clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Moment #64: Bill Konigsberg comes out at ESPN

Part of Outsports’ series on our 100 most important moments in gay sports history.

Media, 2001: After working at the Worldwide Leader on the TV side and then online since 1999, journalist Bill Konigsberg came out publicly at ESPN in a column. Konigsberg, whom I have known as a friend for a decade, had a pretty simple reason for coming out:

A gay sports editor is not really newsworthy. I agree. But here's my point: Being gay in sports shouldn't be a big deal, but until someone does it publicly and shows they can do their job, do it well, and be known as gay, it simply will be a big deal. Before we can say it doesn't matter, we have to accept the fact it exists.

Despite not being in front of the camera, Konigsberg found himself the center of attention. In a piece he wrote for Outsports he talked about the email he received and how his coming out was received at ESPN:

Curiously absent: Hate mail, hate calls, violence. Did I get looks in the cafeteria? Absolutely. But in my entire time at ESPN, including out on the softball field where anything goes, I never heard directly from anyone a negative word.

In the following weeks, a funny dichotomy formed. At it was hardly an issue, and it was business as usual. If anything, people seemed to feel closer to me. On the production side, however (both are located in the same complex in Bristol, Conn.), it was another story. Possibly because I was less outgoing for much of my time in production, possibly because television is a less "enlightened" place than is an internet site, possibly because this particular group has existed since 1979 without a single out gay person in their midst, it was tense.

Konigsberg left ESPN but did not leave writing. His coming-of-age gay novel "Out of the Pocket" is an acclaimed look at a gay high school football player. I know a closeted college soccer player who has told me how much the book has meant to him in coming to terms with his sexuality. Konigsberg lives in Chandler, Ariz., with his husband Chuck.

For more information: