When we started Outsports.com in late 1999, no one was talking about gays in sports. No one. To folks in West Hollywood, gay athletes were "straight-acting" "butch" guys who struggled with their sexuality. To straight sports fans, gay athletes were, well, nonexistent.
What we've seen in just over 13 years has been transformational. Straight professional athletes are taking a stand for LGBT equality. Gay sports fans are coming out of the woodwork from Green Bay to San Diego, the Castro to Brooklyn. Sports leagues are saying that enough is enough: Homophobia in our locker rooms must go.
Outsports is now proud to be part of a new chapter in LGBT sports equality. We're thrilled to announce that the LGBT sports website we have run for more than a decade has been acquired by Vox Media, one of the fastest-growing online media and technology companies, which publishes sports brand SB Nation. Outsports will become one of the more than 300 individually branded, fan-centric sports community sites run by SB Nation and the first devoted to covering LGBT sports issues. The acquisition marks a new era in sports journalism that puts LGBT sports reporting on an equal playing field with other media outlets.
Progress in the sports media has been a mixed bag over the years. While some journalists have written stories on the rise of the gay athlete, many others continue the narrative that it's "impossible" to come out in sports. For every successful coming-out story that gets national attention, 10 more incidents of homophobia in sports drive segments on SportsCenter and headlines in USA Today.
Through it all, Outsports has continued to focus on the progress of the LGBT sports movement. Sure, Chris Culliver, Tank Carder and (back in the day) Jeremy Shockey and John Rocker get our attention, but our focus every day for the past 12 years has been on the positive: the straight allies at You Can Play, StandUp and Athlete Ally who are tearing down walls in their sports; the legal cases being won by the National Center for Lesbian Rights ensuring that LGBT athletes and coaches can participate in the sports they love; and the amazing coming-out stories of people like trans basketball player Kye Allums, former pro NFL player Wade Davis, volleyball coach Mari Burningham and college football captain Brian Sims.
So when we were approached by SB Nation to become part of their network, it was an opportunity that we simply couldn't pass up.
Never before has a mainstream sports media company acquired a national LGBT website, magazine or newspaper. Heck, we're not sure it's been done outside sports, either. Gay companies have made plays for Outsports in the past, but none of them were able to put the resources and commitment into an acquisition deal that we felt made sense for our community and the broader LGBT sports world. Vox Media's SB Nation got it done.
Other mainstream sports media entities certainly have some amazing LGBT talent. ESPN, with columnist LZ Granderson and baseball guru Christina Kahrl, has put an emphasis on including voices from a diverse spectrum. They have been leaders in that area.
Yet we at Outsports have been dedicated to covering sports in a way that no one else has replicated. Given our focus, we're able to dig deeper into LGBT issues than any other publication in the world. We're able to tell the stories of high-school athletes and minor-league allies that would otherwise go unnoticed. We're proud of having a platform to do that.
SB Nation is proud of it too. That's why they contacted us two years ago and started a conversation. They recognized then that the sports world was quickly transforming. The stories of LGBT athletes, and the perspective of LGBT fans on sports, are unique and powerful.
"Proud" was also the word SB Nation's Amy K. Nelson used when she got wind of the acquisition. Having navigated the sometimes sexist waters of sports journalism, the importance of her company bringing a gay sports publication into the fold wasn't lost on her.
From now on, the stories of LGBT people in sports will be told alongside mainstream sports news without apology. LGBT sports fans are equal to every other NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, college basketball and college football fan in every way. That SB Nation recognized that shows how far we've come and how very bright our future is in sports.