Outsports at 15: How times have changed
While few major athletes have come out, LGBT people in all sports are no longer silent.
We've had some incredible stories on Outsports over the years. I'm going to highlight our history of LGBT sports people coming out on Outsports later this week. But for this I wanted to share some of the stories that have impacted me the most over the years that largely didn't have to do with someone coming out (yeah, I know two do - but I had to include them, I just had to).
So here are 15 stories from Outsports that impacted me over the years, or that I felt were particularly important to our history.
When will the walls come tumbling down? (2002)
"Will black jocks ever come out?" That was the question raised by Randy Boyd, our most prolific columnist in those early days other than Jim and me. Randy filled a perspective that we could not - that of a black gay man. Randy's column about black athletes coming out was prophetic. At the time, there were few who would share their stories - today, men like Jason Collins and Michael Sam have led the charge into pro sports. Randy was there at the beginning, saying the things about race that no one else would dare say. Plus, he called out John Amaechi as gay long before the former journeyman came out. Of course, he also suspected Tim Hardaway...
Jeremy Shockey's gay problem (2002)
One of the first big firestorms we generated at Outsports surrounded New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey's comments to Howard Stern about not wanting a gay teammate. When we contacted his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, he said Shockey was just trying to be funny. While it took Outsports' story to push Shockey's comments into the stratosphere, Stern said he knew right away that what the tight end had said was problematic. That led Gary "Baba Booey" Dell'Abate to share Bill Konigsberg's story for Outsports about Montreal mascot Youppi coming out of the closet. Mayhem ensued.
NFL fumbles on same-sex partner benefits (2003)
One of the first "hard-hitting" stories I wrote for Outsports came in 2003 when I contacted all 32 NFL teams before the Super Bowl to ask them if they offered their employees benefits for same-sex partners. I could kick myself for not writing down the two teams that simply hung up on me when I asked the question, one of them yelling at me for such an inappropriate question. Various teams said they would not comment because it would be releasing information that could compromise their competitiveness in the league. Ultimately only one team - the San Francisco 49ers, who were mandated by law - told us it offered such benefits to its employees.
Mike Danton's bizarre murder-for-hire plot (2004)
When St. Louis Blues defenseman Mike Danton was arrested for allegedly hiring a hitman to kill his male lover, we thought we were going to have the first out active pro athlete under the most auspicious of circumstances. The FBI complaint against Danton talked repeatedly about Danton's fear this his "acquaintance" was going to leave him and that the secret getting out could ruin his career. Ultimately it was learned that the "acquaintance" was his agent and long-time confidant Scott Frost, which only fueled more speculation about the true nature of their relationship.
'Gay' not allowed on NFL jerseys (2005)
I was vacationing in Mexico when Jim stumbled upon what became our biggest story to date in 2005: the discovery that you couldn't put the word "Gay" on an NFL jersey, despite the fact that at least two players had had that last name in recent years. You could put "Bin Laden" and "Nazi," but you couldn't put "Gay" or "Lesbian." Oops.
Alive to Thrive: The story of Ed Gallagher (2005)
Former Univ. of Pittsburgh football player Ed Gallagher had attempted suicide in the mid-1980s, better to be dead than gay. He survived the suicide attempt and became a champion for equality for LGBT and disabled people. I'll never forget one of our Super Bowl parties in New York, when Ed was in attendance and, as usual, larger than life. His death in 2005 was a shocker and disappointment as Ed reflected the best of humanity. I remembered him five years ago during our 10th anniversary.
Andrew Goldstein openly tending goal for Major League Lacrosse (2006)
Dartmouth lacrosse goalie Andrew Goldstein came out publicly in 2005 and was subsequently drafted by Major League Lacrosse's Boston Cannons. After one season he moved to New York and played for the Long Island Lizards. An openly gay man was drafted, played for one team, then played for another team - almost 10 years ago. Sound familiar?
Christine Daniels has been the woman behind the words (2007)
When Christine Daniels came out publicly as transgender in the spring of 2007, it sent ripples through the sports world. Daniels was inextricably tied to Mike Penner, her birth name, for her entire career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Times. She came out in a beautifully written piece that inspired so many to be themselves. Yet Daniels could never escape Penner, and she ultimately committed suicide a couple years after coming out. Her struggle painted the picture that so many trans people in our culture face. Thankfully there are others, like Christian Kahrl, who have been able to find hope and success in the world of sports journalism.
Matthew Mitcham wins gold (2008)
I was sitting in my room at the Washington Plaza Hotel, about to head to a panel discussion at the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association convention, hitting "refresh" on my browser every two minutes. I wanted to get Matthew Mitcham's final result from Beijing before diving into the conversation, and the event was not being carried live on TV. My gasp and ensuing scream after the final "refresh" reflected the shocking nature by which Mitcham won gold on his last dive. It was the first moment I could remember when an openly gay athlete had done something so extraordinary, so high-profile, and so historic. Though that joy was slightly muted by NBC's failure that night to mention that Mitcham is gay and that his boyfriend was cheering him from the stands.
My afternoon with Michael Irvin (2008)
I had been appearing on Michael Irvin's ESPN Radio show all season, so when Dan and I were planning my cross-country trip to move to Los Angeles, I told Michael I wanted to "swing by" Dallas and come into the studio. Those three hours with him, Kevin Kiley & Nate Newton - all of whom welcomed Dan into the studio - was powerful as we spent most of that time talking about sexual orientation and social issues. Michael's revelation that day - that he had a gay brother - led three years later to his appearance on the cover of Out magazine. But the most memorable part of that day was my realization that this Hall of Famer loved people so much, it just didn't matter to whom who or what Dan and I were.
NFL fullback Ovie Mughelli takes action against gay story (2010)
In one of the stranger stories we've covered over the years, a man claimed to have been the lover of then-Atlanta Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli. When the man came to us with the story, we didn't touch it. But some Web sites did, and when Mughelli's lawyer took legal action against them we reported on it. Like the Danton case, no historic revelation ever came from Mughelli.
Hockey kid Mikey: Anatomy of a deception (2010)
Mikey arrived on the scene saying he was a gay teenage hockey player. For months we highlighted his story and his blog. So when we discovered that "Mikey" was a 40-something man masquerading as a teenager, we were heartbroken and embarrassed. He had even been disguising his voice with us in phone conversations. That experience led us to change our policies on contributors and athletes whom we would profile, mandating Skype video conversations, a multitude of pictures and/or scanned photo ID. We've been better and more diligent for it. Sadly, Mikey's deception hurt some people including youth. For that we will be forever regretful.
Outsports' 100 most important LGBT-sports history moments (2011)
There has been a lot of talk over the years about how much LGBT history is forgotten, so in 2011 we aimed to document our rich history in sports by remembering 100 moments that shaped the movement. We had to cut many to get it down to 100. That told us a lot about how many stories had already been told in sports.
Is Tim Tebow gay? (2012)
Few questions have been asked of us more over the last five years than, "Is Tim Tebow gay?" I hemmed and hawed quite a bit before writing this piece, but ultimately wondered why I was even hesitating. Is being gay bad? Is it something we should shy away from even wondering? This wasn't an outing - we have absolutely no idea if Tebow is gay. Yet playful speculation? If there's nothing wrong with being gay, there's nothing wrong with that.
'The eagle has landed' (2014)
The most important and most-read story I ever wrote for Outsports was the behind-the-scenes feature about Michael Sam coming out. That was the craziest month of my life: Getting the call from Howard Bragman about Sam coming out, counseling his team on how to come out publicly, then appearing on 60 media outlets in three days. Sam continues to be an inspiration to me, and it was a privilege to be a big part of the rollout of his story. It will always be one of the proudest moments of my career.