Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

For queer stories to be told, queer journalists are needed

Sports journalism needs more than just white male writers
Shilpa Sweth

I am eleven years old, sitting on the floor of my living room in mid-November. The air is crisp, and it’s the time of the year where leaves crackle under your feet while you walk through a chilly fall breeze. For most families, fall is a time of togetherness as the season changes, for my family, fall is about football.

The TV screen shows Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady, both athletes I admire, and between touchdowns I hear the game analyzed by former football players and men who love the sport. As a young girl, there was nobody who I could relate to on a deeper level while watching these games. I knew from a very early age that I loved the connection and togetherness that athletics ignite, but I also recognized the lack of diversity within sports.

As I got older, the gap between me and the reporters that I saw on the screen only widened. I came to realize my identity as a gay female, but this only emphasized that there was nobody I could relate to while watching games and reading about the sports I loved.

On TV and in newspapers there were no female journalists and no one, male or female, who was open about their sexuality. While playing high school sports, I watched on while my teammates’ post-game interviews were done solely by straight, cisgender, white men.

Within the sports world, there are very few sports journalists that have come out and shared their sexuality with the world. As years go by, the world of sports journalism has advanced in the field of diversity and individuality but is still lacking in representation of queer sports writers.

“Right now, I believe I am the only queer person in my newsroom,” Hannah Bevis, a sports reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette said.

Bevis, who identifies as asexual, currently works as a sports journalist, covering a range of sports from baseball to women’s hockey. While in college, Bevis interned with her sports information department, wrote for the school paper starting her sophomore year and found her love of women’s hockey. She then became entranced in the world of sports, and this pushed her to pursue her love of writing and reading by becoming a sports journalist. Identifying as asexual has not been a vocal point of Bevis’ sports journalism career, but she does not shy away from the lack of diversification.

“The biggest thing right now is listening. It’s a big project to introduce and hire more people,” Bevis said. “We’re at a spot right now where maybe 90 percent of sports writing is male, 70 percent is white. It’s going to take a while for true equality in terms of race and gender and sexual orientation to come out. In order for that to happen, people need to be open to other experiences and listen.”

Celebrity sports talk host Elzie Lee “LZ” Granderson broke the internet in 2012, after sharing wedding photos of him and his husband. At this point in time, Granderson was one of, if not the only, openly gay man working for ESPN. Having a black, gay man openly out in the sports community was inspiring to many and showed that success is not determined on sexuality nor race. In an article with GLAAD in 2022, he recalled how he hopes his story will inspire others in a position he was once in.

“I had to believe that there was a queer kid out there working in a bar, maybe not even having the volume on, glancing up and seeing that on ESPN. I know what that would’ve done for me.”

I know what seeing someone of a similar identity on the screen would have done for me many years ago, and Granderson was not wrong to assume that seeing those of similar identities is inspiring.

A sports broadcaster, who prefers to go unnamed, shared his story about being a queer man in sports media. Identifying as a cisgender male who has had queer experiences, he has made the decision not to be fully out in his work. “There are so few people out and queer in the sports world, that there is such an onus placed on every person who does come out,” he said.

This is not a responsibility that he wants to take on aside from the usual ins and outs of football and basketball. Although he chooses to personally not come out to his coworkers, he still advocates for the rights of queer athletes and reporters.

“There are queer athletes, those who are out and those who are not out, at every single level of athletics,” he said. “I think that right now many queer athletes have their rights under attack at the state level and at the institutional level… and I think without representation in the media those stories aren’t going to get told.”

With many cisgender and heterosexual reporters in newsrooms, those of the same identities have relatable coverage of their favorite sports games and can find stories penned by people of similar backgrounds, about athletes of similar backgrounds. Nobody has ever had a hard time finding a story about a straight white basketball player, written by a straight white journalist.

People of the LGBTQIA+ community are at a disadvantage and left without coverage of similar issues. When articles about queer athletes do find publication, the journalist is often of a different background, leaving readers with a less personal story due to the journalist not relating to their subject. Having queer reporters report on queer sports issues leads to articles that articulate feelings, emotions and experiences well due to a shared personal connection.

A free press should be telling stories that include all walks of life and advocating for the rights of all. There is no need to tread lightly around these issues, we can tell these stories as the authentic truths they are. Queer people deserve to have their stories told and representation is one way to fight back against a journalism patriarchy.

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