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Happy 21st birthday, Outsports!

Today, 21 years after the first Outsports post, we’re saluting co-founders Jim Buzinski and Cyd Zeigler for their work telling the stories of LGBTQ athletes, coaches and sports professionals.

Shelby Weldon

Our birthday is today, and the gift is all yours: we’re bringing you more stories of LGBTQ athletes coming out, showing you how members of the community are working to make sports more inclusive, and saluting allies who support our causes amid our continued fight for equal rights and opportunities.

It was 21 years ago today, Jim Buzinski and Cyd Zeigler, Jr., published the very first blog on outsports.com; it was Nov. 10, 1999.

Here’s how it looked (sans pictures) thanks to the WayBack Machine (and kudos to Sports Media LGBT for digging it up!).

WayBack Machine

And ever since, readers have counted on Outsports to deliver a daily selection of positive stories and encouragement, to provide light amid so much darkness.

For most of those decades, Outsports remained a two-man operation, with contributors and guest columnists helping our co-founders share the message that Courage Is Contagious.

Former rugger now journalist Caroline Layt shared this image from 2002:

Caroline Layt via Twitter

A little more than 13 years after launching Outsports, Zeigler and Buzinski sold the site to SB Nation. Then, in 2019, I joined the team as managing editor. After that, we expanded and hired a team of contributors. But this story isn’t about us, it’s about Jim and Cyd, and their incredible milestones.

The latest came last month, when NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists inducted Buzinski and Zeigler into the LGBTQ Journalists Hall of Fame. No less than LZ Granderson interviewed the duo about their legacy of work and the inspiring stories they have told.

Below, we have tributes and messages of congratulations from out athletes and sports figures. But first, in case you haven’t heard the story of how Outsports got its start, here’s how The New York Times told it, in 2011:

Buzinski and Zeigler, who have never been a couple, met at a gay pride event in West Hollywood in 1996. Buzinski was manning a flag-football booth; Zeigler had friends on Buzinski’s team. They began watching N.F.L. games together on Sundays and playing football together on Saturdays.

They were in a coffee shop on Cape Cod in 1999 when, with Buzinski reading The Wall Street Journal and Zeigler reading Sports Illustrated, they started talking about sports and the Web.

“We’re two gay people who love sports, and we thought, ‘There is nothing on the Internet for us,’ ” Buzinski said.

And for 21 years, Outsports has been the leading site for out and closeted LGBTQ people who love sports, all around the world. Here are just some of the tributes that have been pouring in since Monday;

Note: if you click the name, you can read their story in Outsports!

Billy Bean

VP & Special Assistant to the Commissioner of Major League Baseball @billybeanball

“I’m so proud of my friends Cyd Zeigler and Jim Buzinski. They are true ambassadors to the LGBTQ community. I want to congratulate them and the entire Outsports family on their 21st anniversary. I also want to say thank you for their vision, and unwavering dedication to LGBTQ sports fans everywhere.”

Micah Porter

LGBTQ Youth Advocate and Educator @micahaporter

“Outsports turns 21 today! It is with deep Pride that I join in celebrating this incredible organization and its co-founders Jim Buzinski and Cyd Zeigler.

“From the early days in the LGBTQ+ sports movement, Outsports has been there, championing the courageous and calling out the hate. Courage Is Contagious has become the perfect message that this organization, and these two individuals, started so many years ago today.

“The impact that these two individuals have had on the trajectory of my life, and the lives of so many, is immeasurable. I would not be the person, the advocate, the leader that I am today, without the house that they built. To be able to stand on their rooftop, and share with the world the dream of LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports, is a privilege and an honor. Thank you, my friends.

“Happy 21st, Outsports! You have led the celebrations of so many in our community. We now celebrate you. Cheers!”

Kirk Walker

UCLA Softball Coach and co-founder of Equality Coaching Alliance and GO! SPACE groups @KirkWalker23

“Happy 21st Anniversary, Outsports. Kudos to Cyd and Jim for taking their vision to a reality 21 years ago. I remember meeting Jim and Cyd at The Abbey in West Hollywood during that first year of Outsports. They held onto my story until I was ready to go public in Fall of 2005. It was an honor to have them break my story like they have for hundreds and hundreds of athletes and sports professionals. So happy to celebrate the great work that Jim, Cyd and now Dawn do on a daily basis to change lives, save lives, and inspire others to be true and authentic in sports.”

Jon Holmes

Senior Editor/writer Sky Sports, Lead @SportsMediaLGBT @jonboy79

“I’d been an Outsports reader for several years by the time I first emailed, in 2016 — I think I was attempting to get Cyd interested in the short film @WONDERKIDfilm, which was beginning to get people talking here in the UK. I wasn’t actually successful! But in May 2017, Cyd flew over for a #RainbowLaces event in Manchester and we met in person, and became friends (he very quickly wrote about Wonderkid too!).

“We’d regularly exchange messages and chat, and I got loads of good advice, and was invited onto Cyd and Jim’s podcast, too. I set up @sportsmedialgbt later that year, with encouragement and support from them both.

“In summer 2018, I flew over to NYC for Outsports Pride, where I also met Jim in person for the first time, and Dawn, too of course, and was made to feel very much part of the LGBTQ sports family by everyone. Since then, I’ve also been to L.A. for Outsports Pride 2019 and the bond between us all has grown even stronger, and the dialogue even more frequent.

“Cyd, Jim and Outsports champion queer people in sports all over the world and the UK is well served by the website, podcasts and our collaborations. I just hope we can all be together again soon at an event in the US or the UK — but until then, a very happy 21st, and thank you for helping turn ‘the key to the door’ for so many to unlock their closets and take pride.

Alex Plinck

Sportswriter for Dallas Fanatic @aplinckTX

“I just want to thank Outsports for opening the door to a lot of awesome people. To hear their stories and see how long they’ve come is amazing. Outsports had opened a door to reflect on myself and realize that a gay man covering sports is just normal and shouldn’t be treated differently. Yes, that’s how it should be but fantasy and reality don’t always intersect.”

Theo Rabinowitz

Senior Production Support, Freelance, CBS Sports @bussdowntheotiana and LinkedIn

“The work of Jim, Cyd and their staff have provided an oasis in what I thought was a desert of LGBTQ+ people in sports. Their work is the reason why I felt comfortable to not only come out in the business, but tell my own story publicly. But as wonderful as their professional work is, they are even better people. Cyd, Jim and all those I have gotten to know that have written or worked for them are genuine, accessible, caring, inclusive and deeply invested in furthering the cause. Thank you for all you do and for who you are, and happy 21st anniversary, Outsports!!”

Kirsti Miller

World Champion Aquathon Competitor & Australian Modern Pentathlon Representative @KirstiMiller30

Chloe Psyche Anderson

Former NCAA volleyball athlete and Outsports Pride 2019 speaker @chloe.anderson.100 on Facebook

“I have been speaking at events related to trans athletics for years, but Outsports provided me with the first event where I could sit on a panel of all trans women who competed in sports of all levels. Outsports gave me the first experience to sit with other trans women like me, and I couldn’t help but cry that even Dawn, the moderator, were also trans.

“I want to do what I can to help Outsports continue to be impactful and inspire athletes everywhere. You have helped provide me a space where I could be vocal and do my part to help future transgender athletes see that they’re not alone, and we’re there right beside them, ready to help.”

Jacqueline Harper-Grubb

Youth soccer referee @RefJackie

Caroline Layt

Journalist and former rugby athlete @CarolineLayt

This is just a small sample of the messages so far. Add yours in the comments below, or post it on social media with the hashtag, #Outsports21