After more than a decade, Outsports reaching more readers than ever with reporting on gays and sports
Note: I’m president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association and hosted an event last night featuring Outsports editors Jim Buzinski and Cyd Zeigler. This story comes from the Q&A I conducted with them.
When San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver decided to make anti-gay comments in an interview in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, Jim Buzinski says he saw it as ‘manna from heaven.’
To the co-editor of Outsports.com, the leading site about gays and sports for more than a decade, this was exactly the kind of story that puts the topic of gays in pro sports on the front burner.
‘You also couldn’t get any more visibility than Super Bowl week,’ Buzinski told members of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association at a gathering Tuesday night.
There was a time when the Culliver story would have been largely ignored by mainstream media. Buzinski and Cyd Zeigler, with whom Buzinski founded Outsports in 1999, would have had it all to themselves.
‘In a sense, our competition is the whole rest of the media,’ Buzinski said. “Everyone is writing about these things now.”
The Gulliver story was covered by most major outlets and the backlash was so instant that the player quickly issued a written apology then faced dozens of reporters to try and explain himself.
It was clear that being openly homophobic was no longer going to fly in pro sports.
Said Zeigler: ‘I say it’s easier to be homosexual than to be homophobic in sports.’
He added: ‘I’m surprised at how accepting I think pro sports are. Homophobia is just not cool. We’re at a place where I really believe an athlete could come out – they would even make more money.’
To date, no active male player in any major pro sport has ever come out as gay and very few have come out even after retirement.
‘If it happens tomorrow, it wouldn’t surprise me and if it took 3-5 more years it wouldn’t surprise me,’ Zeigler said.
Whenever it does happen, expect Outsports to be out in front of the story.
The site has had a particularly busy and high-profile 2013. In addition to the Culliver story, they have led coverage of such stories as the current controversy surrounding transgender mixed martial arts fighter Fallon Fox, of college players being asked by pro scouts if they are gay in the wake of the Manti Te’o scandal, and the coming out of soccer pro Robbie Rogers.
While they face increasing competition from mainstream sites, Outsports is as popular as ever and earlier this month, announced it had been purchased by Vox Media which publishes SBNation.com and its 320 fan-focused and team oriented sports blogs.
‘We don’t have to handle tech issues anymore,’ Buzinski said with a laugh. ‘We’ve got editorial control. They are hands off.’
Zeigler said various LGBT publications and media companies had approached he and Buzinski about buying the site but he said it never felt like the right fit. This deal marks the first time a mainstream sports media company has purchased a gay-oriented website.
It is quite an achievement for a site that was hatched during a conversation Buzinski and Zeigler, who had met in a gay flag football league, had one day in Cape Cod. They complained to each other that there was no website for gay sport fans to post news and have discussions.
Buzinski had been sports editor of the Long Beach Press Telegram while Zeigler, a former sports editor at Genre magazine, was working as a development executive at Disney Channel.
They were initially going to simply call the site Gay Sports but in retrospect, are glad that name was already taken.
They have not looked back since.
‘This door opened,’ said Zeigler, ‘and we walked through it together.’