When Phaidra Knight stepped into Rugby School for her induction into the World Rugby Hall of Fame last week, she was mesmerized. The black lesbian was only the second American individual ever being inducted into the Hall of Fame, and the moment was not lost on her.
"I was overcome with emotion,” the openly gay Knight told Outsports shortly after the ceremony. “It was unbelievable. They were playing gladiator-style music, and it was very sentimental. Seeing my large projection on the wall and my picture and my name, I was overcome with emotion.”
Knight is a worthy inductee, with a resume that would make virtually any world-class athlete envious:
Knight won 35 caps for the USA and appeared at three Women’s Rugby World Cups, in 2002, 2006 and 2010. In the first two tournaments, she was included in the All-Star team twice, and was named USA Rugby Player of the Decade in 2010.
The hall-of-fame accolades over the weekend were not lost on Knight, who is a minority of minorities in the sport of rugby: American, black, LGBTQ and a woman.
“It's an inspiration for other Americans that they can soar,” Knight said. “It reinforces the fact that people of color can soar in this sport, with all the athleticism we have in the U.S. And with women worldwide in a sport that has been dominated by men, it's promising.”
Knight said her induction into the Hall of Fame has given her new purpose in promoting the sport across all of the demographics that make her a particularly unique addition to the hall.
“I feel very encouraged and very motivated to do the work now to promote the sport. I've played the game, and now it's time to give back to the game, push it forward and make a way for girls and women all over the world."
Throughout her illustrious hall-of-fame career, Knight has found the sport of rugby to be incredibly welcoming of all that makes her who she is.
"Because of the nature of rugby, it's the most inclusive sport I've ever been a part of,” she said. “Ever since day one I've enjoyed the luxury of not having to deal with the discrimination that can come. Of course I take tremendous pride in all the characteristics I represent, being an African-American, being a woman, being a lesbian.”
Even in the welcoming world of her sport, Knight said there have been some people who struggled with all of her identities. Yet as we’ve seen countless times across sports, those people found a way to accept the athlete and put their own prejudices aside.
“I have been so fortunate to be around people and a community who have all pushed themselves to be OK with who I am. For those who have struggled with it, they have gotten through it. They've allowed themselves to get to know me.”
We congratulate Knight on her incredible honor and induction into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. With so few Americans, women, black people and out LGBTQ athletes in the Hall, it is a deep honor she has earned.
You can follow Phaidra Knight on Twitter @PhaidraKnight, on Instagram @PhaidraKnight, or on Facebook.