Thanks to Alicia Banks for the heads up. If you were watching the NBC coverage of the Olympic Games, undoubtedly many of you were cheering on Australian diver Matthew Mitcham, the only openly gay male athlete to compete in Beijing. Mitcham's win was an incredible sports moment, coming from behind in the 3m springboard to clinch the 10 diving platform challenge. It was also an historic win as Mitcham becomes the first openly gay male athlete to win Olympic gold. You wouldn't have known this if you were watching NBC "News", which failed to report Mitcham's sexual orientation, his family in the viewing stands, or, the struggle to bring his boyfriend to Beijing.
Maggie Hendricks at Yahoo’s Olympics blog caught the blatant omission.
NBC did not mention Mitcham’s orientation, nor did they show his family and partner who were in the stands. NBC has made athletes’ significant others a part of the coverage in the past, choosing to spotlight track athlete Sanya Richards’ fiancee, a love triangle between French and Italian swimmers and Kerri Walsh’s wedding ring debacle.
Mitcham's sexuality is reported on the NBC Olympics site. The Australian diver is also the subject of a recent cover feature at The Advocate, where he discusses his sport, coming out, his long bout with depression and his hopes for Beijing. "Being gay and diving are completely separate parts of my life. Of course there’s going to be crossover because some people have issues, but everyone I dive with has been so supportive."
Mitcham's personal struggles and sexuality are an integral part of an incredible journey, and, he makes history as the first openly gay male athlete to win a gold medal. That in itself is newsworthy. Denying this story to millions of viewers means that many young people, who are struggling and gay, do not get the chance to see gay men as athletes, heroes or Olympic gold medalists. Shame on NBC.
According to the Los Angeles Times, which has regularly reported Mitcham's sexuality, the first thing Mitcham did when he met reporters after his win was "hug the reporter who handled the story with particular sensitivity." And here is YouTube of that press event, where Mitcham stood with both his mother and his partner, Lachlan, thanking them for their support.