By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)
In honor of LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, we caught up with our friends at Stonewall Sports who are expanding the LGBTQIA+ sports community to bring sports and community together for all LGBTQIA+ people and to promote the mental, physical and social benefits of exercise and sport
Dirk Smith: So, what exactly is Stonewall Sports?
SSI: Stonewall Sports is an LGBTQ & Ally nonprofit sports league that aims to build community and raise funds for local nonprofit organizations. Since its creation in 2010, Stonewall Sports now boasts 23 city chapters across the country, who are creating fun and inclusive sports league for their local LGBTQ community.
Dirk Smith: Tell us about the origin of Stonewall Sports, how it began, who created, etc.
SSI: Stonewall Sports was founded in Washington, D.C. in 2010 by a group of community leaders, led by Martin Espinoza. We began as a kickball league that included about 90 players from around the metro area, and it took off from there. Through the years, Stonewall Sports became an important space for LGBTQ players who were looking to build community and forge new friendships, all while engaging in fun sports.
Dirk Smith: The name “Stonewall” of course reflects to the Stonewall Inn bar in New York City which was the site of the 1969 riots that kicked off the modern LGBTQIA+ rights movement. What was the inspiration in choosing this name and how does the mission of Stonewall Sports reflect that historical origin?
SSI: Stonewall Sports honors the Stonewall Riots of 1969. By understanding one of the most galvanizing moments in LGBTQ history, we acknowledge the history of activism and recognize the leaders who paved the way for us. Our league embodies a spirit of community building that will always strive to create an inclusive space for our LGBTQ players. We play to remember Stonewall.
Dirk Smith: Stonewall Sports has expanded nationwide into different sports and leagues. Tell us more about the structure of the sports, tournaments and what kinds of things do you offer?
SSI: Since 2010, we have expanded into 23 cities, or chapters as we refer to them, nationwide. In 2021, we will host our 7th Annual National Tournament and Summit in Richmond, VA. Each of our chapters, like our National Board, operate as a volunteer organization. Most of our chapters offer a lot of the same staple sports and activities, but they vary from place to place. In most any stonewall chapter you should be able to find kickball, dodgeball, volleyball, or bowling. In total, we have about 15 or so sports and activities that vary across the country.
Dirk Smith: How does the model for expansion in Stonewall Sports work exactly?
SSI: Expansion with Stonewall Sports is a relatively simple, but involved, process. Once we have been contacted by an individual, or group, with an interest to expand, we do our best to ensure the values and intent of the group match our values and mission as an organization. There are a series of interviews, followed by a bid proposal that is then presented to our board of directors for review and vote to approve. Sustainability is very important, but a commitment to our values, mission, and vision are a must.
Dirk Smith: Does Stonewall Sports field teams for other LGBTQIA+ sporting events like Sin City Classic or Gay Games?
SSI: As an organization, we encourage our players to attend all tournaments that they are interested in. We have had significant participation from our members and players at other events, including Sin City Classic and Gay Games! We love to see it!
Dirk Smith: How can our readers get involved with a Stonewall Sports league?
SSI: It’s simple! Our website, www.stonewallsports.org, has a list of all 23 chapters and their websites and contact information. We are also available via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Facebook and Instagram – @stonewallsports!
Dirk Smith: If there isn’t a Stonewall Sports league in a city, is it possible for someone to bring the league to their city?
SSI: Yes! We love to see that, too! Beginning the expansion process is simple – and interested parties should fill out this interest survey for more information.
Dirk Smith: Tell us more about what the next five years will bring for Stonewall Sports?
SSI: Our board will always stay committed to the work to create a fun, inclusive and welcoming sports league for our community. As we continue to expand nationwide, we will largely build on our efforts to uplift diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure our leagues and leadership are representatives of the communities we serve, and that our programs are safe, fun, and engaging– both on and off the fields and courts. Beyond that, we may consider an international expansion but at the end of the day, our mission has always been to create a space where everyone feels they can find community, play fun sports, and give back through volunteer opportunities.
Photo courtesy of Stonewall Sports