NBC failed to mention or highlight a single out LGBTQ athlete in its three hours of Opening Ceremony coverage Friday night. They also failed to take various opportunities to mention any gay or lesbian people, LGBTQ issues or any other connection to the LGBTQ community whatsoever.
This is, very sadly, what we’ve come to expect from NBC’s sports coverage.
The network had ample opportunity Friday night. Gus Kenworthy is an openly gay skier who won silver in Sochi. His story, like many of the non-LGBTQ athletes their hosts mentioned over and over and over and over and over again, is well-known both as a gay athlete and someone who helped stray dogs in Sochi. He is also a high-profile athlete due to so many sponsorship deals (appearing in a United commercial during the Opening Ceremony). As American as apple pie.
Except that he’s gay. Too dangerous for NBC to touch during the Opening Ceremony.
Kenworthy was at the Opening Ceremony, as witnessed by the adorable photos he posted with fellow openly gay skater Adam Rippon earlier in the day.
One of the few times he was sort of featured on camera, Katie Couric was too busy talking about the Pyeongchang Olympic Organizing Comittee to mention him.
If there was some fleeting split-second mention of Kenworthy, we somehow missed it.
As for Rippon, he’s been at the center of a tempest as he has sent some barbs the way of Vice-President Mike Pence. The Vice-President even responded on Twitter earlier this week offering support for Rippon and all American athletes.
NBC highlighted Pence for a couple of minutes and even mentioned there being some “politics” surrounding his presence. Yet instead of mentioning the criticism of Pence’s anti-LGBT positions by out athletes, they talked exclusively about North Korea.
Did NBC grab Kenworthy or Rippon for a quick hello? Nope. Did they profile either men? Nope. Did they even mention their names? Nope.
Did they decide to mention the name of the only publicly out American woman at the Games, Brittany Bowe? Of course not. They had to mention Lindsey Vonn for the 247th time.
The fact that they are two of the four men who are the first to be openly gay at the Olympic Games — an historic moment for the LGBTQ community — makes their ignoring of these two men more than just a head-scratcher. (The two other openly gay male athletes — Canada’s Eric Radford and Belgium’s Jorick Hendrickx — were predictably ignored.)
NBC did talk about diversity at one point during its broadcast, mentioning how American athletes were of different ages and heights. They highlighted athletes of various races and genders.
Beyond the LGBTQ athletes, there were other opportunities to say SOMETHING.
The flag bearer for Great Britain, Lizzy Yarnold, wore Rainbow Laces during the Opening Ceremony to demonstrate her embrace of LGBTQ equality.
Russia, which hosted the last Winter Olympics in Sochi and walked into the Opening Ceremony fractured and in disgrace, was under attack for a year surrounding the last Games because of the country’s anti-LGBTQ laws.
None of this should be a surprise to anyone who has watched NBC’s coverage of the Olympics over the last 10 years.
Ten years ago the network had to issue an apology (after first defending themselves) for never mentioning that one of the great heroes of the Games — Matthew Mitcham, who stopped the Chinese sweep of diving gold with the highest-scoring dive in Olympic history — was gay, had just come out publicly a couple months earlier, and his boyfriend was in the stands.
In 2016 NBC’s coverage of LGBTQ athletes was an absolute disgrace, even saying that a woman hugging her wife was her husband. They stepped it up in the second week of their coverage in Rio, which was a step forward.
Their three hours of straightwashing the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics took them a step back.
My guess is NBC was more tone deaf than outwardly homophobic. The importance of Rippon and Kenworthy’s historic Games isn’t even a subtle tremor for mainstream audiences and most of the people engaged in sports on a daily basis. It’s an earthquake for the LGBTQ community. It just wasn’t important enough for the people at NBC to mention.
Still, I feel badly for the young gay boy in Cincinnati watching to see if he can hear a couple words from his idol, Gus Kenworthy.
Sorry kid, no gays in these three hours.
You can certainly point to the fact that only 1% of American athletes were gay. Yet NBC went out of its way to make its Opening Ceremony coverage “diverse.”
Except for the gays. No gays.
In case the folks at NBC yet again need to see the list of courageous out LGBTQ athletes at these Games, here are the names and profiles of 14 of them. They are each worth a few seconds of your time.