Fall – it’s my favorite time of year and, I have to admit, football is my favorite sport. It brings back happy memories of rooting on my favorite team (Go Steelers!) with friends and family as we sat around the television, sharing our favorite game day food specialties with one another. While I always appreciated the conviviality, I didn’t realize then, never even thought about the social significance sports play in our lives.
In this issue of Compete we’re sharing stories of the National Gay Flag Football League and its players and the impact they’ve made in bringing people together. As it reminds me of those feelings of togetherness, that happily shared sense of community, it reinforces for me the power sports of all kinds have to bring people together. Whether it’s the rough and tumble sports like football or the more cerebral sports like bridge, it gives a variety of people with a variety of backgrounds a chance to get to know each other through a shared interest.
One of the stories in this issue is a powerful follow up account of the Ugandan swimmers who participated in the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) world championships in Canada this summer. Prior to leaving Uganda, two of the five swimmers were in jail, arrested at a Pride celebration –one of them was even urged by family not to return because of death threats. Thank goodness for gay sports organizations in countries like Uganda where same-sex relations are criminal. They offer a refuge for LGBT athletes, providing them a sense of community, a respite from a daily sense of isolation.
In terms of sports diversity, perhaps the best barometer of where we are as a global society is the Olympic Games. Between the Summer and Winter Games, every two years we get to see the world viewed through the athletes who come to represent their countries. How exciting to realize that the Summer Games in Rio showcased more out athletes than ever before. We even got to participate vicariously in some marriage proposals.
I hope if you haven’t already thought about the power of sports in creating, building and sustaining a real community, that you’ll read the stories in this issue with that thought in mind. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Sport has the power to change the world.”
Connie Wardman, Editor-in-Chief