Why Did ESPN Put Chris Broussard On The Air To Talk About Jason Collins?
Updated with ESPN's statement of "regret" that the basketball analyst's opinions about gay people were a "distraction," and with Broussard's statement.
There are a number of puzzling things about ESPN's Chris Broussard disaster Monday, during which the basketball analyst said of Jason Collins' historic coming out, and, in fact, all pre-marital sex, "I believe that's walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ."
At 10:44 p.m. EDT Monday, ESPN sent out a comment about the Broussard mess: "We regret that a respectful discussion of personal viewpoints became a distraction from today's news. ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins' announcement."
So no apology from Broussard. And if he's being punished or benched, ESPN isn't saying here.
Neither of which is a surprise, since ESPN got itself into this ridiculous, impossible situation by soliciting one of its employee's religious beliefs on the air to inform a discussion about the huge Collins news. Leaving the network no recourse, no matter what he said, under the veil of those strongly held beliefs. What I would like to know, therefore, is why they put Broussard on live TV to discuss his personal feelings about Collins, homosexuality, and Christianity, rather than his area of professional expertise — basketball — in the first place. Having been scooped by Sports Illustrated on Collins, ESPN then went and made things even worse.
Broussard has made his point of view about gay people clear in the past. After former NBA player John Amaechi came out, Broussard wrote about the larger issues, as well as his complicated feelings about being friends with ESPN's LZ Granderson, who is an out gay man. It's actually pretty interesting. He wrote that when they play basketball together, he gives him "high fives and hugs" and "his sexuality is not an issue." He wondered whether he'd be uncomfortable in post-game showers with Granderson, but then concluded, "I think the awkwardness would wear off fairly quickly."
He also wrote: "I know he's gay, and he knows I believe that's a sin. I know he thinks I get my moral standards from an outdated, mistranslated book, and he knows I believe he needs to change his lifestyle."
Granderson was Broussard's fellow guest on ESPN's Outside The Lines today, but instead of a nuanced take, Broussard said things like, "I would not characterize that person as a Christian, because I don't think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian." The video is here:
He sounded like the most punitive, unforgiving part of his organization K.I.N.G., which Broussard co-founded in 2010 "To empower men to reach our God-given potential in every realm of life through the power and grace of The Lord Jesus Christ." Under "Beliefs" on K.I.N.G.'s website, it reads: "We believe those who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ and the fact that He paid the price for their sins will have to pay the price for their sins themselves, that price being eternal separation from God in hell."
Surely there are a number of NBA players and personnel who feel like Broussard does. It would have been interesting to hear him talk about them instead of himself; they must feel like the world is passing them by, and that is always frightening and fraught. Collins' beautiful announcement in Sports Illustrated represents one of the truly final frontiers for gay people — men's professional sports — and not only was ESPN slow to get on the story, but the sports channel then fell into a, to use Broussard's word, outdated, homophobic pit of its own making.
Early Tuesday morning, Broussard issued a statement on Twitter:
"Today on OTL, as part of a larger, wide-ranging discussion on today's news, I offered my personal opinion as it relates to Christianity, a point of view that I have expressed publicly before. I realize that some people disagree with my opinion and I accept and respect that. As has been the case in the past, my beliefs have not and will not impact my ability to report on the NBA. I believe Jason Collins displayed bravery with his announcement today and I have no objection to him or anyone else playing in the NBA."
Updated at 11:05 p.m. EDT, April 29, with ESPN's comment and some comments about ESPN's comment.
Updated at 12:42 a.m. EDT, April 30, with Broussard's statement.