Stop press: Olympians have sex. Some of them are gay. Some gay Olympians are closeted. Some come from countries where it is mortally dangerous to be gay.
A straight Daily Beast writer has had an overdue crash-course in the above lessons after a journalistic stunt in Rio de Janeiro landed him with the labels homophobic, irresponsible, disrespectful and dishonest, forcing the news site to remove the offending article.
In what was apparently a disingenuous (and age-old*) attempt to prove that the world’s best athletes like sex, Olympics reporter Nico Hines may have unintentionally outed gay men, possibly putting them at risk in their home nations.
Hines created a fake Grindr profile to cruise the dating app for Olympian bait. He was, unsurprisingly, not disappointed. Nor was he duly careful with the identities of those men:
“Athlete profiles on the various apps during my short exploration included a Brazilian track star, an Italian volleyball player, a South American record-holder in the pool, a sailor from New Zealand, a British diver, and a handball player from a notoriously homophobic country,” he wrote in the controversial article.
“The [height], [weight] athlete from [nationality], who sent his address, had a Rio 2016 duvet cover as his main picture. His profile read ‘I’m looking for sex’ in both English and [language].
“He asked for ‘a sex foto’ but I’m a bit of a prude like that, so I sent a selfie from the fencing earlier this week.”
Attitude points out that the athlete in question is not one of the 48 openly gay athletes competing at the Games, “leaving no doubt that the athlete messaged by Hines is closeted.”
In more than 70 nations, most of them in Africa and Asia, same-sex sexual contact is a criminal offence. In more than ten of those countries, being gay or bisexual is punishable by death penalty.
Slate centres in on the “actual damage” that the “wildly unethical” piece will likely cause, calling it a “uniquely disgusting and irresponsible entry into the tired genre,” while Jezebel decrees it a “breathlessly written account of someone who appears to think gay sex is as mysterious as the prehistoric origins of Tilda Swinton.”
For its part, The Daily Beast initially released a statement apologising and informing readers that the piece was not intended to mock or sex-shame in any way and redacted potentially identifying details.
“The Daily Beast’s mission is to fight for full equality and equal treatment for LGBT people around the world. Publishing an article that in any way could be seen as homophobic is contrary to our mission … we have made some editorial changes to the article, responding to readers’ concerns, and are again sorry for any upset the original version of this piece inspired.”
The site has since completely removed the article, explaining that the error was not the responsibility of Hines alone.
“Today we did not uphold a deep set of The Daily Beast’s values … As a newsroom, we succeed together and we fail together, and this was a failure on The Daily Beast as a whole, not a single individual. The article was not intended to do harm or degrade members of the LGBT community, but intent doesn’t matter, impact does.”
The apology ends: “We screwed up. We will do better.”
As one Twitter commentator pointed out, queer outing is not an Olympic sport.
*If condoms are anything to go by, Olympic villages are not unsexy places. As far back as Seoul 1988, free condoms were given to athletes. Then, they numbered 8500. In Rio, 450,000 have reportedly been provided for athletes.