DC Strokes Calls for Masters National Championships Boycott
June 2, 2022
252 Nassau Street
Princeton, NJ 08542
To the USRowing Board:
On behalf of DC Strokes Rowing Club (DCSRC)—the nation’s oldest rowing club for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+) people and their allies—we write to protest USRowing’s decision to hold its Masters National Championships in Sarasota, Florida, in August 2022. In reaction to USRowing’s troubling decision, we have hereby voted to boycott this year’s event and subsequent Florida-based events, as long as the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law remains in effect.
DCSRC was founded in Washington, DC, in 1991, during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis and in direct response to the discrimination many members faced as a result of participation in other regional rowing clubs as “out” LGBTQ+ people. DCSRC’s early rowers were asked whether they were spreading AIDS into the Potomac River.
Over the years, discrimination within the sport of rowing in general, and at USRowing events in paritcular, has persisted. Most recently, at the 2019 Masters National Championships in Grand Rapids, Michigan, members of DCSRC were called “faggots” and “sissies” by members of a well-known club in New England. There remains a clear need within the sport for spaces that protect and encourage the participation of LGBTQ+ persons.
For as long as they have been in the public eye, LGBTQ+ people have been portrayed by bigots as pedophiles and threats to children and their families, all while research indicates these portrayals are highly associated with anti-LGBTQ+ violence and murder. Recent decisions by Florida’s government have made it clear that that trend continues to be an animating feature of the state’s leadership—even at great risk to LGBTQ+ lives.
In early 2022, Florida’s government passed its “Don’t Say Gay” law, encouraging parents to report “inappropriate” classroom activity. This includes, but is not limited to, the mention of a child’s LGBTQ+ parent(s). In March, the governor’s spokesperson said that those opposed to the law support “groomers” and are probably “groomers” themselves—those who commit or foster pedophilia.
While this harmful bill was working its way through Florida’s legislature and receiving significant national press coverage as well as wide criticism from the Human Rights Campaign, the Trevor Project, and other pro-LGBTQ+ organizations, USRowing was nonetheless negotiating the contract for the 2022 Masters National Championships. Its March 31, 2022, statement on failed negotiations with Oakland, California, indicates that cost was the deciding factor for choosing Florida as its 2022 venue. Compounding this problem, Florida law permits hotels and restaurants to deny services to LGBTQ+ persons, posing a direct risk to rowers from clubs all while asking USRowing members to provide revenue to a state advancing anti-LGBTQ+ policies that undermine the rights and humanity of so many of our rowers around the country.
While USRowing has taken rhetorical steps in recent years to support and encourage the acceptance of LGBTQ+ rowers with published statements, online forums, and social media, its conscious decision to hold 2022’s Masters National Championships in Florida shows that the organization is more interested in protecting its bottom line than the health, safety, and well-being of its LGBTQ+ rowers.
We will not participate in USRowing’s 2022 Masters National Championships, and we will encourage other rowing clubs to consider a similar boycott so long as Florida’s current laws are in place. Further, we call on USRowing to enact the following concrete actions:
Change its venue for 2022 (and beyond) to ensure the selection of a location with protections for the basic human and civil rights of all its members;
Develop and promulgate a venue and vendor policy that enforces its rhetorical commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion—so that USRowing can hold vendors accountable and so that its members we can hold the organization accountable;
Develop a more transparent process for venue selection in the hopes that USRowing’s members are not forced to choose between competing in a sport and protecting their health, safety, and human rights.
We understand that doing the right thing can be hard and costly, but that is how USRowing’s mettle and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion will be shown—if it is willing to do what is right to protect and support its members. Without cost, there is no courage; we hope to see USRowing behave with as much courage and commitment as its previous words promise.
DC Strokes Rowing Club
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Are you interested in signing on in support of this letter and boycott? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Clubs and Organizations
Burnham Boat Slings
Carnegie Lake Rowing Association
Chicago Rowing Union
DEI Committee of Riverside Boat Club
East Bay Rowing Club
Friends of Sharks Crew
Greater Columbus Rowing Association DEI Committee
hybrED Fitness LLC
North Shore Maritime Center
Pacific University Rowing Team
Richmond Community Rowing
Station L Rowing Club
Steady State Network
TopRow (All Locations)
Kit Aaboe (ZLAC Rowing Club)
Mel Abler (TopRow NYC)
Shannon Ames (Riverside Boat Club)
Gary Ashley (River City Rowing Club)
Loretta Attardo (WeCanRow—Boston)
Elizabeth Avery (Cambridge Boat Club)
Simone Azure (Chicago Rowing Union)
Jessica Baker (Undine Barge Club)
Cristina Battani (Marin Rowing Association)
Grace Beery (Boston University Women’s Lightweight Rowing)
Moushumi Beltangady (Capital Rowing Club)
Tyler Bergmeier (Upper Valley Rowing Foundation)
Chuck Bianchi (Sweeps & Sculls Rowing)
Kellie Bianchi (Sweeps & Sculls Rowing)
Mark Bianchi (Sweeps & Sculls Rowing)
Justin Boatner (Athletes Without Limits)
Maggie Bodkin (WeCanRow—Boston)
Estel Boix Noguer (River City Rowing Club)
Erin Bonney (Community Rowing Inc.)
Caro-Gray Bosca (Riverside Boat Club)
Laura Bottger (Bainbridge Island Rowing)
Kate Boyd (Marin Rowing Association)
James Braeu (DC Strokes Rowing Club)
Susan C. Brighton (Upper Valley Rowing Foundation)
Barbara Brocker (Capital Rowing Club)
Ann Broderick (Toledo Rowing Club)
Michael Brown (Capital Rowing Club)
Leslie Brunetta (WeCanRow—Boston)
Anne Buckingham (Cambridge Boat Club)
Nick Buffinger (Riverside Boat Club)
Alden Bumstead (Narragansett Boat Club)
Emily Burkett (Tempe Town Lake Rowing)
Gary Cairns (Dart Totnes Rowing Club)
Patrick Callahan (Capital Rowing Club)
Derek Callaway (Upper Valley Rowing Foundation)
Andrés Carazo (Bachelors Barge Club)
Dawn Carey (Upper Valley Rowing Foundation)