Just prior to accepting an award for achievement from the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, OutSports.com co-founder Cyd Zeigler reflected on the state of visibility of gay athletes.
“The men’s leagues look like 1981,” said Zeigler in a telephone interview with SFGN hours before accepting the Lisa Ben Award for Achievement in Features Coverage. “We do not have an openly gay athlete in the big four professional leagues right now and you have to wonder why no one is coming out.”
The big four leagues Zeigler is referring to are the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB). Brooklyn Nets center Jason Collins was the lone openly gay athlete in the big four last year but has since retired.
OutSports.com, Zeigler said, was created with buddy Jim Buzinski as a “place to talk about NFL with other gay guys.” During its 16 years of existence, OutSports.com has become an influential source of information for LGBT athletics.
“It’s taken a lot of courage on the part of several people to do this,” Zeigler said.
The Lisa Ben Award was established to honor a journalist whose body of work is distinguished by insight and impact through engaging features on LGBT individuals, the LGBT community or LGBT issues. It is named in honor of the founder of the first known lesbian publication in the United States. Zeigler accepted the award at an exclusive benefit for NLGJA in Los Angeles Thursday evening.
“Cyd Zeigler’s such an important pioneer when it comes to telling the real story about the LGBT community and sports,” said Jen Christensen, NLGJA President, in a news release. “There’s a reason LGBT athletes come to him first with their stories. Our community is so lucky to have such an able hand steering this important narrative for both current LGBT athletes and future pros who will now know that they can have some confidence that they can be ‘out’ as there have been others before them.”
Zeigler grew up in Massachusetts around Cape Cod and recalls cheering passionately for the Boston Celtics. He ran track and cross country in high school, a common course, Zeigler said, of guys struggling with same-sex attractions in a team setting.
With OutSports.com, Zeigler now has a platform to create change in the notoriously macho world of sports by “telling coming out stories and highlighting homophobia,” he said. OutSports.com was purchased by Vox Media in 2013 and incorporated into the sports website SB Nation.