A writer for The Daily Beast was accused of outing gay Olympic athletes after an article was published on Thursday morning about dating apps and sex in Rio’s Olympic Village. Nico Hines, who identifies himself as a straight, married man, was on assignment when he decided to investigate who uses the dating apps Tinder, Grindr, and Bumble. Within the first 60 minutes, Hines claims to have scored three dates and proceeded to find out how easy it is to get laid.
There are several reasons the article offended a lot of people. Hines’s first mistake was signing up for Grindr, and many readers questioned if it is journalism for a straight man to log into Grindr, a hook-up app specifically designed for gay men, and then write about what happened next.
“No prizes for guessing that Grindr proved more of an instant hookup success than Bumble or Tinder, which is owned by IAC, the parent company of The Daily Beast,” Hines writes.
Hines then goes into detail of his matches on Grindr. The men have six packs and some use their bio to state their explicit intentions in Rio.
“There were dozens of eligible bachelors listed on Grindr within a few hundred yards of where I was standing at the entrance to the athletes’ village. One posed in his full team kit. Others referred to their elite sporting status more furtively, but they included one of the world’s top equestrians and a track and field athlete a few days away from competing.”
The second problem with Hines’s piece is that he only tells his matches on Grindr he was a journalist when asked.
“For the record, I 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 face…) and confessed to being a journalist as soon as anyone asked who I was.”
The article was met with swift and harsh criticism. Slate‘s Mark Stern called the piece disgusting and irresponsible. The original Daily Beast article contained enough details that Stern admits he was able to identify five gay closeted athletes — a few of them from “notoriously homophobic” countries.
“With his dubious premise established, Hines proceeds to out athlete after athlete, providing enough information about each Olympian he encounters for anyone with basic Google skills to uncover their identities,” Stern writes.
American Olympian and freeskier Gus Kenworthy, who came out as gay last year, tweeted his reaction.
The backlash led to details being edited out of the piece with a note from Editor-in-Chief John Avalon.
“There was legitimate concern that the original version of this story might out gay male athletes, even by implication, or compromise their safety. This was never our reporter’s intention, of course. No names were ever used and some of the profiles described were of straight women. But there was a concern that even mentioning the home nation of some gay athletes could compromise their safety. We apologize for potentially jeopardizing 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 article outraged columnist Dan Savage, founder of the It Gets Better Project, which helps combat suicide among LGBT youth. Savage took to Twitter demanding Hines’ press credentials be revoked for putting athletes in potential danger.
“So… straight ‘journalist’ for @thedailybeast probably gonna get some gay guy killed with this piece,” Savage tweeted.
Amini Fonua, an openly gay Olympian and swimmer from the Pacific island of Tonga, unleashed a string of tweets denouncing Hines’ piece.
@NicoHines Some of these people you just outed are my FRIENDS. With family and lives that are forever going to be affected by this— Amini Fonua (@AminiFonua) August 11, 2016
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?— Amini Fonua (@AminiFonua) August 11, 2016
It is still illegal to be gay in Tonga, and while I'm strong enough to be me in front of the world, not everybody else is. Respect that.— Amini Fonua (@AminiFonua) August 11, 2016
On Thursday night, The Daily Beast removed the article from their website. The web page now redirects to a note from the editor detailing the decision noting that Hines was not to blame.
“Our initial reaction was that the entire removal of the piece was not necessary. We were wrong. We’re sorry.”
“As a newsroom, we succeed together and we fail together, and this was a failure on The Daily Beast as a whole, not a single individual. The article was not intended to do harm or degrade members of the LGBT community, but intent doesn’t matter, impact does. Our hope is that removing an article that is in conflict with both our values and what we aspire to as journalists will demonstrate how seriously we take our error.”
[Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images]