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For the last nine seasons the Washington Renegades have boasted a winning record in Men’s DIII competition. 2013-2014 was one of their finest seasons to date, with the Renegades earning an 18-1 record and a berth in the national tournament. While many people know about the club's success on the field, many people do not know that the Washington Renegades were the first ever club in the United States to actively recruit LGBTQ athletes.

The club emerged in the late 90s with the idea of openly recruiting gay athletes after witnessing the Kings Cross Steelers take on such an endeavor in London, England. The Steelers are credited with being the first rugby club in the world to openly recruit gay athletes. 

After the Renegades started the Washington DC based club, the concept of recruiting openly gay players ballooned.

“It really mushroomed in the USA after us,” club President Ned Kieloch told Rugby Today. The San Francisco Fog and the Gotham Knights of New York followed suit. By the spring of 2001 five of these clubs formed the International Gay Rugby Association and held its first tournament in Washington DC.

The tournament evolved into the Bingham Cup after the founder of the San Francisco Fog, Mark Bingham died in the tragic events of September 11th. Considered one of the passengers that stormed the cockpit of Flight 93, Bingham is widely considered a hero in the rugby community. The Rugby Player, a recent documentary chronicling his life as a rugby player, and his relationship with his friends, family and teammates, came out last year. His mother, Alice Hoagland, has become a staunch proponent of gay rights.

The Bingham Cup continues every year two years. Today, however, the field of teams to choose from is a lot larger, with over 40 clubs around the world openly recruiting gay athletes.

It always has been and is still part of the Renegades mission to actively recruit gay athletes. The club recently supported its gay members by marching in the gay pride parade held in Washington.

President Kieloch believes the teams mission has been good for rugby and good for the gay rights movement.

“I think it has helped break down stereotypes and makes you realize that you have a lot in common despite sexual orientation.”

Although the club actively recruits gay athletes, it has never been something the club monitored. “It is not really discussed nor is any of their time devoted to thinking about it,” said Kieloch. “It is probably around 50/50 but none of the guys see it that way. We are all rugby players.”

With success both on and off the field, the Washington Renegades have become renown in the gay community. By welcoming players from all walks of life, the team has become a force in DIII rugby and vehicle for social change.