KC Carnivores: A Rugby Team, Not a Barbecue Joint!

In the last few years, more new sports teams have been forming in the Kansas City LGBT community. The list of available teams has grown to include running, bicycling, swimming, softball, tennis, volleyball, bowling and darts. Now the Kansas City Carnivores Rugby Football Club (KCCRFC) has added rugby to the choices.

The founder of KCCRFC is Brad Clark, who serves as acting president. Matthew Haefner is acting vice president.

“We’re getting everything together to apply for a 501(c)(3),” Clark said. “We plan on doing full elections next month [August>, and all positions are going to be open.”

The group, which formed in June, has had six practices to date.

“We have a roster of about 30,” said Clark. “We’re averaging about 17 per practice on Thursdays and Saturdays.”

Clark said that all practices are outdoors.

“We’ll go until the end of December, and then we break and then start up in February, because usually the first matches of the next season are at the end of February.”

They hope to be playing competitively in the next year.

“In December we’ll apply to be associate members of the local union, Heart of America. Their process is that you are an associate member for six months to a year, and we’re going to try for early acceptance as full members next summer. But being an associate member, we will schedule home matches for February through April. … In between then and now we are going to try, as the guys are ready, to pick up friendly games with other local teams, who are very excited to have us.”

The Heart of America rugby teams are not coed, and Clark said that women can be associate members but not playing members.

“A transgender person can be on the club, but any match or tournament play, they would not be able to play if they are opposite sex.”

Clark said the official rugby organization goes by the IOOC standard, which is two years post-surgery for female-to-male transgender individuals.

“It’s a ridiculous process, but they have to have a medical professional look to see that all the genitalia has been removed and all the paperwork is provided. … Our mission statement is to provide a rugby club to those who are underrepresented in rugby, and that would also be transgender, but if we want to play within our union, we have to follow those rules.”

KCCRFC will be playing against other local teams and will eventually compete against other gay teams.

“I’ve already started talking to St. Louis, and we’re tentatively on the books for an AIDS Walk match,” Clark said. “St. Louis will come here on the day of AIDS Walk. AIDS Walk committee is on board with that. We’ll charge admission, and all that will go back to AIDS Walk.”

Clark said he’s hoping to have the match at UMKC or another park in Kansas City.

Rugby is a physically intensive sport, and Clark said that players might wish to work out on their own personal time. He said that before rugby he hadn’t played on any organized teams himself.

“I always encourage people to work out on their own. We have a personal trainer who has offered to coach them through their own personal weightlifting and everything. And we’re working on our off days to work out at a local gym”

Clark said that he has seen steady progress in the team’s six practices. “Nobody is really sitting down and dropping to the ground and trying to catch their breath.”

Clark played rugby for the Kansas City Rogues, where he also served as president. His inspiration for helping to form a gay rugby team in Kansas City was Mark Bingham, the gay rugby player from San Francisco who died heroically with others on Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.

Clark said it was a meeting with Alice Hoglin, Mark Bingham’s mother, that inspired him to form the Carnivores.

“I had the opportunity to play at the Bingham Cup, and the reason for being there was because of Mark and my connection, my story on 9/11. … I identified with Mark, having been in New York that weekend. I was two blocks away when the first tower fell. So then when stories about Mark came out, I really identified with him, and then I found that he had been in New York playing rugby with several of my friends that weekend. There weren’t a lot of gay stories that came out of 9/11, and that was one I attached to and decided I needed to play rugby. And so a year and a half ago, I began playing with the Rogues.”

He said he went to play with an Irish team at the Bingham Cup, the international gay rugby tournament, in Minneapolis earlier this year, and that is where he met Mark Bingham’s mother.

“I told her basically that brief story. We both had tears running down our face, and she turned to me, because I said I came up by myself, and said, “Why isn’t there a gay team in Kansas City?” I did a dead stop … I couldn’t say anything to her. Her son helped bring down Flight 93.

“So on the drive home, I started thinking and came up with the Carnivores and a little bid of prodding from the St. Louis team, the Crusaders, the gay team, they’re like ‘Do it.’

“I had no idea there was as much [of"> a niche that needed to be filled.” he said.

The fee for players is $150 annually, and $50 of that fee goes back to the local rugby union. Clark said the team is fundraising to purchase jerseys and secure sponsorships. They will also be looking for a coach.

KC Carnivores (www.kccarnivores.org) practices are 7:30-9 p.m. Thursdays and 9-10:30 a.m. Saturdays at Theis Park, 47th Street (Emanuel Cleaver) and Oak, south of Nelson Art Gallery. For more information, write to KCCarnivores@gmail.com or call 816-237-8861. "

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