ESPN reporter Israel Gutierrez earned his 141st win on Around the Horn on Friday, defeating Jorge Sedano in the showdown, 1-0. With the 30 seconds of Face Time, Gutierrez decided to focus on Saturday’s fight between Tyson Fury and Tom Schwarz. More specifically, he decided to touch on Fury’s homophobic beliefs and past comments.
“It makes me feel like I don’t matter,” Gutierrez says about watching Tyson Fury. “It makes me feel like my friends don’t matter, it makes me feel like my partner doesn’t matter. It takes me right back to my teenage years and my early childhood when I looked around and thought everybody was looking down on me thinking that I’m lesser than just because of this way I was born.”
Gutierrez, who publicly came out in 2015, is no stranger to speaking out about homophobic prejudice whenever it rears its ugly head into the world of sports. During the NFL combine last year, he went on another ESPN show, Highly Questionable, to give his thoughts on a team scout asking then-prospect Derrius Guice if he was gay just to see what the running back’s reaction would be.
“It’s people like this who are pressing the question or pressing the point of ‘Gay is soft’ or ‘Gay is not welcome’ and ‘Gay is not strong-minded,’ and those are keeping people in the closet for longer. It kept me in the closet until I was 31 while I was pursuing my career in sports. It kept people like Ryan O’Callaghan, former NFL lineman, in the closet and thinking about suicide before he thought about coming out.“
Though the unfortunate concept of Gutierrez having to speak up for his identity in the first place remains the same, what makes Friday’s situation different, and particularly noteworthy, is the fact that Fury’s fight is being broadcasted exclusively on the network he works for. ESPN is making money, and heavily promoting, a fighter who has hinted that homosexuality and pedophilia are connected, and that it’s prevalence is a sign of the end times.
Gutierrez’s speech is a clear indication that statements like the ones Fury has made over the years are more than just words. The impact becomes clear almost immediately as he starts to break when he talks about feeling like his friends and partner don’t matter. But the emotions aren’t what make this heartbreaking. It’s the fact that Gutierrez says he’ll still be watching the fight in the hopes that it “strengthens” him since “it’s because of guys like [Fury] that I have to fight every single day.”
Seeing a guy like that getting propped up on a near-hourly basis by your employer surely can’t make things any easier.