Rio 2016: Daily Beast 'sorry for outing gay athletes'

rainbow flag Image copyright AFP

US news website The Daily Beast has apologised for publishing an article that may have "outed" a number of gay athletes at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Readers complained some athletes - who were not named but were identifiable from details in the article - were from countries with harsh anti-gay policies.

The reporter had described how he used online dating, including popular gay app Grindr, to get dates with athletes.

The Daily Beast said it had "screwed up" and later removed the article.

The story said athletes were using dating apps such as Bumble, Grindr, Jack'd, and Tinder to connect with other people at the games.

Their writer described how he used the apps and he got three dates within an hour, and detailed what some men wrote on their profiles on Grindr.

He also gave details of their height, weight, nationality, and a description of their profile picture.


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According to gay lifestyle magazine Attitude, the reporter justified his presence on the app, saying he "didn't lie to anyone or pretend to be someone I wasn't - unless you count being on Grindr in the first place - since I'm straight, with a wife and child.

"I used my own picture (just of my faceā€¦) and confessed to being a journalist as soon as anyone asked who I was."

However, US Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy, who is openly gay, accused the publication of "entrapment", while Tongan swimmer Amini Fonua said The Daily Beast "ought to be ashamed".

"Imagine the one space you can feel safe, the one space you're able to be yourself, ruined by a straight person who thinks it's all a joke?" he tweeted.

Image copyright @AminiFonua
Image copyright @AminiFonua
Image copyright @AminiFonua

The Society of Professional Journalists, a body representing journalists in America, also criticised the ethics of the story.

"Such a story has no place in a modern media organisation," it said, adding that the athletes affected deserved an apology.

Others said the article could have put gay athletes' lives at risk.

Homosexuality is a criminal offence in more than 70 countries, including some where it is punishable by death, including Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen.

In an initial apology, The Daily Beast's editor-in-chief John Avlon said the concerns were legitimate.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy (right), here with boyfriend Matthew Wilkas, was among those who publicly criticised the article

"We apologise for potentially jeopardising that safety in any way. As a result, we have removed all descriptions of the men and women's profiles that we previously described.''

The website later decided to remove the story altogether in what it called "an unprecedented but necessary step".

A statement published on the site said: "Our initial reaction was that the entire removal of the piece was not necessary. We were wrong. We're sorry. And we apologise to the athletes who may have been inadvertently compromised by our story.

Image copyright Noah Shachtman tweet

"The article was not intended to do harm or degrade members of the LGBT community, but intent doesn't matter, impact does."

It was "a failure on The Daily Beast as a whole, not a single individual", it added.

The Daily Beast's executive editor Noah Shachtman tweeted: "We were wrong. We'll do better."

Grindr said it immediately suspended any account that was not genuine.

"We consider ourselves a safe space for the gay world, and while everyone is welcome, it is with the understanding that this is a community, not a novelty for reporters to troll," a spokesman said.

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