Abby Wambach married longtime girlfriend Sarah Huffman last weekend, and today, finally, made her first public comments about not just her relationship but her sexual orientation.
There are any number of angles from which to write about this. And it truly is a remarkable occasion. Wambach is arguably one of the most famous female athletes in America. Hopefully gay sites like Out and Curve and AfterEllen.com will be all over this.
But why should they write about that, you howl. That’s just TMZy gossip.
There’s precedent for top sports websites covering nuptials of famous athletes. I’m not suggesting Abby is as well-known as LeBron, but if Hope Solo’s marriage to
basketball football player Jerramy Stevens warranted a front-page link on ESPN, why wouldn’t Abby’s?
It couldn’t possibly be because she married a woman, could it? Nah.
It’s one thing for me, a happy-go-snarky blogger, to write about it. It’s quite another, though, were I still a reporter/producer for CNN Radio. I wrote and recorded dozens and dozens of “Sports Minutes” that were played on more than 1500 radio stations around the world. So let’s look at the Wambach/Huffman wedding-as-news through that prism.
If I were still at CNN Radio today, would I include this in a sports report?
Here are the factors I’d have to consider:
- Newsworthiness: what other sports stories are happening today. Baseball playoffs. Julio Jones would make the cut, the Girardi extension, maybe some hockey scores. Nothing major, so there would be room to fit it in.
- Writer’s discretion: what do I feel like talking about? Given the choice of pre-season basketball scores or Wambach getting married, I could easily choose the latter. I’m a soccer fan, so I’d likely choose a soccer story over another sport.
- The state of the world: If this happens in 2007, when I was working there, I almost certainly don’t report it. But it’s late 2013, DOMA is dead, gay marriage is (more) legal and gaining steam. CNN is liberal. I probably wouldn’t get pushback from a managing producer.
In conclusion, if I were working at CNN Radio tonight, yes, I would include Abby Wambach getting married in my sports reports.
Why isn’t ESPN? On the same day SI.com had a front-page headline about Sheryl Crow witnessing Lance Armstong getting a blood transfusion – is Armstrong doping still news? – why no story about one of U.S. Soccer’s biggest stars? Both also wrote about boxer Wladimir Klitschko’s engagement to actress Hayden Panettiere. Wambach got married AND she came out. In what ways are either of those events not newsworthy?
(I’m also wondering when U.S. Soccer will issue a press release in support of world all-time goal-scoring leader/USA-team-member Wambach. Or perhaps that’s just reserved for former men’s team players with 18 caps and two tallies.)
Over the weekend, when Fox Sports and SoccerWire blogged about the Wambach/Hoffman wedding, each was chastised for crossing some imaginary line by which the media was invading the privacy of non-out athletes by daring to speak of their private lives. But Huffman – who WAS already out – had tweeted about her engagement, and the duo had a public wedding registry accesible by anyone and everyone. Is it truly an invasion of privacy when the people involved are not keeping the information private?
I think it’s not, and I think this is where the mainstream media needs to take off its gay kid gloves and end this double standard. Huffman was out. Abby was standing at the threshold with the door open and wearing a rainbow shirt. The information was freely available and yet no one would touch it. Is this how it was when evidence of Tiger Woods dating Lindsey Vonn surfaced?
The manifestations of shame that keep gay people in the closet include fear of acceptance and fear of loss. What message does it send when a sort-of famous Olympic boxer gets engaged and it’s front-page news, while a gay female American soccer superstar gets married and the sports media shrugs? Are the milestone events in Wambach’s life less important than Klitchko’s? Than Hope Solo’s marriage? Than yet another disappointment from Lance Armstrong?
By ignoring Abby Wambach’s marriage to her girlfriend Sarah Huffman, ESPN, SI and Fox Sports send a not-so-subtle message that her happiness, her normalcy, her life are less-worthy than her straight counterparts’. This double-standard is, frankly, devastating, and underscores just how much farther gays and lesbians have to go to be accepted for who they are.
I congratulate Abby and Sarah on beginning a wonderful new chapter of their lives together as wife and wife. They deserve all the joy and love in the world, even if that world isn’t ready to acknowledge their happiness yet.