CLEVELAND — The 8th annual Stonewall Sports National Tournament and Summit welcomes nearly 1,700 competitors to Cleveland this weekend.
Attendees will participate in a diversity summit focused on the intersection of sports and advocacy along with seven sports competitions including kickball, dodgeball, sand volleyball, tennis, bowling, billiards, and bocce as well as nightly socials.
“It’s as much leadership development as it is an experience for all of the players,” said tournament director Matt Williams. “This is the largest tournament that we’ve ever had and one of the largest LGBTQ plus sports tournaments in the country.”
Stonewall Sports was founded in 2010 and is an LGBTQIA+ and Ally community-based sports organization that strives to raise funds for local non-profits. With leagues in 23 cities, the organization values each player for who they are and what they bring to the league’s community.
“We take our sports super seriously as adults. Many of us were those that were class and gym class for the dodgeball games and kickball games of our grade school years,” Williams said. “This is an opportunity for us to come together and create and recreate maybe those experiences from our childhood in an environment that is accepting and celebrates who we are.”
Each year the Stonewall Sports national board selects one of its chapters to host the tournament and summit. Cleveland was originally selected in 2020, but the tournament was postponed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The event was rescheduled for Northeast Ohio for 2022 and is expected to pump roughly $1.2 million into the local economy.
“We hosted the Gay Games here in 2014. And what the feedback that we got from that is, ‘wow, I did not expect that to expect out of Cleveland, Ohio,’” said Monica Gustin, the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission’s director of business operations.
Stonewall Sports operates on the belief that every person should have the ability to feel comfortable being oneself in organized sports. Having the tournament in Cleveland provided another chance for the city to showcase its knack for hosting large events, but also illustrate the commitment to acceptance and inclusion.
“We’re just going to continue the Celebration of Pride Month. We’re going to continue to advocate for our community, and we’re going to continue to celebrate each other and what we have going forward,” Gustin said.
This year’s tournament will be held at eight different venues across greater Cleveland, including Cleveland State University, Mall C, Gordon Park, The Corner Alley, Cocktails Cleveland, and Mulberry’s Cleveland. Nightly socials will be held at The Agora, Twist Social Club, and the Hingetown neighborhood of Ohio City.
The summit itself will be held at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and features Callie Brownson, Chief of Staff for head coach Kevin Stefanski and the Cleveland Browns.
Public participation is also encouraged in the event. Anyone interested can still get involved as a Friend of Stonewall. More information can be found by clicking here.