Jock Talk: Supervisors to vote on renaming street afterWaddell

  • by Roger Brigham
  • Wednesday July 23, 2014
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The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is expected to vote Tuesday, July 29 on a resolution to honor Gay Games founder Dr. Tom Waddell by renaming a small street after him. As I applaud this action as being highly appropriate and long overdue, I am also left to wonder what it would take for the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame to follow suit.

The resolution to change Lech Walesa Street in the Civic Center to Dr. Tom Waddell Place received unanimous approval at a public hearing held Monday, July 21, by the board's land use and economic development committee. It was sponsored in advance by five of the 11 supervisors – Jane Kim, Scott Wiener, David Campos, John Avalos and Eric Mar – and several representatives of the Gay Games attended the meeting to speak in support of the resolution, including Waddell's widow, Sara Waddell Lewinstein; and their daughter, Jessica Waddell Lewinstein.

Waddell, a gay man and a 1968 Olympian in the decathlon, is credited with creating the vision for the Gay Games, a quadrennial sports and cultural festival founded in San Francisco in 1982 that through the decades has engendered a massive stimulation in the growth of LGBT recreational sports groups. Waddell originally named the event the Gay Olympic Games, but just days before their launch he was enjoined from using the word "Olympics" by the U.S. Olympic Committee – a landmark decision that dragged on for years and was ultimately settled by the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of the USOC. Before his death in 1987 of complications from AIDS, Waddell worked in San Francisco's public health clinic. The Tom Waddell Urban Health Clinic, on Golden Gate Avenue, is named in his honor.

San Francisco resident Doug Litwin, marketing director for the Federation of Gay Games, spoke on behalf of the FGG in support of the street name change. Noting that thousands of participants who will be gathering from around the world next month in Cleveland for Gay Games 9, Litwin said, "Dr. Tom Waddell did not seek fame or fortune. But his legacy is most worthy of recognition. His memory lives in the Gay Games, and it would be most appropriate that this street already so closely associated with his life, take his name as a memorial that can continue to inspire new generations of athletes, artists, and activists."

It is easy to forget how revolutionary Waddell's vision was – and how polarized the queer community was – in San Francisco and beyond. The community was not yet unified under LGBT or LGBTQ initials, and not yet galvanized by the war against AIDS. We had not yet fought the battles for the right to bear arms for our countries or wedding rings for our loved ones. It was a world of -isms, and it was that divisive culture Waddell and his supporters tackled head-on.

"It was never about being gay or lesbian," Sara Waddell Lewinstein said after the committee hearing. "It was about inclusion. It was about inspiring people to take part and be part of something. The Gay Games brought us together. It wasn't about gay rights – it was about human rights."

Which brings me back to BASHOF. Five inductees were named in February – Bob Ladouceur, Owen Nolan, Jim Hines, Tony LaRussa and Bob Lurie – bringing the total number of people honored to 158, including just 12 women.

Of the 146 men, just one – Olympic skater Brian Boitano, who was inducted in 2010 – identifies as gay, and he did not publicly come out as gay until this year.

Just one openly gay man.

I look at the BASHOF website, I look at the lists of the names, and I understand the tendency, when trying to sell costly tickets to banquets to raise funds for youth sports programs, the desire to focus on headline-grabbing, crowd-pleasing winners from the major men's sports leagues and a handful of longtime coaches and administrators. I get that.

But if BASHOF is to have any significance for many of us in the Bay Area, it really should include in its recognition those who braved the worst of social ostracism in their times, achieved athletic excellence, demonstrated high character, and left a lasting social legacy.

I would say Waddell did that more than any other man on the current BASHOF honor roll.


'Gender-verification' cloud

The Commonwealth Games opened in Scotland this week with media speculation that a women's national sprint champion was excluded from India's national team because of a failed "gender verification" test.

India's track and field federation confirmed that at the last minute it had omitted Dutee Chand, 18, from its squad after including her preliminarily, but said that was because she did not measure up to competition expectations. Simultaneously the national sports federation confirmed an athlete had been given a gender verification test, which tests blood hormone levels, and failed, but would not confirm that the athlete was Chand.

Chand, however, seemed to believe the test is what knocked her out.

"I am completely shattered over the development," she told reporters. "I am an athlete and wanted to bring glory to my country. All my efforts have gone astray."


Vikings suspend coach

The Minnesota Vikings announced Friday, July 18 that they would suspend special teams coordinator Mike Priefer for the first three games of the 2014 season without pay and announced the team would make a $100,000 donation to regional LGBT organizations following a team-funded, independently conducted investigation into allegations made by former punter Chris Kluwe.

That was $900,000 and one game short of what Kluwe sought. The free agent punter said this week he plans to sue the Vikings and force the release of the full report.

The Vikings received a 150-page report from the labor firm Littler but released just the 29-page summary, which failed to substantiate many of Kluwe's allegations and cleared the Vikings of the assertion that they had cut Kluwe because of alleged distractions created by his outspoken advocacy for same-sex marriage.

Kluwe has started a petition on to force the Vikings to release the full report.

The Vikings suspended Priefer when the report did not clear him of the allegation that in November 2012 he said during a team meeting that gays should be rounded up on an island and "nuke them till it glows."