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06/21/2006

New York Firefighters Refuse to Play Gay Rugby Team

Si_1After asking the Gotham Knights gay rugby team whether or not any of their players were HIV positive, members of the Rock B/Fire team, made up partially of New York Firefighters, decided to forfeit their match against the Knights at Saturday's Rockaway Rugby Sevens Tournament.

Tournament director Chris McCann told Outsports, "I wasn’t told directly, but I heard it was health issues. They were going to play but Gotham gave the team notice that some players were HIV-positive after being asked."

According to statements from Knights' player Eric Merfalen, Queens-based firefighter Phil Tufano, who was featured on the December 24, 2001 cover of Sports Illustrated (far left), approached the Gotham Knights before the game:

"He came up and said something like, ‘I don’t mean to be a jerk, but . . .’ and then he asked if we could all confirm that we were not HIV positive. He asked us several times."

According to Outsports, "It is not known if Tufano asked any teams other than the gay team if they could guarantee that their players did not have HIV or any other disease."

FDNY spokesman Jim Long quickly disassociated the New York Fire Department from the events at Saturday's tournament. "This is not an FDNY-sponsored event or function. The department in no way would sanction or condone any discrimination of any person, based on preference, race or medical history."

NY Firefighters Refuse to Play Against Gay Team [outsports]

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Comments

  1. Pansies . . . So much for their supposed bravery.

    Maybe they were just afraid they'd get beaten.

    Posted by: GM | Jun 21, 2006 9:52:07 AM


  2. The Gothum Knights should have asked the firefighters the same question. The general public is still not getting it. HIV / AIDS is not a gay disease. Gay men may be more proactive in getting testing and knowing their status. Also, are there any documented cases of people getting HIV through playing sports (not the kind that occur in the bedroom)?

    Posted by: JonE | Jun 21, 2006 10:11:19 AM


  3. Well, rugby can be a particularly bloody sport...it would be difficult to contract HIV through sport contact, but not impossible. I wouldn't judge the firefighters too harshly, after all, they chose to forfeit--they didn't try to ban the players from the game because they were gay. It's a tough ethical question...what do you do under the circumstances? Require blood testing from all members of all teams?

    Posted by: Michael W. | Jun 21, 2006 10:24:28 AM


  4. "Require blood testing from all members of all teams?"

    Sounds good to me. There's no discrimination that way. It's all or nothing.

    Posted by: Mike in the Tundra | Jun 21, 2006 10:31:49 AM


  5. First off, know the law. Discrimination based on HIV status is illegal. Further, since Tufano (the FDNY asshole who was asking for status), is an officer in the rugby club that was hosting this tourney, and this club receives public moneys, he is also in violation of the ADA.

    Second off, know the facts. The chances of getting HIV though playing sports is miniscule. The CDC judged that in most full contact sports, the chances of player-to-player transmission was in the neighborhood of 1/80 mil. I think most firefighters face worse odds when performing their daily duties. This is either blatant discrimination, ignorance... or more likely a combination of the two. Somebody needs to teach those idiots on the FDNY team a lesson.

    Third... they were SO afraid of getting their asses kicked. Pussies.

    Posted by: Dan | Jun 21, 2006 10:38:07 AM


  6. Why are members of the FDNY team being such pansies? Are they afraid being kick in their asses by a bunch of gays?

    Yeah, there is the possibility of a bit of blood being spilled. That's just rugby. The FDNY team needs to man up and get on with it.

    Posted by: Michael | Jun 21, 2006 11:03:01 AM


  7. Dan, you make good points, but I'm having a hard time seeing this as outright discrimination, at least in a legal sense. We're talking about a bunch of guys who chose not to play a potentially bloody game with some guys they knew to be HIV-positive. I mean, the gay team told them "yes, some of our guys are HIV positive" after being asked. The firefighter team chose to forfeit. They didn't seek to throw the other team out of the game. It's the same as a HIV-negative person choosing not to have sex with person who is HIV-positive because of the fear of transmission, however remote. Sure, in the strict sense of the term, it's discrimination, but legally, I don't think so.

    Posted by: Michael W. | Jun 21, 2006 11:42:19 AM


  8. HIV is not a gay disease? lol Why do you think dentists now cover themselves in latex? No right-thinking person would intentionally engage in potentially bloody activity with HIV+ people. And how delusional for people to type that it was because the firefighters were afraid of losing the game.

    Posted by: Larry | Jun 21, 2006 12:08:14 PM


  9. I have spoken to HIV experts and doctors. While there is a hypothetical possibility of contracting HIV through sports, there are ZERO confirmed cases of it happening, and a study showed that the chances of contracting it playing football is 1 in 85 million.

    This IS a discrimination issue. First, even if they were HIV-positive, the ADA protects them - and given that an officer with the hosting group asked them their HIV-positive status before forfeiting the game on public land, the group has a legal argument.

    Posted by: Cyd | Jun 21, 2006 12:24:53 PM


  10. At first, I had the same thoughts as Michael W. in regards to the legality of discrimination in this particular case, but you have to look at it this way, what if NO team wanted to play with the Gay Rugby team, but just agreed to forfeit to them. That would prevent the Gay Rugby Team from their right to play the game and that ultimately would be descrimination.

    The act of just asking one particular team, just because they are gay, is descrimination, though. If the team refused the team refused to answer the question on the issue of privacy....I wonder how the team that forfeited would have then acted.

    Lastly....I don't think it is fair to associate this story with Firefighters being only a portion of the team had firefighters in them and the team wasn't associated with any firefighter organization, as far as I know.

    Posted by: Patrick | Jun 21, 2006 12:28:30 PM


  11. Dear Larry,

    The fact that dentists now "cover themselves in latex" (just their hands, actually) is completely unrelated to the issue of whether or not HIV/AIDS is a "gay disease." From the linked article in OutSports, which you apparently neglected to read:

    "According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, there are almost as many reported cases of Black men in New York knowingly living with HIV as there are men who are confirmed to have gotten the disease through homosexual sex (26,000 versus 27,000, as of June 30, 2005)."

    Therefore, "while there still would be virtually no risk whatsoever, a black player could pose the same perceived risk as a gay man." Do you also think that "any right-thinking person" would decline to play against a team with black players?

    Again, from the OutSports article, "according to a 1995 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the chances of an NFL player transmitting AIDS through blood-to-blood contact is 1 in 85 million. In any sport, the study concluded, the chances are miniscule. No verified case of HIV transmission through sport has ever been reported."

    Also, "it clearly would not be legal for Tufano or any of the other firefighters on the Fire rugby team to inquire about the HIV status of a person they were attempting to save in the line of duty."

    You're correct that it is speculative to assume the firefighters were afraid of losing the game; however, it IS delusional to fear playing a gay team because of the risk of HIV transmission.

    Posted by: JOE 2 | Jun 21, 2006 12:30:25 PM


  12. fear is powerful, making good people choose badly.

    Posted by: thisjoeinsf | Jun 21, 2006 12:30:56 PM


  13. Nobody is saying that there is a risk of getting H.I.V. through "playing sports"...there saying there is a risk of getting H.I.V. through contact with blood. Rugby is not tennis, only boxing is more bloody. I can completely understand why someone would be concerned about that.

    As for H.I.V. not being a gay disease, we all know that it is not a gay disease...but let's get real. Our community is disproportionately affected by this disease and that is a fact. Do you think the other rugby teams have the same proportion of H.I.V. positive players? Statistically it is unlikely that any of them have the disease. So I don't think anyone was out of line, I think the situation sucks, but it could be a lot worse.

    Posted by: Mike | Jun 21, 2006 1:10:15 PM


  14. This is so funny. I mean, you can't make this sheat up. You are talking about employees of "a government agency that is only 2% Black in a city in which Whites are a minority" (aka NYC Fire Department) ALLEGEDLY discriminating against people. Who would have thunk it?

    NYC FIRE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: "This is not an FDNY-sponsored event or function. The department in no way would sanction or condone any discrimination of any person, based on preference, race or medical history."

    As I said, you can't make this sheat up and keep a STRAIGHT face. The fahking NYC Fire Department launched a protest because someone decided to make a 9/11 statue LOOK Black.

    My only question is: Why the hell would anybody want to play rugby with or be seen with the fahking NYC Fire Department?

    Posted by: Marion Paige | Jun 21, 2006 1:27:32 PM


  15. Mike,

    I understand what you're saying, and I, too, can completely understand why someone would be afraid of playing rugby with a gay team. Nonetheless, the fact remains that the CDC has concluded that the chances of contracting HIV through "any sport" (including football and rugby and boxing) are miniscule. The fact also remains that, in NY, there are as many African-American men infected with HIV as there are men of all races who contracted HIV through same-sex sexual activity, and I can't quite imagine people making as many excuses for a white team that refused to play against a black team as they are in this case.

    I can also understand why someone raised as a fundamentalist Christian or Jew or Muslim would hate gay people, but that doesn't mean I have to allow them to discriminate against me.

    Posted by: JOE 2 | Jun 21, 2006 1:34:07 PM


  16. Hey Larry, go fuck yourself. Oh wait...are you HIV+?

    Posted by: Brett | Jun 21, 2006 2:09:29 PM


  17. Wait a minute..these are the same guys who are to rush to our aid when we need to be rescued? Can they ask people in need "Are you HIV positive?" This is not about rugby or soccer or any other sport. This is about a government agency that is supposed to save lives no matter what...no questions. If they are that discriminating on the field what about the rest of the time. We had this fight years ago when doctors would not treat gay people because they "might" be positive and now we have to deal with this?

    Posted by: tommy | Jun 21, 2006 4:41:28 PM


  18. Those of you defending the Fire Department should really seek some professional help. You're deranged.

    Posted by: jmg | Jun 21, 2006 4:57:43 PM


  19. In Brazil, the slang word for "gay" is "veado," or "deer." When two stags lock antlers in a fight for supremacy, the winner of the contest then mounts the loser...

    Posted by: circuitmouse | Jun 21, 2006 5:13:30 PM


  20. "The fact also remains that, in NY, there are as many African-American men infected with HIV as there are men of all races who contracted HIV through same-sex sexual activity, and I can't quite imagine people making as many excuses for a white team that refused to play against a black team as they are in this case."

    For that comparison to be valid, there would have to be as many African-American males in general in NYC as there are gay men who are not African-American. And that's not the case. There are more African-American males than gay males who are not AA. If the number of black men with HIV is the same as the number of non-black gay men, then as long as there are more blacks in general, it's not a valid comparison.

    That is, out of the total population of black males, fewer of them are HIV positive than in the total population of gay males. In your hypothetical black team, fewer of them are HIV+ than your non-black gay team.

    Right? The whole 'blacks are as bad as gays and you wouldn't discriminate against gays' argument doesn't sit well with me. Especially if it's statistically incorrect.

    Posted by: SG | Jun 21, 2006 6:04:27 PM


  21. Sorry to keep harping on the black vs. gay part of the article that Joe2 commented on, but it annoys the hell out of me.

    The writers of that Outsports article claim "a black player could pose the same perceived risk as a gay man." And they base this on their CDC figures (26,000 versus 27,000, as of June 30, 2005).

    The problem is: the vast majority of black men who are HIV+ got it from gay sex. They are clearly gay. Black and gay, but still gay.

    The Outsports writers, though, seem to think of them as black only. And so they compare a group of black HIV+ guys with a race-unspecified group of HIV+ (who stand for gays generally).

    It may unwittingly reveal an assumption on their part that blacks are not gays. Which is what's annoying me.

    In fact, it's a lousy argument to make in the context of the firefighter story.

    As Mike points out above, "[a]s for H.I.V. not being a gay disease, we all know that it is not a gay disease...but let's get real. Our community is disproportionately affected by this disease and that is a fact."

    Figures for black men who are HIV (and who, again, mostly get it from gay sex) strengthen this fact: that gays are disproportionately affected by this disease.

    However, the writers set up an argument that black men who are HIV+ are not to be included with gay men who are HIV+. And that black men generally pose as much a risk as gay men.

    Which is not the case in the least. Gay men pose the most risk. Black gay men who are HIV+ are to be included in that danger group. They are gay after all.

    Posted by: SG | Jun 21, 2006 6:51:40 PM


  22. What a bunch of ignorant cowards. I think you guys missed the best part of this story. Click on or cut and paste: http://www.rockawayrugby.com/videos/beerslide.mpg

    This is a video "straight" from their website that shows three of the players naked and doing "beer slides", one then slaps another player on the arse.

    Maybe they had other more "personal issues" to deal with, like getting semi-hard during the competition.

    Also Phil "Shrek" Tufano's e-mail is on the site, [email protected]

    Tell him what a good guy he is, I did.

    Posted by: Jack | Jun 21, 2006 7:10:54 PM


  23. SG,

    You make an excellent point. So, absolutely, scrap the "discrimination against blacks" vs. "discrimination against gays" argument.

    The fact that the CDC estimates the chances of contracting HIV through any sport as being 1 in 85 million, and the fact that no verified case of HIV transmission through sport has ever been reported, are, in and of themselves, enough to render the firefighters' actions needlessly discriminatory (not to mention contrary to legal standards for professional athletics).

    Posted by: JOE 2 | Jun 21, 2006 9:15:00 PM


  24. Nevermind how someone in the Tundra knows this, but there is a gay firefighter organization in NYC. Their "meetings" exist for the purpose of getting laid. They cruise the internet (okay, that's how I know) trying to get laid. I'm certain none of them are HIV +. What makes the firefighter rugby team so certain that none of them are positive?

    Posted by: Mike in the Tundra | Jun 21, 2006 11:39:37 PM


  25. Larry,

    You're a fucking moron.

    Posted by: Tom | Jun 22, 2006 2:30:06 AM


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