Jim Buzinski, co-founder of Outsports.com, held a conversation at Penn State, regarding sports and gay athletes, on Tuesday night.
Buzinski, a Penn State alum, founded the website in 1999, with his business partner Cyd Zeigler. The website is a sports media page devoted to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender fans and athletes. This is where people have a chance to tell their story, and can even elect to write it themselves and have it edited by Outsports.
Buzinski and Zeigler became friends in 1990 when they were teammates on a Los Angeles flag football team for the Gay Games in Vancouver.
The idea of a gay sports media page arose when they were on vacation together in Massachusetts. With both being gay and having an interest in sports they wanted to make a website just for fun, since there wasn’t any website similar to the idea.
In 1999 they published their first story, about gay athletes and the NFL. Yahoo.com made it their hot site of the day, and the Web page had many views. Yahoo still uses many of their stories.
Today the website has stories of young athletes coming out, as well as news articles about LGBT issues and how they relate to sports. It also features columns on hot topics, such as Indiana’s religious freedom law and how it relates to the NCAA’s Final Four being hosted there.
Outsports was bought by Vox Media three years ago.
Outsports.com’s mission is to inspire athletes to come out as gay, and to make them feel comfortable after doing so. It’s not necessarily to get attention, but empower people and show that it’s possible to be gay and play a sport.
Since the start of the website, more than 150 athletes have come out and told their story through Outsports.
“Everybody is inspired by someone, and people have been inspired by our website,” said Buzinski. “It’s a way for people to tell their story, and say ‘Hey I’m gay and I can still play sports.’ ”
One thing Outsports prides itself on is not outing someone who doesn’t want to be outed. The company knows some athletes who are gay, but the company chooses to keep their secret, to stay credible and respected. They also don’t out people because they can relate to how big of thing it is to come out, and believe people should come out when they’re ready.
They knew MLB umpire Dale Scott was gay for a couple of years, but didn’t publish anything until he was ready to come forward.
“If they’re not ready to be out, and you out them you could potentially ruin their lives,” said Buzinski. “When they come to us they’re pretty much ready to do it.”
Outsports also deals with social problems about coming out. They try to make it equally important for female athletes as male athletes. This was illustrated when WNBA star Brittney Griner came out and didn’t receive as much notice as retired NBA player Jason Collins.
Buzinski feels that it will take one, maybe two real superstars to come out for all the attention and criticism to die down with gay athletes.
Buzinski has seen improvement since his company started, and remains optimistic about the future of gay athletes.