Metro Weekly

LGBTQ sports leagues struggle with canceling or postponing tournament play

D.C.'s sports teams are disappointed, but eager to resume playing once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides

lgbtq, gay,sports, league, tournament, bingham cup
Pacific Rimmers vs Renegades at the Bingham Cup, an LGBTQ rugby tournament – Credit: Quake Rugby / Instagram.

Even LGBTQ sports leagues are being impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Gay Flag Football League previously announced that it will not host Gay Bowl XX, which was scheduled to take place in Hawaii in October.

“A decision has been made regarding Hawaii 2020. The board, unfortunately, and with deep sadness, has to announce we are canceling that event,” NGFFL Commissioner Thurman Williams said in a video statement. “This decision, while difficult, is prudent.

“The unfortunate truth is that, while Gay Bowl is in October, and it seems to be far away, we cannot forecast what is to come as it concerns COVID-19,” Williams continued. “And without good conscience, we can’t put at risk the Gay Bowl Committee, your local leagues, your finances, and the legacy of NGFFL as part of this decision. All of us can be severely impacted waiting and waiting to make this decision…. We recognize that this decision can be unpopular, but we appreciate and thank you for your trust, because this was one of the most difficult decisions we had to make in our history.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, NAGAA, the national gay softball league, is still planning to host the Gay Softball World Series in Columbus in August, reports OutSports.

ASANA, the softball and football league for LGBTQ women, has canceled its 2020 tournament, set to to take place in Virginia Beach in September. Instead, Virginia Beach will host the 2021 tournament, and D.C. will host the 2022 tournament, per a Facebook announcement

See also: Washington Wetskins takes home bronze medal from international championships

The Bingham Cup, the biennial international LGBTQ rugby championship, has been postponed to 2022, and will take place in Ottawa, Canada.

The North American Gay Volleyball Association was set to host its championships in Las Vegas in late May, but those have been canceled. NAGVA President Lew Smith noted in a written statement that the Convention Center hall where games were to be played has been taken over by Nevada officials amid the pandemic.

The National Gay Basketball Association has canceled its 2020 events, and hopes to bring back tournament play next year, in time to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Coady Roundball Classic in Chicago, reports OutSports.

The Gay and Lesbian Tennis Association has put every tournament on hold for this year, and is following the lead of the United States Tennis Association before resuming national competitions.

The International Gay and Lesbian Football Association will host a “virtual world championship” for soccer players, where matches will be simulated on a popular computer game, with tournament play beginning on May 16. The organization hopes to resume in-person competitions next year.

IGLA, the international swimming, diving, and water polo organization, hosted its 2020 championship in Melbourne in February, and is hoping to hold its 2021 championships in Salt Lake City next May.

The Sin City Classic, a multi-sport event scheduled for Las Vegas in January hasn’t announced any changes to its event, though it remains to be seen whether any are necessary, depending on the extent of the pandemic and how severe a “second wave” of infections — expected to hit later this fall — ends up being.

D.C.’s two-time national champion Generals at Gay Bowl XIX in New York in 2019 – Photo: Facebook.

Locally, these cancellations or postponements have a significant effect on D.C. area LGBTQ sports teams, who were hoping to compete and bring home medals, titles, and other honors.

The DC Gay Flag Football League Travel Board, which oversees the league’s competitive play (which is separate from its regular spring and fall seasons, which are recreational), released a statement saying it was “sad” to hear about the cancellation of Gay Bowl.

But the travel board also called the cancellation a “prudent and appropriate decision to protect players and all their communities,” noting that the logistics of postponing the event would have been difficult to navigate for people who had to book travel plans to Hawaii — an expensive endeavor — and arrange to take time off from work.

“D.C. was hoping to maintain the momentum from our excellent showing at Gay Bowl in 2019, where all five of our teams finished in the semifinals, including two teams winning the championships in their divisions,” the board said. “We were excited and motivated to go compete in Hawaii this year, and our energies were focused on creative ideas for fundraising to help players get there. Our Women’s Division team, the Senators, had plans to grow their numbers to include a second women’s team.

“We’re not sure yet how this year will turn out, but we are very motivated to kick the momentum back up for 2021, and pick up right where we left off in 2019,” the board added. “These travel events are more than just sports tournaments to many of us — they help us celebrate a unique, diverse, and close community of friends and allies. We’ll support our community through these tough times and know that it’ll still be there, just as strong, when we are through this.”

Read more: Bingham Cup: D.C.’s gay rugby teams find success in Tennessee

Ned Kieloch, the president of the Washington Renegades Rugby Club, expressed regret over the postponement of the Bingham Cup, but noted it was a reasonable move to protect the health of players.

“The Bingham Cup is a big deal for us. We were planning to do what we’ve done for the past couple of Bingham Cups, which is to send three sides to the tournament, so they ultimately wind up competing in different brackets that align to their level of play,” Kieloch told Metro Weekly in an interview.

“USA Rugby is kind of going month-to-month in terms of what they’re going to allow for reopening the sport. In terms of Bingham Cup, it’s not been canceled, it’s only been postponed. But our plans won’t be changing,” Kieloch said. “We have a whole slate of regular games, assuming that rugby opens up for the fall. We are planning on having a fall season, but we’ll have to see what the world throws our way. But as disappointed as we are, you have to take the short-term pain and disappointment with the goal of long-term success. We’ll be back to playing rugby as soon as we can be.”

D.C.’s other LGBTQ rugby club, the DC Scandals, did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

CAPS softball – Photo: Facebook.

Tony Mace, the commissioner of D.C.’s Chesapeake and Potomac Softball (CAPS) League, told Metro Weekly in an interview that the CAPS board was meeting on a biweekly basis to come up with new plans or carry out plans for the new season.

“We’re sort of in a holding pattern, because we play in Maryland, so we’re dependent on Gov. Hogan and his opening up the economy,” Mace said, noting that the regular competitive softball season was supposed to start on Sunday, April 19. “Our recreational, instructional season is our fall season, and we have no comment or update on that as of now.”

Mace said that typically, CAPS’ competitive season would end in July. But because of the pandemic, there are three options: hold a season with a condensed schedule (the best case scenario, and the most unlikely), 

“My ultimate goal for the league is to make sure that if we can provide softball this year, it is in a safe manner for our community,” Mace added. “My actions on the board are to provide softball to the LGBTQ+ community, but with this going on, I have to be able to do that in a safe manner, and if I can’t do that, I won’t do it.”

He floated the possibility of requiring players to don masks while playing, having hand sanitizer on hand, or other measures to allow league members to play without further exposing themselves to infection.

“As a league, [NAGAA decision not to cancel] doesn’t directly impact our decision as a board, because my entire league doesn’t go to the World Series. So if we figure we can provide safe softball, we will continue with the season, regardless of what NAGAA does. If we don’t believe we can provide a safe environment, we will cancel, regardless of what NAGAA or ASANA’s decisions.”

Washington Wetskins water polo team – Photo courtesy of Dan Martin.

Even though the IGLA championships haven’t been canceled, the Washington Wetskins, D.C.’s LGBTQ water polo team, issued a statement saying that the team — which won the bronze medal at this year’s championships in February — fully intends to compete in Salt Lake City next year.

“For IGLA Championships, the host team is selected and begins to prepare years in advance, so COVID-19 hasn’t disrupted plans for 2021 since they have already been in motion for quite some time, fortunately,” the team told Metro Weekly in a statement. 

“It is hard to say what the norms will be for 2021, but as long as we feel comfortable that it is safe for our teammates to travel and play, and that aquatics facilities are operating per CDC guidelines, we will look forward to making another strong appearance at IGLA.”


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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

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