“Loyal, fearless, and dedicated” – Leviathen Hendricks was an individual tour de force in the collective effort to make sports more inclusive for all LGBTQ+ people. Sports Media LGBT+ looks back at his life and legacy, with tributes and memories from those who knew him best…
Friends and colleagues of Leviathen Hendricks, who has died aged 51, are paying tributes to a man who was a hugely influential figure in LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports for many years.
He passed away in Hoxton, London, on the morning of Friday, May 28.
His parents shared the following message with family and friends: “Leviathen fought a positive, determined and valiant battle against a brain tumour for over 26 years.
“We called him our miracle man! We will miss him more than we can say.”
Leviathen was previously a board member of the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) and worked as the organisation’s Officer of International Development until 2020.
Through being part of the Gay Football Supporters’ Network (GFSN), he founded inclusive football club East End Phoenix, a role that also led to his involvement in the Justin Campaign – the forerunner of Football v Homophobia – and committee roles with Out For Sport and the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation.
Born David Streeter Hendricks in New York in December 1969 – later choosing the name Leviathen – he had spells living in Montreal and Scotland before moving to London to continue his studies in marketing, advertising and PR.
In an obituary of Leviathen on the Phoenix website, Niall Dumigan describes how he set up the club in 2008…
“Things started small, with Lev setting up training sessions held at Haggerston Park… [he] worked tirelessly week-in, week-out to build the club… with the first competitive game held against the Met Police LGBT team in May 2008. The following year, Phoenix entered the London Unity League for the first time, and the rest as they say is history.”
Leviathen played with a Justin Campaign team at the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, and was on the committee that organised the Pride House at the London 2012 Olympics. At around the same time, he was also part of the London team bidding to host the Gay Games in 2018, which were eventually awarded to Paris.
In football, he took on the roles of fangroups co-ordinator and secretary with GFSN, helping to establish Proud Lilywhites (Tottenham) and Pride of Irons (West Ham) among others. He worked with the charity Stonewall to help bring the Rainbow Laces message to football in the campaign’s early days.
By 2014, he was increasingly involved with the FGG as a volunteer and travelled to Cleveland that year for the quadrennial Games. He knew better than most about the inherent power of inclusive sport to bring about social change – that Hong Kong will host the next iteration of the Gay Games was a source of great satisfaction to him.
In an interview with Sky Sports before Paris, after the host city for 2022 had been announced, Leviathen said: “LGBT movements in Asia are now at a phase where the West has been previously, so for the Gay Games to be of service in terms of the self-respect and confidence of Asian LGBT people is something I’m hugely proud of.”
As well as playing football with Phoenix and serving for a time as chair of the London Unity League, he played badminton with Goslings and supported all sports through OFS and other organisations.
His Instagram bio describes him as ‘activist, artist, athlete, aesthete’. He was a talented ceramicist and had a great eye for photography, as well as being an admirer of all that is creative – his social media feeds contain many examples of his passion for music and the arts. He travelled widely but held a special place in his heart for both NYC and London, the city that became his home.
My memories of Leviathen…
I can’t remember exactly when I first met Leviathen – it may have been at a screening of the WONDERKID short film in 2016, around the time when Sky Sports signed up to be a partner on the Rainbow Laces campaign. Having been involved in LGBTQ+ inclusion in football for several years, he was incredibly well connected and an invaluable contact for me in those days, but he quickly became a respected friend too.
When the first conversations about setting up Sports Media LGBT+ began in summer 2017, he was a strong supporter and we would often exchange messages. It was wonderful to see him at our big #AuthenticMe event at Twitter HQ in October 2019 when over 100 LGBTQ+ people and allies joined us for a night of celebration, discussion, and drinks.
As the pandemic took hold in 2020, and meeting up in person happened a lot less often, he participated in Sports Media LGBT+’s virtual events too.
With Leviathen’s passing, both myself and our network group have lost a dear pal who we always looked forward to spending time with. The global movement for greater LGBT+ inclusion in sport has lost one of its most outstanding advocates. He is gone far too soon, but whether it’s the Phoenix that took flight in football or the Gay Games which he helped take to new territories, his legacy lives on.
Organisations pay tributes to Leviathen
“Leviathen was fiercely dedicated to justice and equality as evidenced by the number of different committee roles he held over the years, and his opinions! He was never a wallflower! His voice and insights were always appreciated.
“While those close to him will have known about his health issues, he never let them hold him back. He gave generously of his time and energy even when not feeling his best. He was loyal, fearless and dedicated. We will miss him.”
“Always present at our Annual General Assemblies in his role as representative for the FGG, Leviathen made a point of getting to know everyone and had a great way of bringing people together. He was a willing volunteer, an active member of the Diversity Committee and always brought an interesting perspective to our community discussions.
“Leviathen was a hugely colorful character – exuberant and full of life – and will be sorely missed by all of us on the EGLSF Board. Our sincere condolences go out to Leviathen’s family, friends and colleagues. Safe travels.”
“Lev’s impact at East End Phoenix is impossible to measure or quantify. He created a wonderful football club that lives and breathes the inclusivity and kindness that Lev himself showed in everyday life. He also made lifelong friends at the club, all of whom will miss him dearly today and who will resolve to continue to develop the club in his vision.
“Lev, you were one of a kind. A truly special individual who it has been an honour to know and call our friend. Thank you for making Phoenix the club it is today.”
“For a decade or more, Leviathen was a fixture of OFS, always ready to lean in. He held a number of different committee roles over the years, and if you didn’t meet him at an Assembly, then you may have met him helping out with the annual sports fair, officiating at a sports day in Clapham, or flying the flag for London at international tournaments and conferences. Wherever you met him, we’re sure he left a lasting impression.
“He was a loyal friend, a fearless spokesperson for equality and he remains an ambassador for LGBT+ sport in London and beyond. Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends.”
Personal tributes to Leviathen
Alex Davis, Chair, London 2018 Gay Games Bid committee
“Leviathen was a central member of the London 2018 Gay Games bid team. His confidence and enthusiasm in the London bid helped inspire many others to get involved, with Phoenix FC stepping forwards as one of the first clubs to formally back the bid. I’m saddened to hear of his passing and send my thoughts and condolences to all his family and friends.”
Ubaid-ul Rehman, Goslings
“Leviathen was a much-loved member of Goslings London Badminton Club. He had an energy on and off court. One of our members called it a “contagious” energy and another said he “was a great guy and was always fun on and off court.”
“Leviathen was involved in so many clubs and organisations and his influence goes so far. For example, one of our Goslings members met him when they played for Leftfooters FC together whilst another met him at a queer spiritual conference, describing Leviathen as an “inspiration and a beautiful spirit to work with.”
“Leviathen was a ball of energy, full of warmth and love. He always made people in the room feel welcome and included, introducing himself and learning about them. He wouldn’t be afraid to ask questions or challenge. But most of all he had this wit and humour that would make so many around him laugh out loud. He’ll be hugely missed because his energy will be missing in the room. We’ll leave a light on for him at Goslings. Rest in power, Leviathen.”
Emy Ritt, FGG Honorary Life Member, FGG Co-President Emeritas, Paris 2018 Director of International Relations
“Knowing Leviathen during the last decade or so was an immense privilege. His passion for the Gay Games and LGBTIQ Sport, while reaching out to under-represented communities around the world, was stellar. At one of his last FGG International Development Committee meetings, he had created a team with members based in Africa, Asia, South America, Europe, and North America. Leviathen’s hallmark sense of humour, even in the face of adversity, was ever-present. When not working with LGBTIQ sport associations, Leviathen was an accomplished artist and potter, creating ceramic masterpieces in his Camden studio. In sports and in the arts, Leviathen made his mark on all of us.”
Ed Connell, former chair of GFSN
“Lev served on the GFSN committee when I was Chair. He worked tirelessly to advance two of our campaigns – the second Rainbow Laces campaign where Lev proved invaluable in persuading Paddy Power to be more sensitive to the concerns of the LGBTQ+ community. He also dedicated lots of his time helping set up football fan groups for many professional clubs. He was committed to making the sporting world more inclusive and he will be sadly missed.”
Cyd Zeigler, Outsports
“Every interaction I ever had with Leviathen over the last decade has come from his passion and commitment to building the LGBTQ sports community and helping people realize the possibility of participation and inclusion in sports. He truly dedicated his life to ensuring that all LGBTQ people around the world could find all the joy of sports in their own lives, and the loss of his hard work will be felt by people on every continent who will now never get to tell him “thank you.” He will be missed.”
Paul Amann, Kop Outs! (Liverpool FC LGBT+ and allies supporters group)
“A stalwart campaigner who I was privileged to have as a friend. He gave so much selflessly, taking a consensus approach and always seeking to build inclusively for our communities. I would always enjoy our work, as well as socialising when we could. I will miss his counsel and friendship. I have wonderful memories of him visiting Liverpool and hosting me in London, playing Scrabble at odd hours with mutual insomnia, a character who enriched our world immensely. Respects and condolences to all his family and friends.”
Hugh Torrance, LEAP Sports Scotland and EGLSF
“I shared many lovely times with Leviathen – we got a bit tipsy together on more than a couple of occasions. I used to tell him that he’d be a great Rufus Wainwright tribute act if he could just stop being so happy! He had me in stitches whenever his eagerness to be helpful ‘clashed’ with his own friendly personality, such as on one occasion when he had to count votes for us at an EGLSF assembly – he had to restart twice, then recount, as he kept getting distracted and chatting to people as he went around the room! We will all miss him hugely.”
Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett, Officer of HR, Gay Games
“Over the course of many years, Leviathen has given his utmost to LGBTQ+ sport… I got to know Leviathen more with regards to the London 2018 Gay Games Bid and his undying perseverance and determination, even in the shadow of the greatest adversity. He was always trying to succeed, even in the most unlikely circumstances. Your positivity will always be remembered. RIP Leviathen.”
Kimberly Hadley, FGG Officer of Sport
“I’m very sad to learn about my good friend and past fellow FGG Board Member Leviathen passing. He had a passion for making change and worked tirelessly to help give opportunities around the world for LGBTQ+ people so they could live a life full of acceptance. RIP brother.”
“Rainbow Rovers are heartbroken to hear of the passing of Leviathen. A tireless campaigner for increased diversity in sports, he was a member of the original Rovers squad [in August 2019]… enchanting everyone with his infectious enthusiasm and seemingly permanent smile.”
Darryl Telles, former chair of Proud Lilywhites
“It is with great sadness to hear that Leviathen has passed away. As a GFSN member, he was instrumental in establishing the Proud Lilywhites in 2014. Approached by Spurs, Leviathen advised the club on the setting up of the fan group and chairing the inaugural meeting. Put simply, if it wasn’t for his hard work as a volunteer, there wouldn’t be the Proud Lilywhites as we know it today. We owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.”
Vicki Carter, co-chair of Out For Sport
“Leviathen was a loyal member of our committee, attending meetings regularly, always the first to suggest a drink afterwards. I will miss his cheeky questions and persistent passion to make us more inclusive. A drink with Leviathen was always fun!”
Sports Media LGBT+ extends our deepest sympathies to Leviathen’s family and friends.
If you would like to submit a tribute to Leviathen – either personal or on behalf of an organisation – please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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