But when ESPN reporter Josina Anderson reported Tuesday on Michael Sam’s showering habits in the Rams locker room, she crossed a line.
NLGJA reached out to ESPN’s upper management Tuesday, through its Rapid Response Task Force. They made clear that ESPN’s coverage fell short of NLGJA’s standards for fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues.
“It is fair game to report on reactions as LGBT people break barriers,” said Ina Fried, a member of NLGJA’s Rapid Response Task Force. “The legitimate reactions of players and coaches is newsworthy. But there’s a difference between reporting on actual reaction and either creating controversy or perpetuating stereotypes.”
The next day, ESPN issued an apology: “ESPN regrets the manner in which we presented our report,” the network said in a statement. “Clearly yesterday we collectively failed to meet the standards we have set in reporting on LGBT-related topics in sports.”
Fried noted that ESPN is a supporter of NLGJA and is a leader in the coverage of LGBT issues in sports. She said the network recognized they fell short of not only NLGJA’s standards but the network’s own high standards for journalistic integrity.
NLGJA President Jen Christensen said the Task Force’s work continues to help journalists understand the delicate issues at play in LGBT coverage.
“The NLGJA Rapid Response Task Force’s quick action is a good reminder of how important it is for LGBT journalists to be a part of the coverage conversations in their newsrooms,” Christensen said. “We were able to work with our colleagues at ESPN to help them understand what was problematic with their coverage and how best to resolve it. We are grateful to have them as a partner, and to have members working in their newsroom. Their quick action to address this issue shows just how far we’ve come in covering LGBT people in sports.”