How a news website sex-shamed, potentially outed gay athletes in the Olympic village

The correspondent wanted to check if the Olympic village was indeed a “hotbed of partying athletes, hookups, and sex, sex, sex.”
How a news website sex-shamed, potentially outed gay athletes in the Olympic village
How a news website sex-shamed, potentially outed gay athletes in the Olympic village
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Digital news portal The Daily Beast took down an article on Friday called “The Other Olympic Sport in Rio: Swiping”. The article was an account of how its author Nico Hines used the gay social networking app Grindr in the Olympic village to find three dates in an hour.

Sex in the Olympic village is not something new. But on the pretext of checking if it was indeed the “hotbed of partying athletes, hookups, and sex, sex, sex”, Hines’ report turned out to be a homophobic piece reeking of heterosexual privilege and was strongly attacked for it.  

A straight, married man with children, Hines not only used Grindr to bait gay athletes, but also went a step ahead and put out details like height, weight, colour and what they had as their in-app display pictures, thus compromising their identities by implication. In the process, he may have potentially outed them, many of who come from nations where homosexuality may be illegal or criminal.

Mic, an online publication, pointed out that apart from endangering the safety of these athletes, Hines had violated many tenets of ethical journalism by using undercover and “surreptitious methods of gathering information”. In his article, Hines said that he disclosed his profession to anyone who asked. However, Mathew Rodriguez, author of the Mic opinion, points out that Hines never “confessed” to being a heterosexual man looking to out athletes.

Calling the Daily Beast’s article “gross and bizarre”, Slate’s Mike Joseph Stern also said that despite Hines' claims of not having lied, the fact that he was on Grindr as a straight man was a lie in the first place. Along with the patronizing tone of his article, there also seemed to be an underlying assumption that gay men are more promiscuous than straight people.

The Daily Beast, in light of heavy criticism, removed some leading details from the article with a note from editor-in-chief John Avlon. Avlon apologized for mentioning the home countries of some of the athletes and describing the profile of others as it could potentially compromise their safety. 

However, Avlon also said that the concept of the piece was to “to see how dating and hook-up apps were being used in Rio by athletes” and it just so happened that Hines received more responses on Grindr than on other dating apps for straight people and hence, wrote about them. He also refuted allegations of sex-shaming athletes on Grindr.  

However, the Slate article says that when the original version of the article was published, Hines himself mentioned that many of these athletes came from “notoriously homophobic countries”. And while the Daily Beast updated the article, removing some implicating bits of information, nothing can be completely deleted from the internet. Further, withholding names was hardly any help as Mike could figure out identities of at least five athletes with the leading details Hines had included.

Vox’s German Lopez writes that Hines’ article revealed three (rather obvious) things – that humans like sex, and use dating apps to find sex, and because Olympians are humans, they like sex and dating apps. In the act of producing a juicy piece about sex in the Olympics village, Hines also demonstrated that he had no consideration or clue about what homosexuality looks like in less liberal parts of the world. In some countries, it is even punishable by death, says Lopez.

On Thursday afternoon, Tongan Olympic swimmer Amini Founa, also a gay man, in a “Twitter storm” heavily criticizedHines’ piece. “@NicoHines You f****g disgust me. Do you realize how many people's lives you just ruined without any good reason but clickbait journalism?” he said in one of the tweets.

Late Thursday night, the article was removed completely and this apology was published in its place. “We were wrong. We’re sorry. And we apologize to the athletes who may have been inadvertently compromised by our story,” says the editors’ note.          

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