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Sunday’s edition of SC Featured on SportsCenter will tell the story of Braeden Lange, a 12-year-old Pennsylvania lacrosse player who was bullied after coming out as gay but found solace in an ESPN feature produced 10 years earlier.

The 2005 feature was about Andrew Goldstein, a Dartmouth lacrosse player, who came out while in college. He later became the first openly gay athlete to play in an American pro sports league (Major League Lacrosse).

Greg Garber was the reporter on the original feature as well as Sunday’s “The Courage Game,” which will debut in the 9 a.m. ET hour of SportsCenter and re-air throughout the day.

And because the family says and believes that the piece we did 10 years ago essentially saved Braeden’s life, they want to return the favor. They want to put a story out there.
– ESPN’s Greg Garber on the decision to produce a feature on Braeden Lange, 12, a lacrosse player bullied after coming out

Garber, who covers the NFL and tennis for ESPN.com, was at the French Open when he got an email from Goldstein, now a doctor in Los Angeles. The two have stayed in touch and Goldstein was writing with the idea of a new story about Braeden.

As Garber learned, Braeden had announced he is gay earlier this year and had been bullied online. He sank into despair and contemplated suicide, but his father Scott located the video of Goldstein’s coming out story online and Braeden watched it. His spirits were lifted. He was able to connect with Goldstein and later meet him.

Garber was intrigued by the story as soon as he heard about it, but he did have reservations.

“As a journalist, you’re never the story,” he said. “You don’t want to intrude. And the inevitable hook of this story is that our story, the original story from 2005, was the link between these two gay lacrosse players.”

Braeden’s age also was a cause for reservation.

“We wouldn’t have proceeded if we thought there was a great danger to Braeden,” he said. “And because the family says and believes that the piece we did 10 years ago essentially saved Braeden’s life, they want to return the favor. They want to put a story out there.”

In addition to interviews shot with Braeden and his parents, and Goldstein, producer Ben Webber and a crew also shot interviews and lacrosse video at the “Courage Game,” which Goldstein had organized in Philadelphia to encourage and support gay youth while promoting equality.

“This type of story is the reason why I enjoy doing features,” said Webber, a producer in the ESPN Features Unit. “You always like to think you’re making a difference but this is tangible evidence that it can in fact make a difference.”

Garber points out how much acceptance has evolved in the 10 years since Goldstein came out – the 2005 piece on Goldstein received a GLAAD media award for outstanding TV journalism.

“This is the kind of piece that touches a nerve with people,” he said. “I showed it to my parents and they cried, and I think a lot of people are going to have that reaction.”

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