UPDATE: On Thursday night, The Daily Beast removed Nico Hines’ article from its website. “The article was not intended to do harm or degrade members of the LGBT community, but intent doesn’t matter, impact does,” the site’s editors wrote.
On Thursday, The Daily Beast‘s Nico Hines published a morally questionable article entitled “I Got Three Grindr Dates in an Hour in the Olympic Village.”
The premise of the piece is simple: Olympic athletes, being young paragons of physical perfection sequestered into a relatively small space, are known to turn the Olympic Village into a hothouse of sexual escapades. Who wouldn’t want to read about what the hookup culture amongst the world’s finest athletes was like?
“How do the rest of us get an invite? Can an Average Joe join in the bacchanalia?” Hines muses. “After 60 minutes in the Olympic Village on Tuesday evening, I’m surprised to say that the answer is ‘yes.'”
The problem with the article is that rather than focusing on the perfectly normal sex culture that develops amongst Olympians, Hines—who notes that he is a married, straight man—chose to target gay athletes using Grindr, one of the more popular mobile apps that people use to find dates, mates, and friends.
Even though many men do use Grindr to meet sexual partners, the thrust of the article glosses over the fact that just as many use the app as a means of meeting people in new places and building a pop-up community where such a physical community might not exist otherwise. Instead, though, Hines’ analysis amounts to little more than pointing and jeering as if to say, “look, I managed to get a gay guy to proposition me for sex. Isn’t that wild?”
Though the piece was drastically revised following a swift backlash from the many gay men who read it and were appalled, the original version that went live on Thursday included information about the athletes’ countries of origin and the sports that they played that were more than enough to identify some of them. At no point was any effort made to determine whether any of these men were out to their teammates, coaches, or families. This tipped the article from merely a creepy and misguided one to an actively dangerous one.
In an editor’s note added after publishing, The Daily Beast editor-in-chief John Avlon made an attempt at justifying the article, claiming that it was meant “to see how dating and hook-up apps were being used in Rio by athletes.”
“It just so happened that Nico had many more responses on Grindr than apps that cater mostly to straight people, and so he wrote about that,” Avlon said. “He never claimed to be anyone he was not, did not offer anything to anyone, and immediately admitted that he was a journalist whenever he was asked who he was.”
In identifying himself as a journalist, Hines did the bare minimum. What sort of insight does a straight man have into a gay community if the whole of his conversations with those people can be summed up as a “hey, sup?” While Avlon insisted that the piece wasn’t meant to shame or mock any of the people mentioned, that’s exactly what ended up happening. When you reduce a group of people that you don’t belong to down to their sexual identity without trying to give them a chance to speak in their own words, you’re mocking them. Plain and simple.
To be an Olympian is to be part of a very small, tight-knit community of athletic professionals who have the power to make or break your career and have a profound impact on your social life. Sponsorships, exposure, and the continuation of an athlete’s ability to compete elsewhere (this is what they do for a living) can be contingent upon their acceptance in a community that’s getting better about LGBT acceptance, but still has a long way to go.
There are a record-breaking 49 openly queer people competing at this year’s summer Olympics across a wide variety of events ranging from rugby to high diving. Their presence at the games has already had a profound impact on the way that the world sees LGBTQ athletes.
Chris Mosier, an American duathlete and the first transgender man to make the US’s national team, was the first trans man to be featured in ESPN’s Body Issue, and now he’s the face of a new Nike ad campaign. Isadora Cerullo, a lesbian rugby player from Brazil, broke down in tears when, after a winning match against Japan, her girlfriend walked out onto the pitch and proposed to her.
These kinds of stories can inspire young queer athletes to dream of one day going to the Olympics. Pieces like Hines’, and editorial decisions like The Daily Beast‘s, are the antithesis to that kind of progress. They’re hurtful, exploitative, and above all else, they’re homophobic and put people in danger.