the aim of the Grizzlies is to create a “safe space” that is open to players of various backgrounds, the money raised by the team helps to cover costs for its less well-off members.

Jamie Williams, Joey Brakefield, Will Harmon
Jamie Williams, Joey Brakefield, Will Harmon

According to Hormby, one of the strengths of the Grizzlies’ calendar is the diversity it showcases.

“I think our calendar is very body-positive,” he says. “We include people of all different ages, all different builds, all different rugby positions. I think people really appreciate that. I think they find it more relatable if there are more kinds of guys in the calendar. We don’t just look for muscular, cut guys.”

Mark Hutchinson and Billy Reese
Mark Hutchinson and Billy Reese

That’s something to which Brett Potter can attest.

“I helped at the photo shoot all day, and I was in a couple of the shots,” says Potter. “I was really hesitant at first, because if you type in someone’s name and that pops up in Google, some of the shots are pretty risque. However, they asked me to be a part because I’m more of a muscle bearish kind of guy. I’m a little bigger. They said they were trying to appeal to different people and show how inclusive they are. So I said yes.”

“It’s a great time for friends of the team to get together, and goof around, and put out something that people really enjoy viewing and enjoy buying,” Williams says of the publicity the calendar generates. “It’s a great way to raise money.”

Jamie Williams
Jamie Williams

In addition to hawking calendars online, the Grizzlies are also preparing to host the Bingham Cup in May 2016. Named after Mark Bingham, the gay rugby player who died aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a field in Pennsylvania during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the cup is the biggest tournament in the world for gay teams. Next year will also mark the first time any such tournament has been held in the South. Forty-five different teams and up to 1,500 players and supporters from across the globe are expected to be in attendance.

“We’re really excited to bring the Bingham Cup to Nashville and show gay and inclusive rugby players from around the world that Nashville is not just a Southern city,” Hormby says. “It’s accepting and inclusive and will embrace the tournament — and embrace them.”

The 2016 Nashville Grizzlies Calendar is $15 and can be purchased at grizzliesrugby.org under the site’s market tab.

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