Cleveland's Gay Games Settlement Averts Awkward Testimony, But Not Publication of Embarrassing Emails



She put a smiley face on it so ”,
  • "She put a smiley face on it so”,

A pact struck late last month abruptly ended Cleveland’s Gay Games controversy, but it may also have short-circuited some wonderful municipal comedy in the courtroom.

The problems started a couple years back when news broke that Cleveland was in the running to host the 2014 Gay Games, an international competition among people who do sports just like everybody else but have sex differently.

In 2009, the Federation of Gay Games chose Cleveland to host the event. The Synergy Foundation, a local nonprofit charged with promoting all things gay, was tapped to run the show.

But a year later, the Federation cut its ties with Synergy, claiming discontent over how things were going. A new, seemingly less queer organization was handed the reins, with Mayor Frank Jackson appointed its chairman. In response, Synergy sued the Federation and its co-promoters: the city of Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, among others.

Last month’s $475,000 settlement dwarfs the city’s initial $300K commitment to the games, but it could be a small price to pay for silencing the junior-high-caliber gay jokes that were shared among the city’s partner groups. The homo heat had already been turned up in depositions taken from Mayor Jackson and others last winter. Lest the wackiness that ensued be forever lost to the vaults, we now proudly present edited highlights from those proceedings:

It seems that a key source of friction for Synergy was a series of vaguely randy e-mails among officials from the Sports Commission, who were en route to Germany last year to observe how gay people play sports. In one message, Commission VP Meredith Scerba imparted the following advice to her boss, CEO David Gilbert: “My only travel tip for you is to make sure you pack your tight jeans and black leather.”
Grilled in the deposition room by Synergy’s legal team, Mayor Jackson was asked whether Scerba’s note was funny.

“She put a smiley face on it so —,” Jackson answered, before his voice trailed off. He then produced a somewhat more mayoral response: “It probably shouldn’t have been put in the e-mail.”

Later, the lawyer shared another e-mail between Gilbert and his co-workers.

“You see the part where they talk about [being] hung like an Irish light switch, or a field mouse if you’re Jewish?” the mayor was asked. “You see that members of the Cleveland Sports Commission ... are e-mailing and talking about size of penises and sexual preferences?”

“Yes,” Jackson responded. “It’s inappropriate.” The mayor was then asked what he planned to do about the penile perpetrators. “I’m going to comment to them about their inappropriate e-mail and should not expect to see it again,” he declared.

Scene requested an interview with Jackson, but was treated instead to a prepared statement from mayoral gatekeeper Andrea Taylor. It consisted of several extremely grammatical sentences noting that 1) the lawsuit is over, 2) it wasn’t Cleveland’s fault, and 3) they sure are glad it’s over. — Courtney Kerrigan

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.