How I Butt Pucked Myself By 'Outing' NHL Player

Earlier this week I was forwarded an incredible story: a blog post from gay lifestyle blog Queerty.com asserted that a Montreal Canadians player was planning to 'come out of the closet' this week. If true, this would make him the first openly gay professional athlete in one of the Big 4 North American professional sports leagues. The Queerty.com story was based on this series of tweets from an anonymous Twitter account @NHLInsights.

 

 

 

This was a HUGE deal.  Here is my shot to get in front of what maybe the BIGGEST sports story of the year, I thought to myself. But I needed to learn more. I did what any reasonable person looking for quick information would do: I googled it. When I googled the story I found that a variety of other gay blogs had also already picked up on it.

After the tweets were published on Queerty.com the story was widely circulated amongst the gay blog network and prominently featured on sites such as AKSARBENTNewNextNow, Instinct Magazine, and PhillyMag.  There were the headlines: "NHL Hottie Josh Gorges to Come Out as Gay Man,” "Is an NHL Player About to Come Out of the Closet?,” etc... The story seemed to be everywhere in the gay blogosphere, but was nowhere to be found outside of it. So later that evening I decided to take a shot. The Mayor Daily Blog was one of the first blogs outside the gay blog network (if not the first) to blog about this rumor.

As a life-long hockey player and fan, I thought that this player was a trailblazer of the highest order and deserved to be praised. I felt proud that the game I loved so much would be the first to publicly embrace tolerance. In my post I wrote about how the first person to come out deserves to be remembered in Jackie Robinson-like regard. I wrote about how the more progressive social attitudes about legalized same-sex marriage of Canada made it perfectly reasonable that a Canadian player playing for a Canadian team would be the first to shatter one of sport's last remaining glass ceilings.  At the time I felt extremely proud and fortunate to be one of the first to share this story with a more mainstream audience. The vast majority of my readers enjoyed, liked, and shared the post. The posting started to go viral. The views piled up. That's when the trouble started...

The viral story took its first major twist on Wednesday morning when Patrick Burke, founder of the gay athletic advocacy organization You Can Play, went on the air to debunk the Josh Gorges 'coming out' rumor during a radio interview with Boston's WEEI 93.7 Jerry Spar. In the interview he denied that the Montreal Canadians' assistant captain would be coming out this week. Instead he asserted that the rumors were unequivocally baseless and that Josh Gorges was not only straight, but recently engaged. He slammed the gay blogs I had used as my sources as 'less than reputable' and completely denounced the twitter account behind the story. You can view the full interview below.

Watch this at WEEI

Later on Wednesday, yet another gay blog, OutSports, populated its blog post Rumors of Montreal Canadien Josh Gorges Coming Out Not True with on-air statements and tweets from Patrick Burke.

Gorges is not gay. He is not coming out. In fact, he's engaged to marry his girlfriend -- Imagine their surprise when they heard he is gay and coming out of the closet! To our knowledge -- and we've make some inquiries -- there is no Montreal Canadian planning to come out of the closet any time soon. And even if he were, we'd encourage him to stay in the closet until the season is over.

The biggest problem with these baseless rumors is the position it puts straight athletes in. When somebody like Manti Te'o does something that creates questions, I think it's fine to ask said question. But to just toss a name out there with no basis for questions isn't helpful.

As we saw with Mike Piazza a dozen years ago, it puts the athlete in an impossible position: If he denies it, he's attacked for being anti-gay; If he doesn't deny it, then there's a lie out there about him (and I don't know about you, but I don't want anyone thinking I'm straight!).

Within hours of these statements I began taking heat from a very small, but vocal subset of readers who lambasted me for not pulling or amending the original story on my blog based on new information. I had been working on the night shift (8pm to 8am) all week (thus the 4 posts in 5 days after a dormant month) and was not awake as this narrative began to change rapidly. After waking up to an email from the ChicagoNow community manager, expressing some concern about my post I immediately went about trying to get to the bottom of this. It was time to play defense.

After reading some of my readers comments I decided to keep the story up and running. None of the gay blogs I had used as my sources had retracted their postings (in fact all of them are still up). In my mind I had clearly labeled the information as a rumor and decided there was no reason not to let the rest of the week play out to see what would happen. As a complete neophyte to the gay blog scene I had no idea who was more reputable Patrick Burke and OutSports or Queerty and NewNextNow. I defended my editorial decision in this response to my commenters.

First of all, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I strive for accurate and honest commentary here at The Mayor Daily and the last thing I would ever want to do is to put knowingly false information out there. I want to thank you for promptly stating your concerns. Let me take a second to address some of your concerns.

The Mayor Daily focuses on issues of pop culture, politics, and sports. The original post from Queerty.com got passed to me by two different friends who regularly read my blog and thought this would be an awesome story for it (and something right in my blog's wheelhouse). The original Queerty story is still up (it was the cover story last night when I first saw it). Other gay blogs like NewNextNow and Instinct Magazine were also already running the story by the... time I'd posted. More mainstream publications like PhillyMag are running it now.

I used the Queerty report to facilitate a larger story about both gays in sports and the divergent opinions of the American and Canadian public on the issue. Josh Gorges, himself, isn't really the story here anymore than Chris Culliver or Manti Te'o have been in recent weeks. That said, as I note in the post if/when he comes he should be lauded as a Jackie Robinsonesque trailblazer for gay rights. If the rumor turns out to be baseless as you both suggest I still feel that this posting was justified to spur intelligent conversation on this pressing issue. My posting's thesis is that more progressive social attitudes towards same sex marriage in Canada make it more likely that an openly gay NHL player would be more quickly accepted than his counterparts in the MLB, NBA, or NHL. Whether that person is Josh Gorges or someone else doesn't change my stance on this.

As far your claims about me not doing my homework, I admit even as a huge NHL fan I knew very little about Josh Gorges before last night other than the fact he plays for the Montreal Canadians. I spent time reading his bio on as many sites as I could including the Montreal Canadian's team website and wasn't able to find any information about his personal relationships. None of the other personal bios I found online made a references to a fiancee. As far as him turning up in pictures with girls on a google image search I have to say it would be more surprising if a 7 year NHL vet didn't have any pictures online with beautiful women (especially if has either been straight or in the closet this whole time). Using an image search as the basis for saying he's got a girlfriend is, in my opinion, just as baseless as saying he's gay because he's in a picture with three teammates wearing only a speedo in the picture Queerty.com used. I chose not to use that picture because I felt it was irrelevant to the wider narrative here.

As far as the refutation of this rumor by Patrick Burke of You Can Play goes, I must admit I had never heard of him before your comments. I've since googled him and found this radio interview from this morning with Boston's WEEI 93.7. You can listen to the interview here.

http://audio.weei.com/a/71803790/patrick-burke-of-youcanplayproject-org-says-he-expects-an-nhl-player-to-come-out-as-gay-in-12-18-months.htm.

You are correct in asserting that Patrick Burke claims that this is a baseless rumor. In my defense, Patrick Burke's interview was posted online well after my original blog post. Without this story being posted by myself and other bloggers and websites with far larger followings Patrick Burke is probably not on Boston sports radio this morning to talk about progress being made in shattering this glass ceiling. As one who is admittedly in completely foreign territory regarding regarding gay blogs or evaluating the comparative credibility of one gay blogger with another I admit I may have made an honest error in judgement.

The beautiful thing about blogging is that it facilitates a forum that can rapidly disseminate information. In a fluid story such as this one the story can be amended and changed as more information comes to light. In my post I never claim that Josh Gorges is 100% gay or coming out, I just said that there are rumors out there that he's coming out. With all this as context I felt the story was worthy of posting so I ran with it.

Meanwhile, conspicuously silent during this entirely episode was the person behind the @NHLInsights twitter accout who started this entire rumor in the first place. For three days the @NHLInsights account went tweetless while a shit storm was brewing across a variety of social media platforms. Typically in a situation like this when an account like this gets a ton of play for starting a false rumor either the entire account or the offending tweets typically get deleted. Neither the tweets nor the account got deleted. There they remained taking a bashing from angry readers.

Notably the twitter account of Josh Gorges @jgorges26 remained silent as well. I was felt I was in limbo. I had posted a story that I had no independent way to verify. At best I was guilty of gossiping about another man's personal life. At worst under the auspice of ChicagoNow I was giving a lie enhanced credibility. As my sources remained silent I felt as if I was too far removed from the story to make a dent via retraction. I was unsure if it even ought to be retracted. After a day, the story seemed dead in the water. So I did nothing.

Then seemingly out of nowhere, @NHLInsights broke its week long silence yesterday.

 

 

Now this whole scenario was beginning to seem like a scene straight out of the old ESPN show Playermakers. YouTube Playmakers episode 9, 'The Outing,' if you don't know what I'm talking about. In that episode the team's stud tight end Guerwitcz is blackmailed by his ex-gay lover after he punches him in a club after seeing him out on a date with a woman. In a moment of panic the gay Guerwitcz asks his new girlfriend August to marry him in order to put the rumors to bed. When a determined Guerwitcz decides to come out to the club, the team owner blackmails him into silence. While I'm not saying that's what happened here I just couldn't help but note the similarities in the narrative.

No matter the truth behind @NHLInsider's story I believe there is still a story here. As was done with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo after he catfishished Manti Te'o, I feel people closer to the situation should try and figure out the motivation between @NHLInsights tweets. There are about 700 active players in the National Hockey League. Josh Gorges is a very solid but unremarkable player. Why was this particular player singled out? Is it because he played for the Canadians? Is it because he slighted the wrong person at the wrong time during some random moment during a 7 year career? Was he picked because he seemed so ordinary, a solid, well-respected but by no means famous vet, that it made the story more believable? Right now its impossible to know. I intend to continue to monitor this situation over the weekend and will keep you updated.

Bottom line, I'd like to apologize for the small part I played in the Josh Gorges drama. I was completely out of my element covering this stuff and I'll leave this kind of story to TerezOwens in the future. No matter how this plays out I fucked up by even running this story in the first place. Its a lose, lose. If he's not gay I helped spread a lie about him. If he actually is gay I may have helped contribute to scaring him off from coming out. Niether outcome is my intention.

Thomas Drance of Vice.com wrote this piecethat absolutely nailed it.

Statistically speaking, there's almost certainly several gay athletes currently active in North American professional sports. The desire to see a guy come out, blaze the trail, and be for gay men what Jackie Robinson was for black American men three generations ago is understandable. Especially when you consider that potential draft picks were asked by NFL teams whether or not they “liked girls” during combine interviews just this spring...

But the desire to be “first” on a story like this confuses me. At best it demonstrates a serious failure of empathy and at worst it's completely counter-productive. Had this rumour been true – and it isn't – but had it been true, why would you want to preempt the player from making the public announcement on his own terms?

Andrew Sullivan, indie blogger and author of Virtually Normal - probably the seminal text covering the politics of sexual orientation in North America - wrote this about “outing” a generation ago in the New Republic:

“In all the recent brouhaha over the “outing” of alleged homosexuals, one fallacy has remained virtually unchallenged. It’s the notion of a simple “closet” and the crude assertion that one is either in it or out of it. I know of no one to whom this applies. Most homosexuals and lesbians whose sexualities are developed beyond adolescence are neither “in” nor “out.” They hover tentatively somewhere in between. And most outings are not essentially about dragging someone out of anything. They are crude assertions about invariably complex people, which have very little to do with the nature of someone’s sexuality, and all to do with who controls the disclosure of it.”

 

While there are some people out there who will probably never read my blog again, I want those of you who are sticking around to know that I learned a great deal from this episode and hope to produce a better more reputable blog from here on out. Stay with me, I'm still learning. Thank you for inspiring me to do better.

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