It takes a lot for sportspersons, constantly measured by their performances on the field, to step outside of it and speak their minds. The winners of the 2019 Ramnath Goenka Awards were able to present two stories — one of an athlete who spoke out about being in a same-sex relationship, and the other of a sports federation that was killing talent.
While Nihal Koshie ofwon in the Sports Journalism (Print) category, Team NewsX — Aishvarya Jain, Siddharth Reg, Riyanka Choudhary and Prerna Sandilya — is the winner in the Broadcast category.
Koshie broke the story of Dutee Chand, the Asian Games medal-winning sprinter who became the first Indian sportsperson to openly come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Koshie travelled to Bhubaneswar, where Chand is based, to do an in-depth interview with her.
“I knew Chand and her family before she became a medal-winning sprinter. She wanted her story published because she wanted to remove the taboo around same-sex relationships. I credit her for going on record and talking about her relationship, risking her image, facing the opposition from her family and society. She was unfazed through it all. I was just a messenger. The credit goes to her for being frank about her relationship despite being a sportstar in a country where there’s a lot of prejudice around it,” says Koshie.
One of the challenges Koshie faced was the sensitive nature of the story and the uncertainty Chand had about how it would be received. “I wrote the story in such a manner that it did not dilute Chand’s sentiments and conveyed what she wanted to say,” adds Koshie.
Chand was overwhelmed by the support she received after the story was published. People from all walks of life, both inside and outside the country, spoke to her and sent her messages. Media outlets from around the globe interviewed her and did follow-up stories.
The story by Team NewsX exposed how the Volleyball Federation of India (VFI), in connivance with Baseline Ventures, a sports management company that organised the first season of the Pro Volleyball League (PVL), indulged in practices that were allegedly jeopardising the future of the sport.
“We exposed how VFI signed an anti-player contract with Baseline Ventures, according to which the players could not play for the national team while playing in the PVL. According to the contract, even the selection process to the national volleyball team was based on their performance in the league, thus negating their performances in domestic and state-level tournaments,” says Aishwarya Jain.
Talking of the challenges they faced, Jain says, “It was difficult to obtain contracts from the VFI. There was also a lot of pressure on us not to publish the story. I had to reach out to the Sports Ministry, Competition Commission of India (CCI) and the players to obtain these contracts,” adds Jain.
After the report was aired, the Sports Ministry derecognised eight sporting federations, including the VFI. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) also formed a six-member committee and said that henceforth players would carry the IOA’s flag instead of the federations they represented.