This gay-friendly rugby team took it all off to make a big point about acceptance.

World, meet the Nashville Grizzlies.

All photos courtesy of the Nashville Grizzlies. Used with permission.


They're a rugby team out of Tennessee, but ... they're a bit different from a lot of other squads.

The Grizzlies are a gay and inclusive team, which means they make a point to accept every player, regardless of sexual orientation and skill level.

"Team sports can be intimidating, especially if you've faced negative stereotypes about your [sexual] orientation for your entire life," Tom Hormby, team secretary for the Grizzlies, told Upworthy. "We will work with anybody to help them develop their rugby skills and get into excellent shape."

To help fight for sports inclusiveness, they created a calendar. And they're not exactly ... fully clothed in it.

NSFW WARNING: If you choose to continue scrolling right now (and you should — oh gosh, you so should), you WILL see some not-so-fully clothed men.

The team — a registered nonprofit — wants to make sure every guy in Nashville with an interest in rugby feels welcome to play, regardless of who he's into off the field or his financial status. So, considering the sport can get pricey, the team created a 2016 calendar to sell to help cover participation costs, like tournament registrations, transportation to and from games, and field rentals.

Aaaand the guys generously decided to show some skin to make your 2016 a little more satisfying.

Calendar photos by Chris Malone, used with permission from the Nashville Grizzlies.

Homophobia still exists in the sports world, so it's important when teams like the Grizzlies take a stand.

Anti-gay attitudes are still widespread in sports, but organizations like Athlete Ally — a nonprofit that encourages straight athletes to speak up against homophobia — have gained thousands of supporters in their fight for inclusion.

It's a fight the Grizzlies know all too well — especially considering where they live and play in Tennessee.

"Tennessee has a reputation for not being gay-friendly," Hormby explained to Upworthy. "We want to show everybody in this state that being gay is nothing to be ashamed of and that we're not going to let homophobic attitudes hold us back from playing a tough sport like rugby."

The Grizzlies are gearing up to host the biggest gay and inclusive rugby tournament in the world next year.

Yeah, that's pretty huge. The Bingham Cup is coming to Nashville next May (the very first time it's come to the South) and is expected to draw about 1,500 players from around the world. Teams across North America, Europe, and Australia have already signed up.

To prepare to play in the tournament, the Grizzlies decided to go up against some tougher teams in their local rugby union this year. That meant playing mostly straight teams for the first time in several seasons...

And it's been great!

"Rugby has an accepting attitude toward players of different backgrounds," Hormby said. "No matter what you might think off the field, you always treat your opponents with respect on the field and you almost always have a post-game party where you can meet players from the other team and make new friends."

The Grizzlies may just be one team, but they're one team making a big difference.

"This will be a great opportunity to show that gay and inclusive sports teams can thrive, even in the South," Hormby said of the upcoming tournament in a press release.

"We don't let negative stereotypes about gay men prevent us from playing a game we love."

You can preorder the calendar and support the Grizzlies here.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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