Adam Polaski

Media Group Complains ESPN Plays for the Other Team

Filed By Adam Polaski | July 21, 2011 9:15 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: Catherine Maggio, ESPN, gay athletes, It Gets Better, Kyle Allums, Michael Irvin, Rick Welts, sports

ESPN.jpgA conservative media criticism group thinks ESPN, the sports television network, is talking about gay people too much. The Culture and Media Institute, an organization headed by the self-proclaimed "leaders of America's conservative movement," published an article earlier this week saying that ESPN has no business covering the subject of homosexuality. Catherine Maggio writes:

ESPN is supposed to be in the business of sports, but lately the network has allowed social advocacy to creep into its programming, and the Disney-owned sports network's take turns out to be identical to the pro-gay mainstream media.


Apparently sports have turned from national pastimes to the national social arena, and we have ESPN to thank for that.

The rest of Maggio's article goes on to question other ESPN editorial decisions, including coverage of New York Rangers player Sean Avery participating in the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign and articles entitled "It's Time for a Gay All-Star," "Can the NFL Accept Gay Players," and "Sports and Homosexuality Issues Is Not Going Away."

In the past few months, the subject of gays in sports has been an important - and popular - topic. The world of professional athletics has been viewed as one of the last frontiers for mainstream inclusion of the LGBT community. But this summer, the idea that LGBT sports figures can't simultaneously be open about their sexuality and enjoy a successful career has been challenged. And other athletes have lent their voices in support of their teammates.

Rick Welts, president of the Phoenix Suns, came out in May, as did Will Sheridan, who previously played as the forward for the Villanova basketball team. Kyle Allums played basketball at George Washington University as the first transgender man playing for an NCAA's women's team. NFL Hall of Fame star Michael Irvin appeared on the cover of Out magazine to talk about his support for his gay brother. Other athletes have spoken up about the marriage equality debate, and ESPN has covered their statements. The NY Giants, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago Cubs have made "It Gets Better" videos.

These stories are about athletes and the world of professional athletics. So why wouldn't ESPN cover them? For Maggio to posit that the sports network has turned into a gay marriage propaganda machine misses the fact that the stories she's taking issue with relate equally to the world of sports and the subject of LGBT issues. Isn't ESPN, the "entertainment and sports programming network," just doing its job?

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Conservatives are experiencing withdrawal: Mainstream coverage of LGBT people and issues is no longer dark, disparaging, or scandalous except in their own press.

In sports coverage, we're seeing a shift away from a don't-ask-don't-cover approach: Until recently, relevant connections between sports and GLBT issues were seldom discussed. This "media group," a sibling to supported by religious conservatives and fans of Rush Limbaugh, is not happy that shift.

Another notable shift: Look at the coverage of pro-marriage videos by Strahan/Murphy, Sean Avery and Steve Nash... the ESPN piece on Michael Irvin... ESPN didn't use either piece to give platforms to anti-gay voices. ESPN has covered David Tyree's anti-gay stuff, so it's not that they've shut out the conservatives.

Catherine Maggio also has no problem misrepresenting the ESPN coverage. She implies that newsworthy developments shouldn't be covered by ESPN when they are gay-related. (Sorry, Ms. Maggio, a sexy cover image of a straight pro football player on Out is news.) She skips past the fact that Irvin cites his Christian faith, his father, and T.D. Jakes as strong influences. The "article" by Jemele Hill supporting Tyree's right to speak freely was an opinion piece. Its follow-up column celebrated the robust conversations which developed without stepping away from the original point. She continues labeling editorials as "articles" and doesn't note that the McManus piece about a potential gay NFL player objectively recounts a lot of perspectives within pro sports.

There was a day when coverage of any LGBT-related story included a quote from Jerry Falwell or other anti-gay leaders; now that it has passed, anti-gay conservatives wish that a See no gay, Hear no gay, Speak no gay ethic would develop. Good luck to them with that!

More sour grapes from the righteous, upstanding, Christian folks who want all our contributions to the American scene to be totally invisible.

In addition to the positive stories such as Rick Welts and Will Sheridan, there are the negative stories such as Kobe Bryant and Joakim Noah being penalized for publicly using gay slurs. The question whether the sports world is ready to treat LGBT players (and fans) with respect is a timely issue, and it is thoroughly proper that the sports media outlets should cover this issue.

But the conservatives just wish it would go away ... because dealing with it invites progress ... and if it goes away, they win.

Sour grapes. Sour grapes. Sour grapes.

Ted Hayes Ted Hayes | July 22, 2011 8:44 PM

Religion is supposed to be about the love of God but hatred has crept into the mix, especially on those TV religious programs.. Has the Culture and Media Institute called the fundies to task? I didn't think so.