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Rugby is no joke. Especially in South Africa.

The team sport is fast and aggressive. And to the untrained eye, it's primal and chaotic. And while the game has gained some recent traction in the U.S., around the world it's quite common. In South Africa, competitive rugby is more than a game: It's an industry and a tradition.



South Africa is home to the Springboks (the national rugby team) and several provincial rugby unions, each fielding a professional rugby team and amateur clubs. The country also fields six professional teams for the Super Rugby competition where clubs compete with teams from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Argentina.

It's a big business, and home or away, national pride is always on the line.

But, sadly, something else is all too common in South Africa: Hate crimes, specifically against the LGBT community.

Despite having a progressive constitution (even lauded by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and legal protections against discrimination on the books, progress has been slow.

Stigma, negative stereotypes, and homophobic violence persist, making it difficult for LGBT people to live freely or pursue personal and professional passions without fear of harassment or attack.

Protestors opposing a proposal to remove the term "sexual orientation" from section 9(3) of the South African Constitution, which prohibits unfair discrimination. The proposal did not pass. Photo by Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images.

However, one group is celebrating South Africa's rugby tradition while dismantling tired stereotypes about gay men.

Meet the Jozi Cats.

What a handsome bunch of guys at Saturday's practice. Love you guys! 🏉🏉💜 #rugby #gay rugby #jozicats #handsome #sporty #boys
A photo posted by Jozi Cats (@jozicatsrugby) on


They're South Africa's first competitive gay and inclusive rugby team.

Based in Johannesburg, the Jozi Cats hope to join the ranks of other gay rugby cubs around the world and compete in the World Outgames (an Olympic-style event for LGBT athletes) and the Bingham Cup, an annual tournament for gay rugby clubs. The Jozi Cats would be the first team from the entire continent of Africa to participate in the latter.

But to stay competitive and offer opportunities for gay men to pursue the sport, they had to recruit some new players.

Jozi Cats player and head of Havas Public Relations in South Africa Chris Verrijdt realized the diversity and inclusivity in their ranks. Many of the players didn't fit the "conventional" mold or expectation people might have for a gay sports league.

Larry Viljoen, tighthead prop for the Jozi Cats. Image via Havas WW South Africa/YouTube.

"...they just are gay dudes who happen to like rugby," he told Upworthy.

Verrijdt and the team wanted a way to challenge long-held notions of masculinity and homosexuality, while recruiting some new talent. And since their publicity budget was nonexistent, raising a few eyebrows along the way couldn't hurt.

With an idea in the works, Verrijdt set up a shoot with the team and a photographer.

In a behind-the-scenes video for the campaign, the players described their care and responsibility to get this right — not just for the team but for other LGBT people in South Africa.

"We're running a campaign to make awareness of people who are homosexual within our society, to have courage to actually step out," said the team's all-rounder Chris Herbst, who actually came out to his friends and family by participating in the campaign.

Members of the team pose for photographer Werner Prinsloo. Image via Havas WW South Africa/YouTube.

The finished product — real players reclaiming derogatory gay slurs — is shocking but drives home a very important message.

No matter how the world sees you...

Photo by Werner Prinsloo for Havas WW South Africa/Jozi Cats, used with permission.

Or how you see yourself.....

Photo by Werner Prinsloo for Havas WW South Africa/Jozi Cats, used with permission.

Safe and welcoming spaces do exist.

This is Chris Herbst. Photo by Werner Prinsloo for Havas WW South Africa/Jozi Cats, used with permission.

And there are plenty of people who will respect and support you just the way you are.

Photo by Werner Prinsloo for Havas WW South Africa/Jozi Cats, used with permission.

Or as center Teveshan Kuni said:

So far, the response to the project has been overwhelmingly positive.

"We have just hit over 1,000 Likes on our page and the video of the shoot has been viewed in over 126 countries, " Verrijdt said.

But it's not just an international hit, the campaign is actually an effective recruiting tool. New players are inquiring about the team and coming out to practices and play touch rugby matches on Thursday nights.

The Jozi Cats at work. GIF via Havas WW South Africa/YouTube.

As happy as Verrijdt and the Jozi Cats are about their brush with viral fame, this was always about something bigger.

The Jozi Cats have always been about been about making connections and sharing competitive rugby with other gay men and allies. This project, however unconventional, is helping them do just that.

"Who knows the extent of what historical moments we are creating here for gay rugby and social inclusion," Verrijdt said.

"Perhaps Jozi Cats will produce South Africa's first openly gay sportsman? Which for a country with one of the most liberal constitutions in the world, is amazing that we haven’t been able to do so. Yet."

Photo by Werner Prinsloo for Havas WW South Africa/Jozi Cats, used with permission.


All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

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