Trans drag performer says Sask. Rush's Pride night was an outpouring of love, support and fun

The Saskatchewan Rush wore special Pride jerseys at the game on Feb. 25 in Saskatoon.  (Saskatchewan Rush - image credit)
The Saskatchewan Rush wore special Pride jerseys at the game on Feb. 25 in Saskatoon. (Saskatchewan Rush - image credit)

When the Saskatchewan Rush lacrosse team announced that trans drag artist Karma K would perform at its Feb. 25 Pride game, comments online quickly became hateful and transphobic on social media sites like Reddit and Twitter — but that negativity didn't show up at the actual game.

Karma K found out about the backlash while she was working at her day job.

"My friend messaged me and she was like, 'Girl don't go on the internet right now,'" she said. But Karma K went online anyway and was taken back by all the negativity.

"Obviously because it was overwhelming. There was a lot more than I was expecting going on," Karma K said. "But when it came to the actual game day, I did not have one, not even one negative look or comment."

During halftime, Karma K came onto the field at Saskatoon's SaskTel Centre with a spotlight on her, flanked by six backup dancers. The group was decked out in black and silver glitter and performed "Survivor" by Destiny's Child using choreography by Saskatoon dancer Trinity Whiteside.

"It was incredible. If I'm very honest with you, as a queer person attending a sporting event, I was so shocked at how well received it was. Everyone was so lively and the attention was there and they were definitely not quiet. I'll tell you that!" said Karma K.

Allison Hlady, brand and promotions manager for the Saskatchewan Rush, said that the special Pride game was full of positivity and high energy.

"It was probably the most fun I've had watching one of our halftime shows. The crowd all stayed in their seats and everyone was extremely supportive and cheering the whole time and having a great time," said Hlady.

After the show, Karma K walked the concourse taking pictures with fans.

"She was showing her love for our fans, and our fans were showing her love back and it was a really great experience, especially after having to deal with all the negative comments online," said Hlady.

Submitted by Karma K
Submitted by Karma K

Karma K was overwhelmed by all the feedback.

"It was very validating for myself and my career. And also it was just so heartwarming to have my mother there, especially on her birthday. Every everything lined up so perfectly. It was a really big moment in my life."

A show of support

Saskatchewan Rush players wore special Pride-themed jerseys in support of the LGBTQ+ community at the match with the Vancouver Warriors.

The Pride jerseys were designed by Rush's in-house graphic designer Brad McLeod. They featured Saskatchewan's signature wheat, as well as the Pride rainbow colours. The jerseys are being auctioned off until Saturday to raise money for Jim Pattison's Children Hospital.

"So far every jersey has a bid on it. So it's been a really great turnout for that and every feedback we got about the jerseys is really supportive," Hlady said.

Saskatchewan Rush
Saskatchewan Rush

OUTSaskatoon, an LGBTQ+ service provider and community centre, had an information booth at the game, and Hlady said it was busy all evening.

"I know with people talking online, a lot of people were worried about [the game]. [But] we knew what our fans were made of, and they were able to show us that it doesn't really matter what people say online, that if you show up in support, it's a good atmosphere all around."

Hlady said a lot of new spectators came out to the game because of the Pride theme. She even had people reach out to say that they could not make it to the game, but wanted support the event by buying tickets to donate to people who weren't able to afford tickets.

Karma K said that this outpouring of support and charity is touching.

"I think that's incredible. I think that's kindness. And I think that even just a lot more than kindness is selflessness," she said.

The drag performer said Saturday night's experience was so positive, she'd happily perform at a sports event again.