On Wednesday, ESPN apologized for making a story out of NFL player Michael Sam and his “shower habits,” Cindy Boren reported Wednesday for The Washington Post. From Boren’s story:
“ESPN regrets the manner in which we presented our report. Clearly yesterday we collectively failed to meet the standards we have set in reporting on LGBT-related topics in sports.”
Jim Buzinski wrote about the apology as well for Outsports.
(Reporter Josina) Anderson’s report generated widespread criticism after its tone-deaf examination of whether Sam was showering with his teammates or waiting until later. She quoted one unnamed player as saying that Sam was “respecting their space” and that he “seemed to be waiting” to take a shower. This led Rams All-Pro lineman Chris Long to tweet: “Dear ESPN, everyone but you is over it.”
The Rams’ season begins on Sept. 7, so more and more media outlets will be covering Sam. The GLAAD media guide for sports reporting cautions reporters against focusing on the negative and amplifying the voices of those who argue that LGBT players will be unwelcome.
While out athletes playing at the professional level is still relatively new and a groundbreaking step forward in destroying stereotypes about LGBT people – it’s also important to acknowledge that their first and most important role is simply to play and excel at their sport.
It’s essential to prepare reporters on all beats to cover LGBT people with respect. There are a number of resources available for journalists. Here are a few:
Today our stories are more likely to be told in the same way as others — with fairness, integrity, and respect. Journalists realize that LGBT people have the right to fair, accurate and inclusive reporting of their stories and their issues, and GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide, now in its ninth edition, offers tools they can use to tell our stories in ways that bring out the best in journalism.
Allow players to play. While out athletes playing at the professional level is still relatively new and a groundbreaking step forward in destroying stereotypes about LGBT people – it’s also important to acknowledge that their first and most important role is simply to play and excel at their sport. In an ideal world, an out NFL or NBA player will be allowed to play without constantly being asked to comment on LGBT issues.
– Poynter’s general advice for avoiding problematic frames for coverage of LGBT people:
Educate your staff so they can tell the stories of gay and lesbian lives fully and with scope.