After 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]