USA Rugby has signed a memorandum of understanding with International Gay Rugby (IGR) in an effort to eliminate homophobia and improve acceptance of LGBT members in the sport. The move comes after IGR signed a similar agreement with World Rugby in March 2015 to work together to promote equality in rugby along with fostering an inclusive environment in all areas of the game.
The agreement between USA Rugby and IGR will see a stateside emphasis placed on combating discrimination based on sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation or identification by providing its members with the proper educational tools. The far-reaching efforts will apply to spectators of the sport as much as it will to players, coaches and other officials involved with the game. The goal is to foster an environment that is free of bullying, discrimination and exclusion, while celebrating the unique differences of all.
Nigel Melville, CEO of USA Rugby stated, “USA Rugby is thrilled to be joining IGR in the advancement of diversity and inclusion throughout the sport of rugby, as well to eliminate homophobia from the game. Following in World Rugby’s footsteps, we are steadfast in ensuring that rugby remains and continues to grow as a sport for individuals from all walks of life.”
With its 56 member clubs that span throughout fifteen countries, International Gay Rugby has been at the forefront of the movement to remove institutionalized homophobia from the sport. Jeff Wilson, Chairman of International Gay Rugby stated, “IGR is very proud of the leadership that USA Rugby continues to show around equality, diversity and inclusion in rugby. The signing of this agreement is a great example of the commitment of USA Rugby to eliminating homophobia from the sport at all levels. We look forward to our continued partnership in creating a safe and homophobia free environment for all players, proving that rugby is the most inclusive sport in the United States and in the World.”
The USA Rugby and IGR agreement comes as the Nashville Grizzlies RFC prepare to host the 2016 Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Tournament. The tournament, named after the gay American rugby player who died on United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, is IGR’s flagship global event and is considered the World Cup of gay and inclusive rugby. It will be held in Nashville, Tennessee from May 22-29, 2016 making it the first time the tournament has been held in the United States since 2010.