Black, an Academy Award winning screenwriter, is famous in his own right. Mentioning the family members and partners of athletes while showing them cheering in the stands is typically a reflex during Olympic coverage, which is always hungry for a good human interest story.
“Could the network have resisted lingering over an Oscar-winner affianced to an Olympic medal-winner if the relationship didn’t involve two people of the same sex?” Slate asks, continuing, “…do you really think they wouldn’t point out a diver’s celebrity fiancée if it were Marion Cotillard, Brie Larson, or another Oscar-winner whose fame level was roughly commensurate with Black’s?…You don’t have to be the kind of person who sees homophobia everywhere to think the commentators were reluctant to bring up a star athlete’s homosexuality.”
Then there was commentator Chris Marlowe referring to Brazilian volleyball player Larissa França’s wife as her “husband.”
“I’m sorry for the mistake today. Clearly, Liliane is Larissa’s wife,” Marlowe said, which served as the only apology to come from the network.
Former NBA player Jason Collins, the first openly gay athlete to play in one of the four major U.S. sports leagues, and was one of the many people on Twitter to express their frustration with the mistake, tweeting a link to Outsports article on the incident.
— Jason Collins (@jasoncollins98) August 9, 2016
This goes beyond the Olympics, as Outsports points out:
For the last few years NBC Sports has employed an avowed proud homophobe, Tony Dungy, as one of its lead NFL commentators. Dungy has raised money to oppose equality for gay people, has said he “disagrees” with Jason Collins being gay and, in a fit of hypocrisy, said he would not want openly gay NFL player Michael Sam on his team.
Dungy, meanwhile, has advocated for us all to forget the crimes of Michael Vick, whom he has mentored after his release from prison.
NBC Sports was previously forced to apologize for not mentioning Australian Diver Matthew Mitcham‘s partner in the stands, despite doing so for the partners of straight athletes. Mitcham, who won gold, was the only openly gay athlete at those Olympic Games. That too went unmentioned.
At the U.S. Olympic trials, diver Jordan Windle was accompanied by his fathers.
“They wouldn’t say ‘Jordan’s dads’ during the finals of Olympic Trials,” Jerry Windle said. “They just said ‘parents.’ Then they wouldn’t show both Andre and I together like they showed other parents.”
In 2014, the International Olympic Committee officially added sexual orientation protections to its policies, after the Games were held in Russia, which has a less than stellar record on LGBTQ rights, to say the least. They recently updated their policy on transgender athletes as well, allowing transgender men to compete without limitations and transgender women to compete after a year of hormone replacement therapy, provided their testosterone levels are equal to or lower than their cisgender female counterparts.
This year’s Olympics has a record number of out LGBT athletes, meaning it is even more important than ever for them to get their coverage in order.
Some athletes have been subjected to antigay slurs from audiences, particularly the USA women’s soccer team.
A tennis broadcaster for the BBC got into trouble for a homophobic joke he made involving the kiss cam, which lead to an apology.