Cleveland Cabbies Protest 'Gay Games' Promotional Campaign

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Monday April 14, 2014

Despite the fact that the 2014 Gay Games promises to bring millions of dollars in tourism revenue to the beleaguered city, Cleveland's cabbies have reportedly refused to drive their cabs, protesting Cleveland Hopkins International Airport taxi's rooftop signs promoting the LGBT sporting event. The event is expected to bring 30,000 people to Cleveland and Akron from August 9-16.

According to 19 Action News, the majority of the cabbies who have stepped away from the wheel are Muslims and citing religious reasons.

In addition to one driver at AmeriCab, about 16 or 17 drivers who work for Ace Taxi are no longer driving. Though representatives at Yellow Cab did not comment, representatives at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport said they were committed to providing this necessary customer service to arriving passengers, and had thus come to a working arrangement.

"An agreement has been brokered by the airport between the taxi cab stand operator, Standard Parking, and the affected taxi cab companies that will allow for the replacement of those drivers who no longer wish to participate in CLE's taxicab program," said Airport Director Ricky Smith in a statement. "The affected taxicab companies will backfill the airport's dedicated fleet with metered taxi cabs until each company can hire permanent drivers for the airport's taxicab program. It is expected to take approximately two to three weeks to repopulate the airport's Taxi fleet."

Gay Games organizers were disappointed, but not surprised.

"When you look at what's going on around the world it's not a huge surprise. In some parts of the world LGBT folks are not very welcome," said Tom Nobbe, executive director of the Gay Games. "Even though there will be a handful of folks who are not comfortable the vast majority and we're seeing it now are totally enthusiastic and ready to welcome all these folks into town."

Nobbe told Outlook Ohio Magazine that the cab drivers' objections run counter to the overall reaction to the international event in northeastern Ohio. Organizers have offered to line up LGBT-inclusive diversity training for transportation, safety, hospitality and other businesses and agencies whose employees will help Gay Games visitors, he said.

"This could accelerate those efforts," Nobbe said. "It's unfortunate they feel this way. It's the first time something like this has happened."

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.