It was coincidental irony that within 24 hours of posting our interview with Neil Giuliano talking about the success of GLAAD's sports initiatives under his direction that GLAAD closed its sports desk and laid off their sports director, Ted Rybka. When reached for comment, GLAAD spokesperson Rich Ferraro would not offer any insights on the decision except to release this comment:
Due to the difficult financial environment, GLAAD eliminated the full-time staff position in the sports media program however we will continue our advocacy efforts. The position duties are being consolidated into other staff positions. Our other program staff members will continue to monitor the sports world for instances of anti-gay defamation and demand action. GLAAD's programs team will also continue to proactively meet with sports leagues to advocate for LGBT inclusion and address topics related to sports on our blog.
This is disappointing news. As Giuliano pointed out, Rybka did good work that no one else was doing. Having a person dedicated exclusively to focusing on sports cannot be replaced by adding aspects of that role to the jobs of other people who may or may not have any background in sports. I wouldn't begin to claim I could address the issues of the theater world.
On the flip side, I completely understand budget issues. It's a tough economy. Outsports, like seemingly everyone else, has had to pull back a bit. GLAAD is no different. While Ferraro wouldn't elaborate on how much money they'll be saving by this move, I have to accept that the economy is the biggest reason this is happening. The decision they made to eliminate the sports desk does send a message that they are putting less of an emphasis on sports: They had to eliminate something, and they chose their sports program. Again, it's disappointing but I do understand the need to make very difficult decisions.
Pat Griffin, whose It Takes A Team project was recently eliminated, wrote about the loss of Rybka at GLAAD. Two strong advocates against homophobia in sports seeing their programs canceled in the same week that Focus on the Family gets an ad in the Super Bowl. Hopefully they will be able to continue their advocacy, and hopefully we at Outsports will be able to take up the slack.