Gay Night with the 76ers

What is believed to be the first formal LGBT-recognized event with an NBA team will be happening in Philadelphia on Friday, November 5. A block of seats have been reserved for the LGBT community and friends for “OUT at the Sixers” for the Philadelphia 76ers’ season opener against the Phoenix Suns. It is expected that the names of a number of LGBT groups will have their names displayed on the scoreboard during the game, including Outsports.com.

This event is happening just a few months after the unqualified success of the 2nd Gay Community Night at the Philadelphia Phillies, attracting 1500 gay individuals and their friends to Citizens Bank Park in August 2004. As one of the organizers of the Phillies event, I am working with Comcast-Spectacor, owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, on “OUT at the Sixers”. Unlike the Phillies game, where the LGBT community approached the Phillies to mount a “Gay Community Night”, Comcast-Spectacor approached me about doing a group event with one of their teams. Comcast-Spectactor, who also owns the Philadelphia Flyers, is a division of the Comcast Corporation. It is hoped that “OUT at the Sixers”, like “Gay Community Night” at the Phillies, will become an annual event. When the Flyers resume play, I hope to also work with Comcast-Spectacor in organizing an LGBT evening at the Flyers. Philadelphia, known for loud obnoxious passionate sports fans, and teams that are playoff caliber who never seem to get the gold (maybe this year’s Eagles will be the exception), should now also be known as the home of the most progressive pro sports teams owners. By welcoming events such as “Gay Community Night” at the Phillies” and “OUT at the Sixers”, despite protests, Philadelphia’s major professional team owners have declared that all fans, including LGBT sports fans, are welcome.

It is hoped this event will be a fun evening for all attending. But events like this are also important to dispel stereotypes that LGBT individuals are not interested in sports. The success of Outsports.com has shown all of us this stereotype is not accurate. The local and national medial attention the first “Gay Community Night” at the Phillies received dispels this stereotype even further. Our presence and the names of LGBT community groups on the scoreboard will further dispel this stereotype to all the fans in attendance at the 76ers season opener on Friday November 5th.

Tickets are only $24, which reflects a $4 discount off the individual ticket price. Tickets may be purchased by calling Stu Cohen at the Philadelphia 76ers ticket office at (215) 952-5441. Any general questions should be sent to phillygayday04@yahoo.com

BRAVES SPONSOR A GAY DAY

Add the Atlanta Braves to a small, but growing list of pro sports teams reaching out to their gay fans.

The Braves have agreed to set aside up to 2,000 tickets for the Aug. 8 game at Turner Field against the Houston Astros. The event is being held in conjunction with a site visit by officials with the Federation of Gay Games. The group will be in town as part of a review of Atlanta’s bid to host the 2006 Gay Games.

“We endorse the Atlanta Games Inc.’s efforts to bring the Games here,” Braves spokesman Jim Schultz told Jay Croft of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s online addition. “It’s another opportunity to advance Atlanta’s reputation as a culturally diverse city and an international city.”

The team has offered use of Turner Field for the Games’ closing ceremonies if there is no conflict with the Braves’ schedule, Schultz told the Journal-Constitution.

“We’re treating them (Atlanta Games) as we do any community group or corporate group that would want to come to a Braves game,” said Karen Lumpkin, a group sales coordinator for the Braves. There will be some sort of ceremony before the game to acknowledge’s the committee’s presence.

The Braves’ event, while not unique, is still somewhat rare. “Out at the Ball Game,” a similar gay-friendly event, was a smash in Chicago June 23 at a Cubs game. The Los Angeles Dodgers last year honored GLAAD, the gay media watchdog group, while the San Francisco Giants for years have hosted an AUDS awareness day at a game. The Minnesota Twins, in conjunction with OutFront Minnesota and the Human Rights Campaign, have a gay pride event set for a game Sept. 14.

The WNBA has been the most active sports league in the targeting the lesbian community (see following story). These events are a recognition that in the competition for entertainment dollars some teams nedd to look everywhere for paying customers. The Cubs, for example, coming off a last-place finish in 2000 and the departure of popular players like Mark Grace, bought 10 ads in the Chicago Free Press.

We could find no instances of similar courting by teams in the NBA, NHL or NFL. The jury is still out as to whether actively marketing to the gay community will provoke a backlash. In Sacramento, the Capitol Resource Institute, “a non-profit group that advocates for conservative, family-oriented legislation,” convinced the WNBA’s Monarchs to hold a “Traditional Marriage Night,” the Sacramento Bee reported. It will be interesting to see if these homophobes can draw more than the 9,300 the Monarchs got for their July 21 Gay Pride Night. ”

LESBIANS GET ROYAL TREATMENT BY MONARCHS

The Sacramento Monarchs of the WNBA drew near a season-high 9,300 fans July 21 for their game against the Detroit Shock. The fact that it was designated Gay Pride Night was no coincidence.

“I’m loving it,” Kat Fox of the David Dykes told the Sacramento Bee. “There’s more people here than any game I’ve seen this season, and Detroit is not a draw. There’s even a lot of gay guys. That’s great!”

There were no incidents before, during or after the game. Among the other groups who had their “day” were 300 high school girls basketball players.

“No matter what brought them to Arco, the groups joined together to root for the Monarchs as well as enjoy the evening’s special highlights, including the halftime show by the all-woman Taiko Drummers,” wrote the Bee’s Debbie Arrington. “The dozen-member Rainbow Chorus sang one of the most traditional versions of the national anthem all season.”

“And on the phrase “home of the free,” the crowd broke out in loud, extended applause.”

Monarchs owner Joe Maloof said he didn’t care if his support for Gay Pride Night turned anyone off.

“Our team is there for the enjoyment of everybody,” he told the paper. “I’m not going to worry because somebody gets upset about it. That’s not what our family is all about.”

The WNBA has been aggressive this year in encouraging its teams to market to lesbians. Other teams making overtures include the Los Angeles Sparks, the Minnesota Lynx, the Phoenix Mercury, the Seattle Storm and Miami Sol.

The moves, while applauded from an acceptance level, are based on simple economics: The WNBA estimates its audience is 75 percent female, with a large but undetermined amount of that being lesbians. In a crowded marketplace the league is being smart in targeting a niche.