William Way Launches Philly LGBT Sports Organization

Stonewall Philly team at a national tournament in Washington D.C.

Stonewall Philly team at a national tournament in Washington D.C.

It only takes a scroll down your Instagram feed to realize that Philly is rife with LGBT sports. Whether it be kickball, dodgeball, or flag football, leagues are abounding, but, with little support from the City, many are struggling to find reliable playing venues and resources to keep them running efficiently.

Enter the next evolution of Philly LGBT sports: William Way’s newly formed Out Philadelphia Athletic League (OPAL)

Last week board members of the William Way voted to take on OPAL, an initiative created by six local sports enthusiasts that aims to establish a 501c3-eligible umbrella organization for all Philly LGBT sports teams.

I sat down with two members of the OPAL advisory board, attorney and Tabu owner Jeffrey Sotland (president), and Mazzoni Center’s Perry Monastero (vice president.) Sotland tells me that OPAL is “a social organization focused on bringing together all the different sports so there’s cross-pollination, and providing the support these leagues need.”

Right now, the group has commitment from enough leagues that will give them a base of 1,500 athletes. “We will be able to make use of that number as bargaining power when dealing with the City so leagues get what they need. Nobody’s been able to crack the schools, Fairmount Park or any other organization to gain access to playing fields and gyms. If we can get everybody under one banner we can get more attention.”

Partnering with William Way won’t hurt things, either. “It’s such a natural fit for so many reasons,” says Monastero. “Besides gaining 501c3 status, it lends a lot of credibility to the main issues that the leagues want to address. So when they’re dealing with space, for instance, having William Way as a backing entity is huge when you’re talking to a city council member.”

But the benefit isn’t one-sided; William Way will reap rewards, too. For example, Sotland tells me that he’s working with the tennis league right now to save them a few thousand dollars by using the 501c3 status at William Way. “In exchange, some of the money they make off their tournament will come back to the Center as a donation.”

The next step for OPAL is to create a website and continue signing on leagues. So far they’ve got commitment from some of the city’s most popular leagues, like the City of Brotherly Love Softball League, Gryphons Rugby, and the women’s hockey league. In the end, folks will have a one-stop resource to find out about all the LGBT-friendly sports leagues in Philadelphia, and ideally there won’t be any more issues about finding space to play.

Sotland and Monastero also hope to generate interest from a new generation of athletes who want to take over OPAL. They envision heading the group for a year, then opening the door for others to take the reins. “There’s only so much energy in these old bones,” Sotland jokes. “It’s time to see a new generation of leaders step up and get involved. We’re going to make room for them.”

To reach the OPAL program directly, email opalsports@gmail.com.