The Broussard brouhaha and why context matters

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Context matters.

Take the brouhaha that has brewed over comments ESPN NBA reporter Chris Broussard made concerning basketball player Jason Collins publicly coming out as gay.

From USA Today to the Los Angeles Times, major media latched on to Broussard’s comments concerning his personal Christian beliefs on homosexuality.

Chris Broussard usually offers expertise on fast breaks and zone defense, but on Monday he drove right into America’s culture wars by calling homosexuality “an open rebellion to God” and implying that gay people can’t be Christians.

Speaking on ESPN‘s “Outside the Lines,” the basketball analyst and former New York Times writer was discussing NBA player Jason Collins, who in a landmark move just became the first active player in one of the major pro sports to come out as gay. Collins revealed his sexual orientation in a first-person Sports Illustratedstory.

“I’m a Christian. I don’t agree with homosexuality,” Broussard said. “I think it’s a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is.

“If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin … that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ,” he added.

He also expressed some irritation that those who disapprove of homosexuality are, he says, labeled as intolerant and bigoted.

Here’s where the context issue comes into play: Most of the reports I’ve read make it sound like Broussard launched into an unprompted attack on gays. In fact, he was asked a question, and he answered it.

Give the Washington Post credit for making that distinction clear:

ESPN is standing by NBA reporter Chris Broussard after his controversial comments about Jason Collins, the NBA player who on Monday became the first active participant in a major men’s pro sport in the U.S. to publicly say that he is gay.

Nearly all the immediate reaction from present and past athletes was supportive, but in an appearance on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” Broussard was asked for his personal opinion on Collins’s comments, and he didn’t hold back. He said he believes homosexuality is an “open rebellion” against God and discussed how that jibes with his views on tolerance.

Now, some might argue that Broussard could have declined to answer the question.

But it’s a subject about which he has written before, so the obvious follow-up question would have been: Do you still believe what you have said in the past?

Concerning the Post story above, I do wish the paper had avoided the loaded adjective “controversial” in the lede.

Controversial to whom? Broussard’s belief that all sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is a sin falls easily in line with 2,000 years of traditional Christian teachings. News reports would do well to make that clear.

About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • http://derekjohnsonmuses.com Derek Johnson

    Give some credit to ESPN too because, while many of their personalities are typical social liberals, they don’t talk about homosexuality that often, and they gave Broussard a chance to voice his perspective. ESPN is all about making money and is as middle-America because that area of the country watches more sports. If talking gay marriage got them more viewers, they’d do it. It doesn’t.

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  • Chris

    The official apology by ESPN is disconcerted. “Dear viewers, we asked one of our analysts an honest question and he gave us an honest answer. We apologize.”

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    So ESPN apologizes for asking an “honest question” and being given an “honest answer.” Does that mean our society has reached the point that honesty is something that has to be apologized for….unless you are promoting a Gay agenda.

  • Jerry

    This is a classic example of the difference between a conservative GR blogger and a liberal one assuming one arises: A liberal one would have written on the lack of coverage on Jason Collins’ religion. I did not find much but I did find what I would call a teaser paragraph:

    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. On family trips, my parents made a point to expose us to new things, religious and cultural. In Utah, we visited the Mormon Salt Lake Temple. In Atlanta, the house of Martin Luther King Jr. That early exposure to otherness made me the guy who accepts everyone unconditionally.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/magazine/news/20130429/jason-collins-gay-nba-player/#all

    Of course, the usual GR questions and issues arise such as how Collins’ religious beliefs affect how he thinks of himself and how he interprets the Bible.

  • mollie

    That ESPN segment with Broussard and LZ Granderson was actually pretty good. Actual diversity on the air and actual discussion of religion.
    The media coverage of that discussion — and ESPN’s bizarre “regret” about it — was really bad, though.

  • tmatt

    JERRY:
    A valid point and I have been looking for someone out there to take that angle and run with it, beyond a single quote in an ABC interview.

    This story has several interesting angles — such as his twin being straight (amid ongoing DNA causation debates) and, with the chance that it might be more accurate to label Jason as bisexual. This raises an interesting question, based on coverage I have seen. Does the term “gay” now include bisexuality? Does “gay,” essentially, now mean non-heterosexual?

    • Phil

      I haven’t read anything about Jason Colins (so maybe the answer to my question is easily found), but do you have any reason to think he might be bisexual? Or are you guessing from the fact that his twin is straight?

    • Phil

      This story has several interesting angles — such as his twin being straight (amid ongoing DNA causation debates) and, with the chance that it might be more accurate to label Jason as bisexual.

      I’ll put a more journalistic spin on my comment: it seems widely inappropriate to me for a journalist to write an article stating (speculating?) that Jason Collins is ‘really’ a bisexual because his twin is straight.

      Having said that, there certainly is the possibility of a journalist exploring the genetic aspect of homosexuality, and using Jason Collins as a jumping off point. Indeed, there seems to have been almost no popular press coverage of this academic article (from Dec. 2012):

      Homosexuality as a Consequence of Epigenetically Canalized Sexual Development

      found in The Quarterly Review of Biology:

      http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/668167

  • Robert Franck

    For the video above, you should perhaps have included a segment that included the question asked of Broussard. I have seen people write and dispute that he was responding to a simple question about what HE thought about all this. “What’s your take on this?” Broussard was asked, and he answered.

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  • sk

    Its controversial to the general populace.This isn’t a faith channel which makes it non-controversial in terms of christian history


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