Forget fantasy sports. Tennessee’s GLBT community dozen’t have to ride the pine or the couch anymore. Recently Nashville added rugby and soccer teams to the list of sports opportunities for GLBT Tennesseans. Now Memphis is adding basketball to the line-up.
Memphis Gay Basketball is not a completely new endeavor. It started several years ago with pick-up games one night a week as a way to meet friends with similar interests and provide a cold weather workout for the softball off-season. Enthusiasm and participation grew into teams that played (and are playing) in local Memphis leagues.
League founder Herschel Stokes says the new addition is a plan to have “a local team from Memphis participating in tournaments around the country…supplement[ed] with interested individuals from surrounding areas as far away as Nashville or Little Rock, Arkansas."
Memphis has previously hit the hardwood in the Fast Breakers Championship in Atlanta, the Gay Games in Chicago and the Coady Roundball Classic, also in Chicago. Stokes describes the current goal as building a highly competitive team as well as a recreational team to play at these and other tournaments. Because most tournaments host men’s competitive and recreational as well as women’s divisions, Stokes says “we need everyone.” Of course, because of the high aspirations, he jokingly admits the team “could use a 6'8" player to join.”
With plans to become a contender on the national gay basketball scene, Memphis is looking for more than just players: they are looking for sponsors. Stokes hopes to find enough financial support to provide teams with uniforms, cover tournament fees and take care of some travel expenses.
For sponsors it's an opportunity for national and perhaps international exposure. The first tournament takes place in Chicago, April 20-22. The Chicago Coady Classic is the National Gay Basketball Association’s largest tournament. After that, there are growing tournaments in Atlanta, San Diego, Salt Lake City and others. There are also tournaments in Europe, as well as European teams that compete in U.S. tournaments.
Herschel emphasizes that "it's a good way for companies in the gay world to let everyone know we are here and we support you." He adds, "The same goes for companies that may want to show new support for gay and lesbian people around the country." So if billboards seem dull and bulletin boards aren’t working, think about having your company name across the jerseyed-chests of players pounding the boards around the country.
If March brings you basketball madness, you don’t have to sit on the sidelines anymore. Whether you want to contribute as a fan, player or a sponsor, Stokes reiterates, “this is a fun way to meet new friends and to participate in tournaments in great cities around the country. Everyone is welcome.” For more information, visit www.memphisgaybasketball.com.