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Gay in the NBA: Jason Collins and Chris Broussard

The biggest news in professional basketball this week has nothing to do with the NBA playoffs. Instead, the basketball world is talking about Jason Collins’ first-person essay for Sports Illustrated in which announces he is gay. Within a sports-saturated culture, this is big news. Collins opens his article with the following declaration:

I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.

Collins has played in the NBA for six different teams over twelve seasons. He is certainly not well-known like LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, or Michael Jordan. However, to last for twelve years in professional basketball is still an accomplishment.

If this had been the complete substance of the discussion, it is likely that the story would have faded out of the spotlight in a matter of days, if not hours. Having somewhat famous people publicly proclaiming their sexuality is becoming old news.

But the story doesn’t end here. On ESPN’s show, “Outside the Lines,” the host interviewed NBA analysts Chris Broussard and LZ Granderson about Collins. In the midst of that interview, Broussard was asked a question about Collins’ Christianity since he claimed to be a Christian in the article. Broussard’s response was almost unbelievable for a regular analyst on the most influential sports network in the world. Broussard stated:

Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it may be, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian.

With that, Broussard put himself in the line of fire. His opinion as an outspoken Christian sports journalist was asked, and he responded with his honest beliefs supported by the Bible. By contrast, LZ Granderson countered Broussard by saying that faith, like love and marriage, is personal and accused Broussard of painting Collins’ faith with a broad brush. He suggested that Broussard was trying to paint a world in which he was comfortable living but not others.

In his article, Collins made the following comments about his faith:

I’m from a close-knit family. My parents instilled Christian values in me. They taught Sunday school, and I enjoyed lending a hand. I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding.

Here we see where Collins has elevated some of the Bible over others. He claims to take the teachings of Jesus seriously. He is especially moved by those teachings on tolerance and understanding (although he does not clarify which ones he has in mind). However, he makes no attempt to reconcile his beliefs about Jesus and the Bible with Scripture’s teaching on homosexuality. Apparently, tolerance and understanding trump the teaching of Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and other passages.

The difference between the responses to Collins’ announcement and Broussard’s comments could not be greater. The entire sports world seems to be applauding Collins for his bravery while ridiculing Broussard for intolerance. However, Broussard simply gave his honest opinion to the question he was asked.

The comments from Broussard generated such a firestorm that ESPN released the following statement on Monday:

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.

Could ESPN not also welcome honest disagreement on lifestyles and religion? There was no support for Broussard. In fact, it would not be surprising to hear that Broussard’s contract will not be renewed in the future.

The issue of homosexuality has become a dividing line in the culture. To call such a lifestyle sinful will no longer be tolerated. Biblical convictions have long gone out of fashion, but now they are the object of ridicule and deemed intolerant. In light of all this, I applaud Chris Broussard for his stance. I may even watch a little more closely the next time he comes on ESPN just to catch what he has to say.

_________________________

Jason Collins with Franz Lidz, “Why NBA center Jason Collins is coming out now,” Sports Illustrated, April 29, 2013.

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Evan Lenow

Assistant Professor of Ethics, Bobby L. and Janis Eklund Chair of Stewardship, Director of the Center for Biblical Stewardship, Associate Director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement, and Chair of the Ethics Department

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