DC Strokes Rowing Club condemns the actions taken by Nellie’s Sports Bar and at least one of its bouncers this past weekend that led to violence against a Black woman, Keisha Young.
While Nellie’s statement about the weekend’s events moves in the right direction, it is not enough. The events of this weekend, when coupled with a history of Nellie’s staff unfairly targeting Black and brown guests leads us to the decision that DC Strokes Rowing Club cannot support Nellie’s Sports Bar and our club will not hold events at the bar for the foreseeable future.
Credible claims of racism, discrimination, and bias directed against Black and brown people in our community while at Nellie’s have registered no long-lasting change in the bar’s culture. Nellie’s must do more than react to racism—like all of us, they must be proactive.
In the past, DC Strokes has looked the other way. As recently as 2019, our club partnered with Nellie’s as a sponsor, and we, in turn, have held events and fundraisers at the bar. In this way, we have complicity in the complaints that Black and brown people and their allies have lodged against Nellie’s. For this, we apologize. We will do better.
For Nellie’s, making amends might take the form of hiring more Black and brown employees at all levels—including management—and providing them with opportunities to speak up and create more inclusive policies. It might take the form of investing money in local organizations that support Black and brown women or Black and brown LGBTQ+ persons. It might take the form of diversity, equity, and inclusion seminars or implicit bias workshops for all employees—including its owner and those responsible for hiring and contracting new staff.
Whatever next steps look like for Nellie’s, we hope that they undertake those steps with intentionality. We hope that we can support this LGBTQ+ venue again one day. But until Nellie’s takes serious and real steps—with demonstrable results—we will support venues that provide safe and welcoming spaces for all their guests.
Evening on the Anacostia River
DC Strokes Rowing Club (DCSRC) is committed to building an inclusive environment, fostering personal growth, and promoting a spirit of sportsmanship. DCSRC programs offer opportunities for all rowers, regardless of experience level. Today, DCSRC is one of only a handful of dedicated, independent LGBTQ+ rowing clubs in the world, along with the Chicago Rowing Union, the San Francisco Bay Blades, the London Otters in England, and the Melbourne Argonauts in Australia.
The team began in 1991 with eight gay runners looking for a cross-training activity, some old rented equipment, and a lot of enthusiasm. It took only two or three years for the team to grow into a cohesive organization that was competing regularly and ready to make the commitment to purchase racing shells and other equipment. Originally rowing on the Potomac River, DCSRC became a proud member of the Anacostia Community Boathouse in 2004 and now rows on the Anacostia River. DCSRC is also a member organization of USRowing Association.
DCSRC holds fast to the conviction that LGBTQ+ rowers can be formidable athletes and competitors. Our goal is for DCSRC to be a platform for competitive success and to increase the profile of LGBTQ+ rowers in the rowing community while promoting a spirit of camaraderie amongst our members. Our programs are open to all rowers, and we aspire foremost to create a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ rowers and their allies.
Building on a legacy of inclusion as the Nation’s oldest LGBTQ+ rowing club, DC Strokes Rowing Club (DSCRC) offers access to the competitive sport of rowing to people of all backgrounds and athletic abilities in the greater Washington, DC area at their home in the Anacostia River by: