Part of Outsports’ series on our 100 most important moments in gay sports history.
Media, 1998: ESPN made the issue of gays in sports the centerpiece for coverage on the air and online in late 1998 and into 1999. "The World of the Gay Athlete" was groundbreaking in that a major mainstream media outlet devoted a lot of resources to the subject.
The project is still online (links below) and still relevant. One article "The Last Closet" can still, sadly, be written today with some modifications. Another has Dave Kopay lamenting how few followed his brave example about coming out, as applicable in 2011 as it was in 1998.
ESPN has been progressive in dealing with this subject. Cyd and I have both appeared on the network or its radio shows or quoted in print on its online outlets numerous times. The network regularly tackles newsworthy gay subjects on all its platforms. Bob Ley, host of "Outside the Lines," told me in an email recently that he still thinks about Greg Congdon, whom Ley profiled after the-then teenage football player was outed and ostracized.
Last year, I had a conversation with a member of senior management who talked about a gay and lesbian group that was forming. This person, who is straight, simply wanted to pick my brain about issues and wanted to make sure the company was sensitive to the needs of all its employees.
One sign that ESPN is doing the right thing on covering the issue was the complaint this year that the network is devoting too much time to gay issues.
For more information:
- ESPN "World of the Gay Athlete: The last closet" (there are links to other parts on the right side of the page)
- ESPN "World of the Gay Athlete: Still waiting for a hero
- The brief history of gays in sports