On Thursday morning, the Daily Beast published an exceedingly gross and bizarre article by a straight, married male writer who lured in gay Olympians through hookup apps for no particular purpose. The entire piece is an astoundingly creepy exercise in Grindr-baiting, which involves a journalist accessing Grindr in an unlikely setting and … seeing what happens. But the Daily Beast piece, penned by Nico Hines, is a uniquely disgusting and irresponsible entry into the tired genre. Hines entices his (often closeted) subjects under false pretenses; effectively outs several closeted athletes who live in repressive countries; then writes about the whole thing in a tone of mocking yet lurid condescension. By 10:30 a.m. ET, the Daily Beast had, in response to criticism, edited out the most identifying details about closeted athletes—but that’s too little, too late. (Update, 9:15 p.m.: On Thursday evening, the Daily Beast took down the piece entirely. Later, it also published an apology.)
Hines begins by explaining that his entire assignment consisted of walking around the Olympic Village while using several hookup apps, hoping to learn whether “an Average Joe” can “join the bacchanalia.” He quickly abandons apps like Tinder, which are mostly used by straight people, for Grindr, which is for gay men: “No prizes for guessing that Grindr proved more of an instant hookup success than Bumble or Tinder,” he writes. Presumably, Hines awards “no prizes” because he believes gays are more promiscuous than straight people—a theme to which Hines often returns throughout his vile piece.
Because Hines is not gay, you might find his use of Grindr a bit dishonest. But not to worry: “For the record,” Hines writes, “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.” This sentence reflects a stunning amount of ignorance, because, in Hines’ situation, of course being on Grindr in the first place is a lie. Grindr is an app for men who wish to hook up with other men. That is its purpose! To be on Grindr when you do not have that goal, and when you could not possibly have that goal because you are straight, is itself a mendacious deception.
This misrepresentation might be excusable had Hines noted in his profile that he was a journalist on assignment. But naturally, he did not. Instead, he “confessed to being a journalist as soon as anyone asked who I was.” As soon as anyone asked who he was? Who asks that on Grindr? At the Olympics? In the Olympic Village? Hines seems to expect his marks to immediately divine that he is a straight journalist, and if they don’t, too bad for them. He also believes his targets have a fair chance of catching wise because he “used my own picture.” (“[J]ust of my face…” he adds coyly.)
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. (After several minutes of Googling, I surmised the identities of five of the gay athletes Hines described.) I’m not going to repeat his descriptions, because—as Hines himself acknowledges!—some of them live in “notoriously homophobic” countries and remain closeted at home. Yes, the Daily Beast updated the article a few hours after publication to remove personally identifiable information (while insisting that outing gay athletes was “never our reporter’s intention.”) But really: Anyone who has heard of Grindr has also heard of the Wayback Machine. Nothing on the internet can be reliably deleted.
Shortly after Hines’ article published, openly gay Olympian Gus Kenworthy tweeted that the author “basically just outed a bunch of athletes in his quest to write a shitty [Daily Beast] article where he admitted to entrapment.” That is correct, but it’s worth exploring why Hines embarked upon this weird, sleazy quest in the first place. I count two reasons. The first is that Hines simply enjoys tittering with condescension at all the gay athletes who take the bait and engage with him—a straight dude, as Hines emphatically reminds us. Why else zero in on Grindr? The second reason is more repulsive: Hines appears to take pleasure in luring in these Olympians then outing them to all the world.
But the offensive purpose of Hines’ article is really the least of its problems. Far worse is the actual damage it will likely cause to real, live human beings—inevitable consequences that Hines blithely ignored. Several athletes who are closeted at home (and possibly to their own teammates) will wake up on Thursday morning to the news that the Daily Beast has outed them. Their teammates could ostracize and alienate them; their families could disown them; their countries could imprison them. And for what? A homophobic article about how a straight guy conned gay Olympians from anti-gay countries into hitting on him through Grindr? Hines’ article is a dangerous disaster, a wildly unethical train wreck that should be taken down immediately for the sake of its duped subjects. Hines may view his Grindr-baiting as all fun and games. For the victims of his unprincipled journalism, however, his nasty little piece has the power to ruin lives.