Outside The Lines: When Real Life Decisions Mix With the Sports World

In general I try not to touch on too many topics outside the realm of sports on this website. I know BaySportsNet is a forum for sports discussion and for you to read about your favorite teams and players in the best of times — Giants winning World Series, Warriors lighting the world on fire, or the most frustrating such as the Sharks missing the playoffs and the utter dismantling of the 49ers this offseason.

Frankly, you don’t read me because you care about my opinions on politics, religion, science, current events, or pop-culture. I’m happy to discuss those topics with you, but a different forum, and perhaps over a beer, would be more appropriate.

The times that we veer outside the lines and touch on “real world” topics, it’s usually those instances where a player has done something illegal and the lines between sports reporting and actual news blur. Ray McDonald’s domestic violence allegations and later rape allegations come to mind. Aldon Smith’s various missteps are another example. Those are usually the exceptions, the rest of the time we stay in our lane, so to speak, and discuss the daily box score, trade rumors, and what should or shouldn’t be done to improve our teams.

So why would I be veering out of my lane today? No local athlete has made the news for any reason that would cause anyone to raise an eyebrow. No, it’s because I received a text from a good friend and a member of our writing team here at BSN. The text simply read, “Hey boss, Don’t know if you’ve seen this yet, but thought it was important you knew based on our working relationship.” It then included a link. I encourage you to read it, all the way through.

Jason Neal, a 49ers and A’s writer on BSN for the past few years, penned this article. “He” is Jamie Neal. “He” is a she. Jamie has come out as transgender. The article discusses her journey coming to the decision to stop hiding from who she is and the concerns that came along with that decision.

I’m both happy that my friend, and let’s be clear that is what Jamie is, my friend, had the courage to tell me. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that in the daily shuffle I didn’t notice the change to her Twitter account or the link to the article. I wish there had been no hesitation or fear in telling me this news, but I know it couldn’t have been easy. You see, as the article clearly states:

The hardest part was the fact that I had spent close to three years building what I hoped was the start to a career in sports journalism. What will the athletes think? What are all of the people I have met through Twitter going to think? I don’t want to disappoint anyone! I just want to build a career doing something I love while not despising myself in the process.

My reply to Jamie’s text? It doesn’t change a thing about how I feel about her as a friend, or as a professional.

As the editor of BaySportsNet and the person in charge of deciding which writers and which content make it through, I want to stress that Jamie’s decision to come out does not change a single thing regarding her status with BSN. You will continue to see her stories, knowledge and insight show up on our front pages.

This goes beyond any feelings of friendship I have for my colleague. Regardless of whether another article ever shows up on this site penned by Jamie, I would gladly go sit down to a beer and catch up and talk sports, or sit next to her in the stands at a game. That’s not why I am writing my own response to the article displayed in OutSports.com.

For the past three years I have known Jason to be a true professional. One of the most insightful writers to tackle an opinion or analysis piece, and truly knowledgeable reporters to grace a press-box or clubhouse. Jason’s pieces have been some of the most highly read articles to grace the front page of BaySportsNet.

I see no reason that I wouldn’t expect the exact same of Jamie. Because let’s accept this simple fact, Jamie and Jason are the same person down at the core. The knowledge and insight didn’t disappear with a change of a name or the decision to live as the opposite gender. The person is still the same, just more honest about who they truly are.

I’m very happy to hear that the responses to her decision have been overwhelmingly supportive. I would expect nothing less from our readers when Jamie eventually returns to writing on our site. I would sincerely hope that it will be nothing less when she eventually steps foot back in a press box, where there is no doubt that she belongs. That’s where home is for us sports writers, and Jamie is a sports writer.

Sports are slowly coming around to become more inclusive. Jason Collins received a positive reception to the news that he was gay, the first openly gay NBA player. Michael Sam was judged on his playing ability, not his sexual orientation as the first openly gay NFL player. The time will come when MLB and NHL have their first openly gay players as well.

As for those of us in the press-box, the knowledge and insight have always been the only thing that should matter, and Jamie is right up there with the best in that regard.

Nothing has changed, just as Jason was a beloved member of the BaySportsNet family, Jamie will continue to be a beloved member of the BaySportsNet family, always, and her articles and coverage will continue on the site for as long as we are lucky enough to keep her on our team here.

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