LGBTQ Atlanta sports leagues cancel tournaments, go virtual

The Hotlanta Softball League and Hotlanta Volleyball Association canceled its annual tournaments, and the 30th Annual Atlanta Pride Run has gone virtual in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The moves come as leaders of local LGBTQ sports leagues balance the safety of their members with the urge to get back out and compete two months after suspending play. 

The board of Front Runners Atlanta considered canceling the Atlanta Pride Run completely, according to Board President Thomas Barker. The organization announced Monday that the June 20 signature event will be a virtual 5K.

“We realized that a lot of the charity fundraisers are getting canceled and they still need money, probably more this year than anything,” Barker told Project Q Atlanta. “So we wanted to do what we could and raise some money.”

Last year’s event drew 600 runners to Piedmont Park and raised a club record $21,000. Front Runners donated the money to Joining Hearts.

This year, Atlanta Pride Run participants can walk or run any 5K course they choose, then submit their times through June 28. Registration opened on Monday and comes with a free mask. 

“If you raise $100, you get a t-shirt,” Barker said. “If you raise $250, you get a medal. We’ve never done a virtual race, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Front Runners’ twice-weekly runs remain suspended due to the pandemic.

Player safety 'a paramount concern'

Hotlanta Softball League announced in April that its annual Big Peach Softball Tournament scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend is canceled.

“The health and well-being of participants, fans, umpires and sponsors is at the utmost importance to us," tournament director Kyle Erickson wrote on Facebook.

All four parks where Big Peach is played also remain closed due to the pandemic, according to Erickson. Nineteen teams from 11 states took part in last year’s event.

HSL also suspended league play in March. 

“We have not returned to play since,” Erickson told Project Q.

Some 220 LGBTQ volleyball players from 28 teams nationwide took part in last year’s Hotlanta Classic. But the pandemic caused Hotlanta Volleyball Association to cancel this year's signature event, originally scheduled for early August.

“The health and safety of our players, participants, and spectators remains a paramount concern,” tournament director Kyle McAleese wrote on Facebook. “And while we are all excited to get back on the court, the alternative poses too many unnecessary risks for everyone.”

HVA suspended league play in March, as did the National Flag Football Association of Atlanta. 

The LGBTQ football league “is continuing to take a cautious approach,” according to Commissioner Justin Spears.

“The NFFLA board of directors will be meeting this week to discuss safety measures to put in place in the event we decide to resume in late June or July,” he said. “While many want to get back on the field and get some exercise, we understand this is bigger than just our desire for recreational sport.”

“The NFFLA is a family, and we'll continue to monitor developments in an effort to do what is best for our family members,” he added.

Read more coverage of how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting LGBTQ Atlanta.

This story is made possible through a grant from Facebook Journalism Project's COVID-19 Local News Relief Fund.

Photos by Russ Bowen-Youngblood