Growing up as a young black man, and evangelical Christian, in inner city Detroit, LZ Granderson tried to do everything he could to “pray the gay away.” Those other feelings weren’t his, he was told. He was just under demonic attack. He got married and had a son. But, all of that time, he felt like he was drowning.
Granderson has now been out longer than in the closet, but his experiences inform who he is and how he goes about his work. That work — as a journalist with outlets that include ESPN, CNN, ABC News and the Los Angeles Times — showcases his remarkable ability to crisscross genres. He is as comfortable covering politics and race as he is sports and culture.
Granderson has translated an early passion for writing, and for reading — especially the sports pages of newspapers he retrieved as a kid from city trash bins — into a wildly successful career on television, radio, online, and in newspapers and magazines.
Granderson recognized early on that trailblazing was going to have to come with the job, when he observed while on the sports beat that it was not just the closeted athletes, but the reporters interviewing them, who could fall under scrutiny.
“It became apparent to me that part of the barrier to openly gay athletes wasn’t simply the people answering the questions, but also the people asking the questions,” he told Chill earlier this year.
Granderson eventually broke that barrier, walking proudly into sports locker rooms as an openly gay reporter; as an openly gay human being.
Arguably, he is now one of the hardest working people — and certainly one of the most ubiquitous — in media. You might catch LZ first thing in the morning when he co-hosts Mornings with Keyshawn, LZ and Travis on ESPNLA, or later in the evening debating politics on CNN. In between, you may see him doing boxing commentary on DAZN or read one of his columns on a thought-provoking website.
It’s a natural eclecticism for Granderson because, as he wrote in one of his first columns for the LA Times, they’re all connected. “No one told the media to stick to sports when we covered how the New Orleans Saints helped the city heal after Hurricane Katrina,” he wrote. “We don’t shun those types of stories because they remind us how wonderful humans can be when we show compassion toward one another.”
Compassion has been in short supply lately, however, with the Trump administration’s attacks not only on minority and LGBTQ communities but on the media as well. It makes Granderson’s new role as a member of the Board of Directors of LGBTQ Loyalty Holdings, all the more important and timely.
“Historically speaking, the first groups of people to feel the loss of freedom are minorities— be it race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” says Granderson. “The more the free press is crippled financially or threatened legislatively, the more elected officials can covertly strip rights from citizens without accountability.
“That’s why it is important not just for the LGBTQ community, but all communities, to rally behind the responsible free press and those fighting to maintain its stability. It is only by recording the events of the day that an electorate can be informed—good or bad—of the state of our union. For the only thing more damaging to democracy than a weakened press is an uninformed electorate.”