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Jock Talk: All that glitters is gold - and bronze

by Roger Brigham

Gay Olympic athletes Gus Kenworthy, left, and Adam Rippon share a hug in PyeongChang. Photo: Instagram
Gay Olympic athletes Gus Kenworthy, left, and Adam Rippon share a hug in PyeongChang. Photo: Instagram  

In advance of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony, John Moody, the executive editor of Fox News, wrote an editorial predicting poor medal results for Team USA because of an overabundance of gays and people of color on the squad.

"Unless it's changed overnight, the motto of the Olympics, since 1894, has been 'Faster, Higher, Stronger,'" Moody wrote in his lame-ass column. "It appears the U.S. Olympic Committee would like to change that to 'Darker, Gayer, Different.'"

Moody also wrote, "A USOC official was quoted this week expressing pride (what else?) about taking the most diverse U.S. squad ever to the Winter Olympics. That was followed by a, frankly, embarrassing laundry list of how many African-Americans, Asians, and openly gay athletes are on this year's U.S. team. No sport that we are aware of awards points - or medals - for skin color or sexual orientation."

Wow.

First off, seriously? Has he never heard of the "(white) gentlemen's agreement" that for decades blocked African-Americans from playing in the major pro leagues in baseball, football, and basketball? Is he not aware that amateur rules coming with economic equality historically made it damned hard for African-Americans to make the Olympic squads?

He's right on about the American Olympic ideal being to show the strength and fairness of our unparalleled diversity - but sadly mistaken if he believes the selections are driven by anything more than meritocracy, greater opportunities, and the drive to utilize all of the talent possible to have the best team results.

Sports have long been recognized by the United Nations as an important engine of social change, providing tools to empower expression, equality, and dignity. And when some of those athletes whose presence on the squad Moody challenged started to rack up medals, Fox News removed the article from its website - but issued no apology.

"The executive vice president of Fox News targeted some of our nation's top athletes with vicious anti-LGBTQ and biased rhetoric at what should be the proudest moment of their lives," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. "These athletes are at the Olympics because they already won by qualifying to represent the United States on the world's stage; and they did so despite facing discrimination from places like Fox News throughout their careers. It's not enough that the column has been removed. Moody should have the decency to apologize to the athletes and fans for this disgraceful post, and Fox News should open their site for diverse athletes to share their own personal stories and perspectives."

President Donald Trump selected Vice President Mike Pence to lead the U.S. Olympic delegation, enabling the veep to send whatever political message he wanted by refusing to stand when flags from countries other than the U.S. were paraded out - after notably walking out of an NFL game last season to protest players who protested racial injustice by refusing to stand during the American anthem.

And that dreadful diversity infecting the team quickly rose to the occasion. Skier Chloe Kim, one of those Asian-Americans contaminating the roster, completely dominated the women's half-pipe competition to earn gold. Figure skater Adam Rippon, one of those sexual deviants smudging the U.S. roster, put on a dazzling program in team competition to help lift the team to the bronze medal. Slopestyle skier Gus Kenworthy expects to ski even better since coming out of the closet after the Winter Games in Sochi, and was made the lead representative of the LGBT community at the Games.

Not sure what Moody thinks of the degenerates dragging down team efforts in other countries. Dutch speed skater Ireen Wust became the first openly LGBT athlete to win a medal at this Olympics when she took silver in the 3,000-meter race, then became the most highly decorated Winter Olympian with a gold in the women's 1,500-meter race, giving her a career total of five gold, four silver, and one bronze. And pairs figure skater Eric Radford was helping Canada capture the gold in team figure skating, becoming the first openly gay male gold medalist in Winter Olympics history.

While Moody was bellyaching about the "political correctness" of the American squad selection, Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler was counterpunching by accusing NBC of having "straight-washed" its coverage of the opening ceremonies.

Previous editorials by Outsports have taken NBC to task for failing to acknowledge LGBT athletes and their relationships at glaring times - such as when diver Matthew Mitcham kissed his boyfriend after winning gold in Beijing 2008 and NBC did not air it, or when British diver Tom Daley was winning the silver medal in 2016 in Brazil with his fiance, Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, cheering from the stands. Routinely, NBC shows images of successful athletes sharing their joy, especially if their partners are celebrities in their own right.

"Did NBC grab Kenworthy or Rippon for a quick hello?" Zeigler wrote. "Nope. Did they profile either man? Nope. Did they even mention their names? Nope. Did they decide to mention the name of the only publicly out American woman at the Games, Brittany Bowe? Of course not. They had to mention Lindsey Vonn for the 247th time."

A gay friend of mine agreed with some of the commentators who labeled Zeigler's column an "overreaction" - especially when Zeigler termed NBC's neglect "criminal." My friend asked me what I thought.

I thought that the gauntlet was more or less thrown when Pence was selected: that was a deliberate political message, much as President Barack Obama's pro-diversity choices were four years ago. The divisive animus that followed was predictable, and someone at NBC decided that it would not engage in political side issues.

Except that's like not covering a fire that breaks out after a reviewer is sent to the opera house to write about "Madame Butterfly." And it is inconsistent with its standard operating procedure. NBC routinely stacks its coverage with medal contenders, American athletes - and most especially, American medal contenders. Rippon and Kenworthy were the rock stars of the American men's squad coming in. Anyone following their respective sports knew that.

As Febreze ads might say, NBC has gone nose-blind to things that smell. It is losing touch with the human-interest elements of athletes' lives that have always been the lifeblood of their coverage.

Then again, Proctor and Gamble, the manufacturer of Febreze, already signed Kenworthy to a lucrative sponsorship deal, and not just because he's a dead ringer for "Game of Thrones'" John Black.

NBC should cover the athletes and their performances. It should not worry about whose feathers gets ruffled; it should give the athletes who dedicate their careers to representing their country the respect they deserve and the credit they earn.

To do otherwise just stinks. To do otherwise is just downright un-American.

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