Chris Hine, the Chicago Blackhawks hockey beat writer for the Chicago Tribune, skated out strongly against questions to a prospect posed by an assistant coach for the Atlanta Falcons football teamand Hine came out as gay in the process.
Comcast SportsNet's "Breakfast on Broad" asked Ohio State University's Eli Apple what was the weirdest question he was asked during his interview at the NFL Combine, which is an annual skill audition and physical evaluation for players who have declared for the NFL Draft, which begins April 28 in Chicago. Apple is a top prospect and a potential first-round pick.
Apple reported that the Falcons' coach asked him, "So, do you like men?" and that reportedly was one of the first things he asked.
Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn later apologized for the question. "I am really disappointed in the question that was asked by one of our coaches," Quinn told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "I have spoken to the coach that interviewed Eli Apple and explained to him how inappropriate and unprofessional this was."
Hine did what he does bestwritealmost immediately after hearing about the question asked of Apple.
"After I got to think about [the coach's question], and the implications of what was being said, I started to get a little angrier about it," said Hine, 29, who lives in West Lake View and is in sixth year writing for the Tribune and his first full season as the Hawks' beat writer. He previously has covered University of Illinois football and basketball and University of Notre Dame football and basketball.
The Hawks, of course, are the defending Stanley Cup champion and have won the title three times over the past six seasons.
Hine, for the past couple of years, has wanted to write about gay rights, gay athletes' coming-out, homophobia and more, but he never pulled the trigger on those topics.
Hine came out full force, with the strength of slapshot, on March 9, critical of the question Apple facedwith his own personal coming-out.
"I needed to say what was said," Hine said.
Hine read about the Apple incident on March 3, started writing a column on the subject the next night and finished it the next morning. He then sent it to some colleagues for feedback.
The story ran in the Tribune on March 9.
Hine said some at the Tribune knew he was gay before the story and he "never hid" his sexual orientation on social media, checking-in at gay bars for instance. "I never tried to hide [my orientation] from anybody … I just reached a point in my life where I don't want to hide, or that I have to hide," he said.
Hine said the response to his public coming-out has been overwhelmingly positivefrom fellow journalists and readers. Other than a couple of negative emails and Tweets, the response has been 98 or 99 percent positive and supportive, he said.
Hine said that, "quite frankly" was not the response he was expecting.
"I was expecting a little more negative feedback, or people disagreeing with me. I was surprised [to receive] such support, and I'm very thankful for that," he said.
Hine has not had any response from the Blackhawks or any of its players, as of a few days after his coming-out ran in the paper.
Hine did give the team advance notice about the story and his coming-out, and since, "nothing has changed," he said. "That's exactly how I want it to be."
Hine said the question posed to Apple "does not promote an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance, but rather, one of homophobia. When stuff like this happens, what needs to happen is, education [and] some counseling."
So, is the NHL ready for an openly gay player?
"That's an interesting question … I hope so," he said. "The NHL has worked with the You Can Play Project to promote a pretty solid atmosphere. I think the NHL has done a good job on that over the past couple of years.
"I do think it can happen, but I have my doubts that there are going to be several gay players or a wave of players coming out; I don't think we've hit that point, yet. I still think it takes a lot of courage and guts to come out, given their [often short] careers and the millions of dollars that are on the line, and [they] just don't know how players or coaches are going to react.
"There is a lot at stake, and I totally understand why gay athletes [don't want to come out]; I really do."
Hine came out to his parents at age 22 just before moving to Chicago from his native Pennsylvania, and then to his friends over the next year or so.
"It was a tough process [coming out], working up the nerve to do it, but everyone in my life has been very supportive of me; I'm very fortunate in that regard because it's not like that for all gay men," Hine said. "I couldn't have asked for more [love and support in my coming-out.]"
Hine said Chicago's gay scene is vibrant, full of life"and for that I'm thankful that I life in Chicago, a city where people can express themselves without really having to hide it, which is a great thing."
Hine said his favorite Chicago gay bar is Replay Beer & Bourbonwith locations in Lake View and Andersonvillemostly because it has vintage video games.
Related coverage at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Tribune-sports-writer-discusses-sexuality/54546.html .