“Fear the Black, Love the Pink”
A group of men pull up into a parking lot in an unfamiliar city. It’s Sunday morning and after playing a day’s worth of softball games yesterday they are back for more. They’re back to win.
The group unloads their matching hot pink backpacks, just one of many original and unique traits of this crew. While walking into the softball complex with their black pants, black jerseys, pink belts and pink socks, their uniforms make it clear that this is an organized operation and one that will be tough to reckon with. One of the players has a pair of hot pink high heels in his bag. Another is rolling the team’s portable sound system around. While warming up one might catch a team dance off, keeping the mood light and the energy up, and by the time the group is ready to play you can bet that someone has undoubtedly been called “Felicia”.
It seems like it was only yesterday that Avita De Lis made a national splash at their first and what looks to be their only Gay Softball World Series appearance by displaying a stunning show of sportsmanship with their rivals and friends the Knoxville Cyclones in the D Division tournament. The two teams met as one and embraced on the field after a hard fought game and in the process gained the respect of players and fans across all divisions. That moment was what this softball community is all about and it was a moment that is still remembered as one of the most memorable in GSWS history. Avita De Lis’ motto “Fear the Black, Love the Pink” sums up what the team was about. Fierce sportsmanlike competition on the field coupled with love, togetherness and fun off the field.
A wealth of great memories were made for a team that was together for just a little over one year’s time, but now memories are all the public has of this dynamic bunch out of New Orleans. On April 22nd, 2014 about a third of the way through their 2014 NOLA Softball League campaign, New Orleans Avita De Lis officially shut its team and its quest for a return trip to the Gay Softball World Series down for good.
The decision to shut down the team was made collectively by the group after seven ADL players were subject to ratings protests brought by another manager in the league before the April 14th, 2014 deadline set by the NOLA Softball League. During the 2013 season, ADL was also protested on a combined 27 questions throughout their roster and they won all of those questions making them eligible to represent New Orleans at the 2013 GSWS in Washington, DC where they placed 8th out of 53 teams. Needless to say the ADL players in question weren’t alarmed or scared when they found out this was taking place a little over a week ago. Unfortunately, it was all too familiar.
The DD learned that out of the seven players protested, three player protests resulted in their rating exceeding the limit to play in the D Division which would make them C players left to either find a spot on one of the two C Division teams in the NOLA Softball League or to sit out the remainder of the 2014 season in the league. It is not clear if ADL was offered the opportunity to move their entire team up to the C Division and be eligible for a World Series berth this season. When the rest of the players that were not forced to move up a division found out the result the decision was an easy one. “It was a group effort. We felt we were treated unfairly. We saw some of our family members being attacked so we pounced to defend them,” said Colt Plauche, ADL player. One of the three players that were protested up a division, Matt Gantt indicated to the DD that he was looking for a new league to play in from now on. Colt Plauche told the DD that members of the team would be looking at other options including playing in local straight leagues and traveling with different teams.
While investigating this situation the more information that came in about it continued to breed more and more questions regarding the circumstances surrounding the debacle. According to the NOLA Softball League website (http://www.nolasoftball.org) the Mission Statement of the league is written as the following, “The mission of NSL is to foster a positive environment for recreation and socializing through amateur slow-pitch softball, while supporting NSL sponsors and our community’s charitable organizations. NSL membership is open to all individuals, without prejudice.” If when reading the following information you get the feeling that the league’s mission statement might have been compromised a bit recently…..you’re not the only one.
Trent Pike, ADL co-founder, did not play with the team he helped put together this season, instead opting to travel to Knoxville, TN to play with ADL’s sister team the Knoxville Cyclones throughout their league schedule. “Last year, it all began. After placing high at the Houston tournament we came back (to New Orleans) and everyone was after us. They protested 27 questions on my team and we had to fight it,” said Pike. It is safe to say that Trent saw the writing on the wall knowing that what ADL went through in 2013 could happen in 2014, and it did. Pike went on to tell the DD that he personally felt “disliked” and “unwelcome” in the NOLA Softball League which aided him in his decision to leave the league prior to the 2014 season.
Adding to the drama of this situation is the fact that the team that brought the protest against Avita De Lis before the April 14th, 2014 deadline is headed up by the NOLA Softball League Commissioner. The situation didn’t need any more fuel added on to the already brewing fire, but that additional fuel was added anyway in the form of the commissioner having the tie breaking seventh vote on the newly formed league ratings committee that would be deciding the fate of the seven ADL players protested. We also know that ADL was the only team in New Orleans with any players protested prior to the league deadline. The NOLA Softball League website shows 12 total teams in the league, 10 D and 2 C, if you’re counting.
*The DD wants to make it perfectly clear that it is not accusing anyone including the NOLA Softball Board, the NOLA Softball League’s ratings committee and especially not the Commissioner of any wrong doing. The DD contacted the NOLA Softball League for comment on this topic and the league’s official response was, “no comment”.
Now, it is important to clearly state that per the NOLA Softball League by-laws, everything from a procedural standpoint about this situation was by the book. No league rules or regulations were broken or even bent in this process to our knowledge at the DD. However, if any person reading this blog post has been on the wrong side of a protest hearing before and you were to see your league’s commissioner (that plays and coaches in your division) bringing a protest that looks to be aimed at moving the majority of your team to another division and then that same person also holds the end all, be all vote that decides your fate in the event of a tie……you might walk away from your league too. Ethically, it is murky territory to be treading in, but by procedure it is legal. Think of it in terms of if you were a prostitute in Las Vegas. You might not be proud of what you’re doing, but you’re not breaking any laws either. After all, this is gay softball, not the fourth grade participation flag football league. Something the DD learned a long time ago is that if you play in a league or under an organization with rules and regulations, you had better know what those rules and regulations are and how to use them to your advantage, because if you don’t, someone else will.
The members of Avita De Lis are now trying to remember the fun they once had and will probably spend a lot of time and money trying to recreate that close bond they once had with each other, only now with teams in other leagues. A once proud New Orleans mainstay in D Division tournaments with six top 10 finishes and four top 5 finishes under their belt in about a 12 month time period will move on, its members fractured and quite frankly never the same. Regardless of the motivation behind the protest it will be hard for former and current members of Avita De Lis to see it for anything other than a negative attack. “There is no doubt in my mind it was personal. ADL players were the only ones protested. They got exactly what they wanted,” said Trent Pike.
Matt Gantt is claiming retribution is the cause of the protest. “At least two of us (that were protested) have been vocal about the lack of organization throughout the league. The fact that the board is comprised of three members of the commissioner’s team does not paint a picture of fairness,” said Gantt.
However you score it after reading this post, nobody can take away the impact that Avita De Lis made on the D Division on a regional level in the Southeast. We may never see this talented group again in its original form at a NAGAAA sanctioned tournament, but we will always have their battle cry to remember them by. “Fear The Black, Love The Pink”.