Sin City Shootout Brings Thousands of LGBT Athletes to Vegas
Last week, more than 5,200 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender athletes gathered in Las Vegas for the Sixth Annual Sin City Shootout, the largest LGBT sporting event in North America.
Hosted by the Greater Los Angeles Softball Association (GLASA), a gay and lesbian softball league, Sin City Shootout offers participants the chance to compete in any of twelve different categories, from softball, basketball, and ice hockey to Frisbee, dodgeball, golf and bridge.
Twelve different LGBT sporting organizations from around the country, including GLASA and the National Gay Basketball Association (NGBA), worked together to put on the competition, which drew upwards of 6,000 attendees, including athletes, fans, friends and families.
Tournament director Eric Ryan conceived of the event as an LGBT softball tournament in 2007. After months of searching for the ideal location, he put on the first Sin City Shootout in January of 2008. The event has grown each year since, adding new sports annually. Athletes at all levels of experience are welcome.
"The skill level in each sport varies from beginner to professional level," said Ryan. "The best thing about each sport is that there are different levels, so you're competing against athletes with the same skill level."
Although the world of sports is becoming more accepting toward LGBT athletes, many still face marginalization in mainstream professional or even amateur competitions. Ryan sees Sin City Shootout as an opportunity to change all that.
"I think this event gives athletes from all the sports a chance to be in the spotlight," he said. "Each one is treated as just as important and equal to the others. I think events like ours give athletes a chance to fully be themselves on and off the field." The motto of the tournament is, "Where each and every athlete is treated like a champion."
Originally conceived as a softball tournament, Sin City Shootout still places softball front and center. This year's event boasted softball teams from all over the United States, competing in five divisions. First place in the A Division went to the Orlando Force, while the B Division was dominated by the Knoxville Cyclones.
Another major draw was the basketball tournament. Twenty-three teams from across the country competed in four divisions: Competitive, Intermediate, Recreation and Novice. The Competitive Open Championship went to the San Francisco Rockdogs, while the Orange County Balls Deep won the Competitive City Championship. All the basketball championships went to California-based teams, except for the Novice City Championship, won by the Empire State Ballers from New York City.
In addition, the NGBA conferred its first Spirit of Basketball Award, in honor of Stephen Chambers, a former Sin City Shootout basketball competitor who passed away in 2012. The first recipients of the award were Texans Seth Labey of Austin and Michael Alexander of Dallas.
"Stephen Chambers was a true sportsman on and off the court, with a kind heart and upbeat personality that put smiles on the faces of people around him," said Jason Jaramillo, Sin City Shootout’s basketball organizer.
In addition to sporting events, the tournament offers opportunities for socialization and community building, including nightly after-parties and a closing party on the final night.
"The closing party is always the most popular event by far," said Ryan. A block of nearly a thousand rooms was booked at the event’s host hotel, the Tropicana, allowing competitors and spectators to mingle and make friends.
To Jaramillo, the social impact of Sin City Shootout are just as important as the competition, if not more so.
"Having over 5,000 gay athletes and spectators in one city with hosted nightly events was great for the gay sports community," he said. "The athletes I spoke with all seemed to be having a great time, seeing their friends from across the country as well as meeting new athletes. What I love about the Sin City Shootout is how it brings our community together! I have made great friendships with the people I’ve met at the festival."
A Shootout attendee agreed: "The Sin City Shootout was amazing this year. We immediately felt like we were valued guests. Getting such a large room block at one hotel and having so many players together made for a homey atmosphere akin to a gay cruise."
Ryan said that all the work that goes into the tournament is worthwhile as long as the participants enjoy themselves and feel a sense of community.
"I like seeing the months of planning and preparation come to fruition, watching thousands of people laughing, socializing, having a good time," he said.
More information on the tournament can be found at sincityshootout.com.