by Savannah Bearden (she/her)| photos courtesy of Hotmess Sports
As a middle-aged CIS gender hetero married lady, I naturally have my finger on the pulse of LGBTQ+ sports in Tennessee. [hold for laughter] That’s why Focus asked me to go in-depth with the folks behind Hotmess Sports, a Nashville-based LGBTQ+ sports league that has recently taken up residence in Memphis. I spoke with Grant Cobb, owner and co-president of Hotmess Sports, and Justin Genwright, their new Memphis Director, to see what kind of sports they’re bringing to Memphis and how they want to connect to the LGBTQ+ community.
First off, how did Hotmess originate?
GRANT: Hotmess was started by a friend of ours, Derrick Lachney, in 2012. He was living in Washington, DC and playing in a kickball league there. One of the teams they played against used a homophobic term towards them. When he moved to Nashville not too long after that, he wanted to start a league up where that would be inclusive, that would be LGBTQ+ friendly.
So, real talk: why does Memphis need a Hotmess affiliate?
JUSTIN: I just moved to Memphis and I am heavily involved with Hotmess in Nashville, so naturally I wanted to bring the fun down I-40! Right now, we’re trying to figure out what the community really wants because we want to make sure we show our value to Memphis. Our ultimate goal is to connect on a deeper level— one where we’re developing community more, where we’re doing our part to build businesses and help the local bar scene.
Is there any cross-city pollination that happens with Hotmess being here? How does that work?
JUSTIN: Right now, Hotmess is established in Nashville and Louisville, KY and now it’s going to be in Memphis, so we want
to do a Tri-City Tournament in Nashville in the fall.
GRANT: Labor Day weekend is what we’re aiming for—and, of course, all of that is really dependent on the continuation of the vaccine rollout and seeing that go successfully. Then we could potentially do an annual tournament in Memphis next year, one in Louisville the next year, and so on.
Justin, you mentioned that you’re “trying to decide what sport to start with.” Any sports besides kickball that you are kicking around (pun absolutely intended)?
JUSTIN: We’ve talked about flag football, bowling, and dodgeball. We’ve discussed tennis—and although I do not have the technique, I can hustle to make it work. (laughs)
GRANT: As it grows and progresses, we’d really like to add other sports as well, whether it be cornhole or billiards—it could be anything like that.
You’ve talked about Hotmess Sports wanting to build business in Memphis. What does that entail really?
JUSTIN: A lot of other leagues may work with one specific bar, but we want to really help all of the LGBTQ+ businesses in Memphis. Everyone that would be willing to work with us, we want to be open to working with them and find ways we can help them out.
GRANT: What Hotmess has done in the past, specifically with the bars, is have a Day of Sports, usually on Sundays.
And that afternoon, we’ll have a specific bar that we as a league go and support and give them our business. In a season, we schedule different bars to make sure that we’re really sharing the love to each of those places.
I’m going to have to address the elephant in the room: Memphis already has an LGBTQ+ sports league: Pride Sports Memphis. This could easily escalate into a West Side Story-esque Jets vs. Sharks kind of situation. So, tell me, what is the Hotmess difference?
JUSTIN: I would say the biggest difference we have is the local connection—we originated
in Nashville and now we’re branching out right down the road in Memphis. But if we need to start off with a Hotmess Drag Race to show Memphis the difference we bring, we’ll do it! Whatever we gotta do!! (laughs)
Hotmess Drag Race?! Qu’est-ce que GAY?
GRANT: Hotmess Drag Race is a charity show where players in the league do drag and the show’s cover goes to charity. It is one of my favorite events of the year. When we did it in Louisville, we actually jump- started the giving campaign for the local Pride foundation, then we jump-started the giving for an LGBTQ+ community center in Louisville because they didn’t have one yet. In Nashville, it went to a nonprofit organization that does housing for homeless LGBTQ+ youth. So I’d love to find ways to really include everybody and give back to Memphis in every way that we possibly can.
JUSTIN: Again, we really want to have the community involved in what we bring to Memphis. We want them to tell us what sports they would like—what do they feel that is missing or is overlooked right now?
GRANT: We want to build that connection between Nashville and Memphis and work on building that Tennessee Pride. It’s why I do what I do. I love it. So just come out and have fun!
To get involved with Hotmess Sports or suggest an opening sport, holler at them here: