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Slurs are a hazard for gay players in mainstream rec leagues

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A Washington, D.C., incident shows there is still work to do.

The Federal Triangles are in their 27th year in DC.

LGBT sports leagues have blossomed in the county that past 20 years and every city with a sizable gay population has gay-oriented leagues in almost every conceivable sports. But sometimes all-gay teams play in mainstream leagues and that can lead to slurs being used.

This happened at a recent soccer match in Washington, D.C., when a player from the gay-oriented Federal Triangles was called a “maricon” — a Spanish slur for “faggot” — by a straight player for another rec team.

“At the core of good sportsmanship is fairness, respect and a sense of fellowship with your competitors,” the gay player told the Washington Blade. “Yelling homophobic or racial slurs is far from good sportsmanship and has no place in sports. I am utterly disappointed by the opposing team’s display of homophobia last weekend, yet I can’t say I’m surprised.

“Homophobia, racism, transphobia, misogyny and discrimination are pervasive in sports, and throughout American society for that matter. The current political climate fueled by Trump’s hate has made homophobia that much worse, leading to skyrocketing hate crimes. It’s everyone’s responsibility to end hate and discrimination, in sports and elsewhere.”

The player who uttered the slur acknowledged that he used the term but his defense was that he didn’t know the Triangles player was gay. An official for District Sports, which manages the league and said he has been on the receiving end of similar slurs, told the Blade “the player understands that the word was unacceptable and he seems contrite.”

Gay-oriented leagues were created because they formed a safe space for LGBT people who wanted to play the sport they love without the need to censor themselves or be afraid of verbal or physical abuse.

Many non-LGBT players sign up for these leagues in many sports because the asshole level is greatly reduced and people often have more fun. The Triangles have a summer league composed of LGBT-oriented teams but play in mainstream rec leagues at other times of the year.

Having been involved with rec sports for more than 25 years, my sense is that what happened to the Triangles player occurs much less frequently than in years past.

The fact that the straight player who used the slur was contrite is a positive step. He still needs to be suspended a game, even though there is no mention of any punishment being meted out.

Update: District Sports Operations Director Zach Strauss emailed me and said a suspension was issued:

“The player who used the word "maricon" was suspended from league play for a game as a result of his abusive language.

“This was communicated, along with the written apology from said player, to the members of the team who were on the receiving end of the slur.”

The suspension is well-deserved. Everyone knows “faggot,” in whatever language, is offensive and there needs to be zero tolerance.