TV network denies censoring gay Olympic gold medallist
US broadcaster NBC is denying they intentionally used censorship in the network’s coverage of Olympic gold medallist Matthew Mitcham.
In a shocking upset, the openly gay diver took home a gold medal in the 10-metre platform event at the Beijing Olympics, beating out the Chinese favourites.
Despite intensive coverage of other gold medallist’s personal lives during the Games, NBC failed to mention Mitcham was gay, or show footage of the diver’s partner cheering him on and congratulating him after the win.
In an interview found on YouTube.com, a gracious Mitcham thanks his mum, as well as his long-time partner, Lachlan Fletcher, after he scores the gold medal.
The celebration and joy is apparent on both their faces as they hug and show their affection for each other on camera.
It’s a fantastic moment, however, that was never shown during NBC’s coverage of Mitcham’s triumph in the event.
Mitcham’s victory over the Chinese in the 10-metre platform was a shocking upset, especially after he failed to even qualify for the earlier diving event on the 3-metre platform.
In what many have lauded in the press as the “perfect dive,” the Australian smoked the competition on his last try, pulling in an amazing score of 112.10 on his final dive—the highest individual dive score ever during an Olympic competition.
Mitcham had been behind favoured Chinese diver Zhou Luxin by about 35 points going into that last dive and no one had expected him to be able to take home the gold.
Such amazing stories at the Games were a staple for NBC, who farmed other similar athletes’ successes for every minute of airtime they could transmit.
However, while NBC was more than willing to talk about various athletes’ parents, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends (and even their love triangles), the network was remarkably silent about Mitcham’s family.
When Mitcham raced into the stands after his win to give his partner a kiss, NBC’s cameras did not follow him.
Never once did NBC mention Mitcham was gay. And while sexual orientation should not truly be a factor in such coverage, the omission stood out in sharp contrast to the lengthy discussions given to the ‘unique’ qualities of many other Olympic athletes by the network.
Being the only openly gay male athlete at the Summer Olympics was certainly a ‘unique’ aspect of Mitcham’s story.
And when Mitcham thanked his partner and his mother after his win, his heartfelt, passionate words were not heard by the millions of Olympic fans watching NBC—though they had heard such similar words from a plethora of heterosexual athletes about their families at the games.
However, despite accusations thrown at them for censoring their coverage of Mitcham at the Games, NBC says they did no such thing.
Speaking to AfterElton.com, NBC Sports spokesman Greg Hughes said the network wasn’t even aware of any controversy over their coverage of Mitcham.
When confronted with the complaints of censorship, Hughes simply stated that “we don’t discuss an athlete’s sexual orientation.”
Yet, as AfterElton.com’s Editor Michael Jensen pointed out to Hughes, every time the network talks about an athlete’s wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend or heterosexual love triangle—they are indeed discussing that athlete’s sexual orientation.
NBC’s response? The network doesn’t show such things “in every case… I could show you 500 athletes we didn’t show. We don’t show everyone. We don’t show every ceremony.”
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Jensen wasn’t about to let Hughes off the hook however, continuing to badger him on why NBC would fail to give such standard coverage to Mitcham’s background and family when he had just pulled off an unprecedented and spectacular win—one of the most shocking in the entire Games.
Hughes wasn’t having any of it, however, saying once again that it was simply “not possible to cover the entire personal story of every athlete regarding their performance.”
Yet, NBC did find time to mention on air that Mitcham had previously quit the sport and had to deal with “personal issues” in his life to get back on track. Surely, being the only openly gay male athlete at the Beijing Olympics might have been a slightly more interesting tidbit to share?
Hughes had no further comment regarding the censorship accusations.
(Read more about Mitcham’s journey to the Olympics at Advocate.com)
Ann Turner and Mark Umbach © 2008 GaySports.com; All Rights Reserved.