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When most people think of LGBT-affirming professional sports organizations, the fast-paced and rough sports like hockey are probably not at the top of the list. Yet in recent years professional hockey has seen some of its major voices become vocal LGBT allies, and more and more organizations within the National Hockey League (NHL) are stepping up to support LGBT fans and athletes at all levels.
This isn’t necessarily anything particularly new for professional hockey. A 2006 Sports Illustrated poll of the four major North American sports leagues—the NHL, the NFL, the MBA, and MLB—found that 80% of professional hockey players would accept a gay teammate, making it the most accepting of any league. In 2015, during the lead-up to the current NHL season, USA Today asked 35 players whether they would welcome a gay teammate, and invited anonymous response. Only one of the players asked responded that he would not.
Large-scale initiatives, like You Can Play—which encourages athletes and organizations to send the message that all that should matter is how you play the game, not who you are—have grown up out of the world of hockey.
Other efforts to send a similar message include efforts like the “Pride Tape” initiative of the Institute of Sexual Minority Studies and Services (ISMSS) at the University of Alberta, which is seeking to produce and distribute rainbow tape for hockey sticks. “This tape will be a badge of support from the hockey world to LGBTQ youth in Canada and other countries,” says Kris Wells of ISMSS. “It will say ‘You are welcome on the ice. Come and join us in our sport and be proud of who you are’.”
This initiative has received significant support from NHL player Andrew Ference of the Edmonton Oilers, who garnered a great deal of attention for marching in Edmonton’s LGBT Pride parade. When asked why he had done so, Ference said, “whether it’s a teammate who might be thinking about coming out, or whatever—we want to make sure that it’s an accepting environment for everyone.”
Local hockey organizations around the world have shown support in their own ways. Last year the Swedish Orebro hockey team played in rainbow jerseys to honor pride, encouraging fans to wear pride gear and participating as a team in the city’s pride parade. And teams around the NHL are just beginning to add “Pride Nights” to their schedule of special fan event nights, as the Nashville Predators have on February 2 in partnership with Nashville’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
Back in December the Chamber announced that, in support of the LGBTQ and ally community of Middle Tennessee, the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce would collaborate with the Nashville Predators to organize an event publicly acknowledging this usually invisible fan base, on the night the Predators would play the St. Louis Blues. In addition to the Pride Night event, the LGBT Chamber held their February Brewing Up Business event for members at Bridgestone Arena.
According to Lisa Howe, executive director of the LGBT Chamber, this opportunity isn’t only important for the LGBT community but for the Predators organization as well, as it encourages the loyalty of a sometimes marginalized fan base. "We are excited to work with the Nashville Predators and encourage the community to support a local team and an organization, like the NHL, who truly supports the LGBT community,” said Howe. “I am very appreciative of the Nashville Predators and their public support of the LGBT community.”
Additionally, the way that the organization has approached the event is noteworthy, she said. “I am pleased about how transparent the Predators have been in their attempt to market to LGBT and ally ticket buyers. We have seen other local groups pander to the LGBT community without taking ownership of the occasion and without making any kind of public statement to express their support of their LGBT customers or employees. The Nashville Predators announced Pride Night on their Facebook page with a graphic they designed. They have posted the event on other websites and news outlets.”
Indeed the Predators have a proud history of leadership on LGBT issues. As detailed below, Predators’ co-owner W. Brett Wilson and star Shea Weber were early supporters of the You Can Play Foundation, and Weber was a vocal supporter of LGBT rights and against Russian anti-LGBT laws during the lead-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Local LGBT and ally leaders and Predators fans have reacted to the event, and the team’s broader embrace of the LGBT community, with great excitement. Chris Robinette, a straight ally and board member on the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, credits the Predators’ support for the LGBT and other minority communities for the team’s increasing popularity.
“The Nashville Predators partnering with the LGBT community, along with other great local minorities and communities, has helped propel the Bridgestone Arena and the team to a much broader fan base,” Robinette said. “With our hockey club only being 16 years old we have a ton of great opportunity to reach out to several segments of our community and invite them to fall in love with a fast-paced, hard hitting sport, all while the team grows with the community. In order for us to fill the stadium with gold and keep the red (Chicago) out we have to continue to grow our fan base…. It is my belief that the Predators organization and President Sean Henry are making a lot of great decision to grow this fan base with full inclusion of everyone!”
The Predators, in hosting this Pride night, are following in the footsteps of other NHL franchises (Phoenix for instance hosted a similar event with its local Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce), as well as other professional sports teams in Nashville. “Our city’s sports teams, including the Nashville Sounds, Tennessee Titans and most recently Nashville Predators, have hosted Pride nights with great success,” said past president of Nashville Pride and avid Predators fan Claudia Huskey.
But even though it’s been done before, it remains important. She added, “Professional sports teams hosting a Pride night to welcome the LGBT community is a tremendous step forward for acceptance and equality. These events mean a great deal to those in the LGBT community who have experienced discrimination related to sports. Events like this go beyond a sales campaign and become something truly meaningful. Our city is known for being a warm and welcoming place for all and I am glad the Nashville Predators embrace this culture. “
Huskey also pointed out that these events are also great opportunities for allies, the Predators included, to show how broad support for the LGBT community is. “They also allow sports fans the opportunity to see firsthand,” she said, “that you don’t have to be a gay person to have Pride, there are many straight allies who are proud of their gay family members, friends, and colleagues.”
For local hockey fans in the LGBT community, it’s deeply personal. “For a sports team and one in the South,” said Michael Flanery, “having a PRIDE night is groundbreaking to say the least… Being able to sit in the arena such as Bridgestone with my partner Chris Gray and watch one of my favorite sport teams, who are inclusive of our community creates a deeper love and admiration for the Predators!”
Others, like Nashville resident Jeffrey Burton, are cautiously optimistic that events like this can contribute to LGBT normalization. “Living in conservative Tennessee,” Burton said, “I really don’t know what to expect. I hope this shows that hockey is an all-inclusive sport that respects the diversity of its fans. I hope this is the start of having the feeling of being included every day versus waiting for one night a year. It will show that we are individuals who enjoy hockey, we just happen to be LGBT, and it really isn’t a big deal.”
Ultimately, Lisa Howe of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce also hopes that through this event the Predators become a model. “I hope the next time an entertainment group tries to take make money off of the local LGBT community, they use the Nashville Predators for exemplary best practices:
1) Take ownership of the event
2) Be prepared to deliver a consistent message of being inclusive of all customers
3) Have a diverse employee base that represents a diverse customer base
4) Have inclusive workplace policies and culture, and
5) Don't be like the Detroit Lions!”
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.