Thursday, August 11, 2016

Rio Olympics - Gay Dismissal & Hetero Privilege in Athletics Media

With many expected controversies at the 2016 Rio Olympics, now underway, and nearly 50 competitors being openly gay, lesbian and transgender, I longed for the days when I penned my weekly Sports Complex column, first locally in the Bay Area Reporter, then syndicated for the last three of its ten years. Consider this an emeritus column.

First, we have the city itself, which was massively unprepared for the thousands of visiting athletes and fans. Not only were dormitories documented as having broken toilets and sinks, the outdoor waterways used for competition remain a filthy pollution-strewn mess. One kayaker got knocked over in the water after running into a floating sofa.

Nevertheless, the glamour of Opening Ceremonies became the focus, not the massive poverty just blocks outside the arena. And as anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account knows, Tongan flag-bearer and Taikwondo athlete Pita Taufatofua wowed the world with his handsome shirtless oiled-up chest, flirty eyebrow nudge, and traditional skirted garb.

While he may have known he'd get noticed -that was the point- Pita may not have planned to be treated like a sex toy by Today Show female cohosts as they oiled him up in one segment. The heterosexism of his being fondled makes one wonder how women are treated in such a situation.
Corey Cogdell

Sexism against women was kind of rampant among commentators and other media. The Chicago Tribune labeled two-time bronze medal-winning Olympian Corey Cogdell as “Wife of a Bears’ lineman.”

Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu broke the world record in the 400-meter individual medley, but sexist commentators gave all the credit to her male coach and husband.

A short history of sexism in sports coverage is covered here. What I hope others share is how straight male privilege dons this glove with gay-dismissive coverage, or outright homophobia, on the other glove.

A bit of homoeroticism poked through all the sexism, despite NBC's prudish coverage. 

The German field hockey players whose jerseys made the saucy phrase "Butt Fuchs." 

The seemingly deliberate insertion of score bars covering the skimpy Speedo-clad waists of divers and water polo players (making it seem like gay porn anyway), the athletes are going to be considered sexy, and be objectified by viewers. Even the U.S. men's gymnastics team was quoted as considering competing shirtless, since they're happy to show off their "yoked" bodies anyway.

Arthur Mariano Nory, one of the Brazilian men's gymnastics team members, took it even further, beforehand, when a pre-Olympics nude chat session was uploaded on various adult websites.

Then we have the U.S. broadcast coverage of the nearly 50 jocks by NBC, or should we say, the non-coverage. Granted, NBC was expectedly going to lavish a lot of airtime fawning over multi-medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps. That is to be expected.

But presenting the pot-smoking dude who allegedly dated a transgender woman before becoming engaged with another woman after getting her pregnant as some sort of American ideal seemed a stretch.

Tom Daley wins; with fiance Dustin Lance Black
NBC's notorious selective coverage was limited to edited packages broadcast hours after people in any other country, or online, had already seen the events, with results published on hundreds of other media. 

NBC's myopic narrowcast included ducking out of showing us the men's gymnastic team when they didn't take gold. The women's team got due coverage for their victories.

But in diving, while they fawned over Boudia's victories, letting him shill for Christ in every mini-interview, NBC failed to acknowledge that British  bronze sync diver Tom Daley, a media star all over the world, won, and that his Oscar-winning fiancĂ© Dustin Lance Black was in the stands, furthered the deliberate obfuscation of gay couples at the games.

The historic meeting of eight-time medalist Greg Louganis and Daley was also not covered, while other meetings between veteran and current athletes was included. Out magazine includes photos of many LGBT athletes.

Jack Laugher hugs Chris Mears
The monopoly of NBC was avoided via social media, where the two gay divers, like many others, relied on their own social media to share the meeting.

And while NBC officials were quoted as saying they simply couldn't cover everything, that deliberate exclusion seemed clear.

Other media fared worse, where anti-gay sentiments were expressed by British media, including one old fart at The Daily Mail who declared that another British diving pair, Chris Mears and Jack Laugher, should not have hugged as they did, because it was "not manly."

Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh
In a worse example, a dunder-headed commentator cited a lesbian medal winner's wife as her "husband," this while footage of her hugging her obviously female partner was shown.

Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh are one of the first couples to compete together in an Olympics, let alone being two women. Newsworthy for NBC? Nope.

One would think that the home team would get some better coverage from U.S.-biased media, and they did, occasionally, as long as they won, except when they came out to the world.

When the first medal for Brazil was won in Judo by Rafaela Silver, her coming out as a lesbian was limited to coverage by alternative and gay media, and her own Instagram account. Her partner Thamara Cezar is her press agent and social media manager.

There was even a marriage proposal, the first between two women. CNN online at least gave them a nod.

Did NBC cover it? No, they had to do five minutes on Michael Phelps ineptly learning how to hold his infant child.

Isadora Cerullo & Marjorie Enya
At least mainstream media paid attention when lesbian soccer players were taunted by fans, or should we say, anti-fans. The problem has been covered extensively by British media, where bullying and other forms of idiotic behavior have long been a sore spot in soccer, responded to by official campaigns to combat it.

'What's the big deal?' clueless straight people say, in abundance, in online comments. 

The big deal is that despite its quite homoerotic history going back to the Greeks, representation of LGBT people in any form of sports coverage has centuries of deliberate omission. This is something people living with hetero-privilege do not understand.

Chris Mosier
As for coverage of duathlete Chris Mosier, the first out transgender U.S. Olympic athlete, we must rely on sponsor Nike to offer any visualization, and Rolling Stone.

Vox Culture thoroughly explains why NBC's coverage was just "awful, awful television."

"The way NBC covers the Olympics on TV isn’t just unfair to sports fans, or to people who live on the West Coast, or to people who have social media and are spoiled on the results of events long before they’re broadcast. It isn’t just racist and sexist and wedded to certain socially conservative expectations of what makes a family."

Daily, beastly
But the worst case, so far, was the globally scorned 'article' penned by declared heterosexual Nico Hines for The Daily Beast, in which he wrote about how easy it was to use hook-up apps to potentially have sex with other athletes. Finding Tinder to be slow for straight sex dates, Hines turned to Grindr for his salacious, thoughtless masquerade of pretending to want sex with closeted male jocks.

In the original version of the article, Hines identified the countries and sports of several male athletes, who hail from countries where homosexuality is illegal, and even a crime punishable by death.

While The Daily Beast edited out specific references after complaints, their lame non-apology served to only more clearly show the bias and uninformed perspective straight media have in covering a much more diverse athletic community than ever before.

Vox's German Lopez wrote, "That a straight Daily Beast writer directly violated this basic expectation of anonymity puts these athletes at risk. This may be unimaginable to those who don’t know what homosexuality around the world looks like. But remember, some of these athletes are from countries where homosexuality is still very socially stigmatized, illegal, or even punished by death. If any of these people are exposed, it could ruin their careers or even put them in prison or worse."

Nico Hines- asshole
On Twitter, Bec Shaw rewrote the tagline as "I Put the Lives of Queer Men in danger for This Shitty Article."

Slate's J. Bryan Lowder thoroughly eviscerates Nico "asshole" Hines' 'article' with a point-by-point takedown worthy of an Olympic wrestler:

"Hines, as a professional journalist, must be held to a higher standard than the 'average Joe.' And part of that standard is treating the communities he drops into, whether physical or digital, with sensitivity and respect. He should not be adding to the risk of exposure and judgment that queer men already must endure while trying to find moments of connection, however shallow those moments might look to an outsider."

And this:

"One of the victims was identified in the original article as being from Kazakhstan, which is considered by LGBTQ advocacy groups to be hostile territory. If he’s outed there, he could be punished, whether in terms of work prospects, social exile, or by physical attack. The point is outing like this, even unintentionally, is a very dangerous game because you cannot know how the revelation will impact the person involved."

Tongan swimmer Amini Fonua
Athletes as well had harsh words for the specious 'article.' Tongan swimmer Amini Fonua, as quoted by Slate, tweeted several times:

"As an out gay athlete from a country that is still very homophobic, @thedailybeast ought to be ashamed

"@NicoHines You fucking disgust me. Do you realize how many people's lives you just ruined without any good reason but clickbait journalism?"

"@NicoHines Seriously fuck off with your str8 white male privilege preying on closeted people who can't live in their truth yet. U ruin us."

Winter Olympcis silver medalist Gus Kenworthy also commented, tweeting, "So basically just outed a bunch of athletes in his quest to write a shitty article where he admitted to entrapment."
So basically just outed a bunch of athletes in his quest to write a shitty article where he admitted to entrapment“So @NicoHines basically just outed a bunch of athletes in his quest to write a shitty @thedailybeast article where he admitted to entrapment.” - See more at:
“So @NicoHines basically just outed a bunch of athletes in his quest to write a shitty @thedailybeast article where he admitted to entrapment.” - See more at:
“So @NicoHines basically just outed a bunch of athletes in his quest to write a shitty @thedailybeast article where he admitted to entrapment.” - See more at:
“So @NicoHines basically just outed a bunch of athletes in his quest to write a shitty @thedailybeast article where he admitted to entrapment.” - See more at:

Why would a be publication be so unthinking? Michelangelo Signorile cites "victory blindness."

"We live in a time when LGBT equality is more accepted than ever before and in which talking about LGBT people and writing about them is quite common, which could lull many into the idea that full acceptance has arrived," he wrote. "But, as I’ve written over and over again, the fight for full equality in every sphere of American life is far from over. And that surely includes how LGBT people are treated in the media."

The Daily Beast finally deleted the article, with this statement:

(excerpt:" The article was not intended to do harm or degrade members of the LGBT community, but intent doesn’t matter, impact does. Our hope is that removing an article that is in conflict with both our values and what we aspire to as journalists will demonstrate how seriously we take our error. We were wrong. We will do better."

Empty sentiments, empty promises.

Of course, the larger economic issue is the fact that this Olympics, like nearly every other one, not only negatively effects each host city, it also leaves ghostly useless facilities and bankrupted budgets.

an abandoned Olympic park in Sarajevo
With several days to go, the Rio Olympics will undoubtedly provide more examples of utterly stupid coverage by corporate media, reporters and broadcast journalists who still employ mid-20th-century bias and antiquated presumptions about the athletes they cover.

But this is the most alt-media-savvy group of athletes ever, and monoliths like the BBC and NBC are being taken to task as outdated patriarchs who need to change now, or be ignored.

One can only wonder how much worse media coverage, if any, of the Paralympic Games will be next month.


  1. It's great to read a savvy, knowledgeable article about all the things the so-called mainstream media are censoring. Good work!!