March Toward Pride

Phoenix Pride Parade celebrates past, present and future

one•n•ten youth and volunteers in the 2017 Phoenix Pride Parade. Photo by

By Megan Wadding, April 2018 Issue.

Each year, the pride parades throughout the country serves as a space to bring diverse LGBTQ and allied communities together in celebration of our past, present and future.

The 2018 Phoenix Pride Parade presented by Bank of America is no exception. And, under the same theme “United We Stand, Equality for All,” LGBTQ and allied businesses, groups and organizations politicians and luminaries will hit the streets April 8.

“The 2018 Phoenix Pride Parade will see great things this year,” said Victor Avila, Phoenix Pride program manager. “I’m definitely encouraging the organizations that are registering [to participate] to be as prideful as possible to let their message be heard.”

The vibrant and colorful procession will step off at the intersection of Third Street and Thomas Road at 10 a.m. and run down third Street into Steele Indian School Park, with announcer stages at both Osborn Road and Clarendon Avenue.

“Last year, we saw over 15,000 spectators come enjoy the parade with their families and friends,” Avila said. “We’re expecting our parade to grow as it has been every year, with more floats and walkers, and many first-time marchers in the parade.”

Bill Kennedy was selected as the 2018 Phoenix Pride Parade grand marshal. Kennedy, an NBA referee who famously came out back in 2015 after NBA player Rajon Rondo – a Sacramento Kings point guard at the time – went on a homophobic rant against him.

“Bill Kennedy is a friend of mine who I watched endure some disheartening events in his career,” said Mike Fornelli, Phoenix Pride’s interim executive director.

According to Fornelli, Kennedy was chosen to highlight Phoenix Pride’s commitment to spotlighting the new athletic scholarship that they will to give out this year through a partnership with the Phoenix Gay Flag Football League (PGFFL).

For the first time, Phoenix Pride will be giving a $1,000 scholarship to a self-identified LGBTQ high school senior in a varsity or junior varsity sport that has plans to attend a college in Arizona.

In line with the new scholarship, Kennedy attended St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix and went on to graduate from Arizona State University.

“He is very much a product of our Valley of the sun, and it made sense to choose him as a grand marshal,” Fornelli said.

Billy Kennedy, 2018 Phoenix Pride Parade grand marshal. Courtesy photo.

Meet Grand Marshal Billy Kennedy

Billy Kennedy is an American professional basketball referee for the NBA

Billy Kennedy is an American professional basketball referee for the NBA. He began as an NBA referee during the 1995-96 NBA season. He has refereed five NBA Finals games, as well as the 2010 FIBA World Championships and the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Kennedy ejected Boston Celtics’ coach Doc Rivers from a game on March 17, 2009. As a result, Rivers was fined $25,000 for remarks he made about Kennedy after the game, and Kennedy was fined an undisclosed amount for his handling of the situation. Rivers reportedly used a gay slur toward Kennedy during the 2009 NBA Playoffs.

In 2015, Kennedy ejected Rajon Rondo from a game, and Rondo used a gay slur toward Kennedy, which resulted in a one-game suspension for Rondo. Kennedy later revealed that he is gay.

– Courtesy of Phoenix Pride.

Members of the Phoenix Gay Flag Football League (PGFFL) in spring 2017. Courtesy photo.

A League of Our Own

For 2018, Phoenix Gay Flag Football (PGFFL) has partnered with the Phoenix Pride Scholarship Programto offer its inaugural athletic scholarship.

This year, a $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to a self-identified LGBTQ high school senior in a varsity or junior varsity sport that has plans to attend a college in Arizona.

Echo caught up with Joseph Husmann, PGFFL commissioner, to find out more about the importance of the scholarship as well as LGBTQ-inclusive sports,and here’s what he had to say.

Echo: How long has PGFFL been working toward the goal of being a part of an LGBTQ athletic scholarship? And how did it finally come about?

Husmann: We have been in the works on this for some time, it was just [a matter of] finding the right venue … to have our community connect with us to make it happen. We finalized everything, thanks to the help of AGRA, in 2017. PGFFL is dedicated to giving back and, during our volunteer time [with AGRA] in 2017, they gave us enough to start the funding of the scholarship. With their help, and the great help of HP2 Promotions and Phoenix Pride, we had the foundation to start moving forward with our vision.

Echo: As the commissioner of an LGBTQ sports league, why is visibility in sports so important still today?

Husmann: We have to continue to breakdown the stereotypes and niches of the athletic and LGBTQ community.We have to show it’s not about the person you love; it’s about the love for the game.

Echo: What are some for the biggest challenges facing LGBTQ athletes today? And how does that tie into PGFFL’s mission?

Husmann: The change is in the air with our LGBTQ youth, but there are still challenges of harassment, ridicule and the comfortability of being an out open student. Our league is designed to provide a safe environment for LGBTQ and allied players; to help continue their athletic developments, no matter their experiences. We want to show our youth [that it’s OK to] be yourself and be proud! You have a community of players that have different backgrounds and athletic experiences that continue to play for their love of the game.

Echo: What advice would you give to anyone reading who is in a position to make a sports environment more inclusive for LGBTQ athletes?

Husmann: Some of the best advice I have been given is be open minded and ready to be surprised. Each season, we have newer players coming to the field, and it’s life changing. These players bring a different standard to the field, new life and new meaning to what we do. Remember we don’t know what this league means to each player, but we do know the league means we are a family to our players.

Echo: Is it too late to apply for this scholarship? Is there a specific link to apply or find our more information?

Husmann: It’s not too late to apply for the scholarship, deadline is April 27. There is a link on or, thanks to our friends at Phoenix Pride, you can go to

Echo: How can the rest of the community get involved and help support this effort?

Husmann: We are selling currently three styles of PGFFL shirts on our website, and 100 percent of the proceeds go back to the scholarship.The PGFFL is currently in works with other Phoenix athletic groups to join us and our hopes is for us all to work together and give back to our future.

Paying It Forward

The Phoenix Pride Parade raises funds for Phoenix Pride and the Pride Community Grants and Scholarships Programs. The Phoenix Pride Community Grants Program is a charitable program which provides financial grants to nonprofit organizations serving Maricopa County’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. Since its inception in 2010, the Phoenix Pride Community Grants Program has awarded $90,000 in project-based grants.

The Phoenix Pride Scholarship Program is a charitable program to provide scholarships to self-identified LGBTQ college students. The funds for this program are administered by the Arizona Community Foundation. Since its inception in 2008, the Phoenix Pride Scholarship Fund has awarded $207,500 in scholarships. In 2017 Phoenix Pride distributed $35,000 in scholarships to seven community recipients.

For more information on the scholarships program, or to apply, click HERE.

– Courtesy of Phoenix Pride.

2018 Phoenix Pride Parade
10 a.m. April 8
The parade steps off at Third Street and Thomas Road and runs to Steele Indian School Park.