Eli Sanders up at our sister paper The Stranger wrote this spring about the federal case the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance is fighting to defend their policy of limiting the number of non-gay players who can play on softball teams in the official gay softball league.
The story got some big attention this week when Eli was on NPR show Here and Now. In the broadcast, Eli mentioned that the head of the NAGAAA, Roy Melani, lives in Portland and had faced harassment here during non-gay softball games.
Mercury reader David wrote in wanting to know more about this harassment. For David and other people, I thought I'd repost the Portland details from Eli's story here.
I've never been to a softball game in Portland—gay or otherwise—so I'm curious about whether Melani's experiences with harassment are something a lot of people have faced or whether they're not the norm for Portland softball. People always refer to Portland as a liberal bubble and, in some ways, it is. But in many instances, we deal with the same kind of bigotry and homophobia issues as any American city.
Here's the story:
Melani and I were seated across the table from each other at Scandals, a gay bar in Portland, as he told me about this evolution. He's 51 and trim, and wore a purple striped dress shirt. He pitches for a gay team known as the Portland Brewers, and he apologized in advance for the way he speaks—explosive emotion, chopping hand gestures—saying it's a combination of his passion for gay sports and his Italian heritage. His lawyer, Roger Leishman of Seattle's Davis Wright Tremaine, sat next to him, listening closely.
Melani told me right up front that playing against straight teams in the Portland city leagues has convinced him it's important to have a cap on straight players for NAGAAA's premier annual event.
"The amount of slurs and the amount of abuse that we take—in Portland, Oregon!—is amazing," he told me. "Last year, we arrive to play against another team, and the umpire says, 'Oh, here come the crossdressers.'" On the field, he's heard opposing players call out "Faggot!" or "You throw like a girl!"
"Meanwhile," Melani said, "we beat the shit out of these guys."
He went on: "There was one time, a few years ago, where we split a double header with a straight team—they were ready to take baseball bats and come to blows because we were gay. Mind you, my team was not out there hugging and kissing everybody. That was not what we were doing. We were playing softball. And we were beating them. And that was a problem for them."