They are your neighbors, successful local business owners, blue and white-collar workers, students, parents, and activists. Formed in 2012 and currently South Carolina’s only gay sports team, they are The Charleston Blockade Rugby Football Club. Charleston Blockade is a member of the International Gay Rugby Union (IGR) and as such, plays throughout the nation against other teams. The team is made up of both gay and bisexual men, as well as straight allies. Together they share a common goal: Ending the stigma of homosexuality in sports and engaging in meaningful civic action in our community.
Throughout the year you can see the club engage in various community outreach initiatives such as Lowcountry AIDS Services and the Ryan White Wellness Center. They also sponsor children for the annual Sue Kuhlen Camp for Kids Back to School BACKPACK Project, stuffing backpacks with all the necessities and needed to successfully begin the school year.
During the holidays, they participate in Giving Tree, an annual program through which children’s Christmas wish lists can be adopted. They also host their annual coat drive each year for TriCounty Family Ministries to organize their annual Christmas Bazaar and community lunch.
With all this manpower for the community, what keeps the club going? “These are but a few of the projects our team works on together. This does not include community service in which individual players engage in their own time. Rugby is a huge part of our lives, but creating and accepting and nurturing our community is just as important,” The club’s coach, Meg Smith, told BEAU.
Each year, the IGR hosts what is called Bingham Cup, The Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Tournament, or “Bingham Cup” as it is more widely known. This encompasses the biennial world Championship games of gay and all-inclusive rugby.
The tournament was first held in 2002 in memory of 9/11 gay rugby hero Mark Bingham, one of the passengers who fought back against hijackers on board United flight 93. While Mark and all on the flight tragically lost their lives when the plane crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It is widely recognized that through the actions of those brave individuals on board, the plane did not continue on to its intended target. As a gay man and regular rugby player, Mark played for San Francisco Fog as well as helping to set up Gotham Knights in New York City.
Mark’s legacy lives on through rugby players, supporters and staff from around the world coming together every two years in a celebration of equality, inclusivity and sportsmanship. 49 teams from 17 countries participated in Bingham Cup 2016 in May. The tournament moves around the world every two years landing 2018 in early June. It will be hosted by the Amsterdam Lowlanders and anticipating 70+ teams to compete. The Bingham Cup is the ultimate gathering of family. Lasting bonds have been forged in past tournaments through travel, seeking out other ruggers, and even social medias, which have been also strengthened and solidified at this event.
For the next 8 months, The Charleston Blockade Rugby Football Club, are raising funds to offset the costs of sending a team of 23 players to Amsterdam. The goal can only be met through exposure, sponsorship and donations, all of which are tax deductible. The Blockade works tirelessly on and off the field representing Charleston’s LGBTA community and consider international representation the ultimate reward.
Learn more www.charlestonblockaderugby.org
Follow Charleston Blockade on Facebook and Instagram @Charlestonblockade
Words by Jonatan Guerrero Ramirez