Gus Kenworthy, the openly gay skier who came out in ESPN The Magazine last autumn, took home two Winter X Games silver medals in Aspen last week, becoming the first publicly out athlete to win a medal in the competition. The medals came in slopestyle and superpipe; Kenworthy won an Olympic silver medal in slopestyle two years ago.
ESPN didn't hide from the special nature of Kenworthy's moment, flashing images of his boyfriend, Matthew Wilkas, waiting for his beau at the base of the run. While some detractors may falsely claim this is "special treatment" for a gay athlete (hard to argue many straight silver medalists have their unmarried girlfriends highlighted), it was important for ESPN to make this step given the unique nature of Kenworthy's relationship with Wilkas (his presence in itself was news, as witnessed by the coverage of it). Besides, we see images of straight athletes' wives all the time.
Three years ago ESPN aired its first gay kiss between an athlete and his partner when openly gay professional bowler Scott Norton emotionally embraced his husband, Craig Woodward. It was an important moment that neither the PBA, ESPN nor Norton shied away from.
That's all in contrast to how NBC handled Matthew Mitcham's gold-medal-winning performance at the 2008 Summer Olympics, completely glossing over his historic feat as an openly gay man with his then-partner in the stands there to witness it all.