On Monday April 29, 2013 NBA veteran Jason Collins announced to the world that he was gay.
The announcement was met with near universal approval. Everyone from President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton voiced support. Collins' peers such as Kobe Bryant and Bradley Beal sent out supportive tweets.
Former athletes such as Bernard King and Barry Sanders tweeted support.
The Boston Red Sox invited Collins to Fenway Park to throw out the first pitch at a future game.
It was a day that will ultimately be remembered fondly.
With a few notable exceptions.
The most notable of those exceptions was an exchange between two ESPN reporters that took place during ESPN's Outside The Lines program. Outside The Lines prides itself on taking a more in-depth and measured look at some of the more complex issues surrounding the world of sports.
The show had arranged for two ESPN reporters to discuss Collins' coming out.
LZ Granderson is an openly gay columnist who writes for both ESPN and CNN.
Chris Broussard is one of ESPN's NBA Insiders. He's also a born-again, fundamentalist Christian. When the show started, neither Granderson's sexuality, or Broussard's religious beliefs were a secret.
Broussard wrote a column for ESPN back in 2007 that basically iterated exactly what he said in a far more publicized manner on Monday.
What exactly did Broussard say on Monday?
The clip has been posted all over the Internet.
He described being a homosexual as living one's life in "open rebellion to god." He also called it a "sin." As one might expect, those comments didn't sit too well with Granderson who debated Broussard with skill and poise.
Even less shocking was the almost instant outrage expressed within minutes of the statements. With social media, there is no longer a slow boil on inflammatory comments. They create a firestorm of controversy before a network has a chance to take a commercial break.
There are a lot of discussions to be had in the aftermath of Broussard's comments
One that shouldn't be had is a choice about whether or not Broussard should continue to work at ESPN.
This isn't a defense of Broussard's comments, which I think are abhorrent and completely off-base.
At the end of the day Broussard is an employee of ESPN. He was asked by his employer to appear on one of their daily shows. The employer was already aware of his views, they were also aware that the subject matter and the other guest, who was also an ESPN employee would more than likely create a heated debate.
This wasn't a case of Broussard posting an independently made youtube video to express his opinions. This was a case of two employees being asked by their employers to engage in a debate.
That's exactly what happened.
Were Broussard's comments offensive and homophobic? Absolutely. Yet how on earth could ESPN fire, fine, or punish an employee who did as he was asked, and provided viewpoints that he had previously expressed on that very network's website.
There are some serious issues here.
One is why on earth did ESPN feel the need to manufacture ( and make no mistake about it, the pairing of Granderson and Broussard could not have been coincidental) a vitriol driven debate that ultimately lent a platform to views that are divisive and intolerant?
The other issue is one far more controversial than an openly gay player in the NBA.
That issue is why do people in this Nation continue to embrace and defend extreme fundamentalist christian views that are unabashedly bigoted?
Not all Christians are in line with the views expressed by Broussard. In fact both LZ Granderson and Jason Collins are practicing Christians. This isn't a Christian issue as much as it is a fundamentalist Christian issue.
While it was nice that Broussard was insistent on mentioning that he viewed all people, gay or straight who engage in pre-maritial sex as sinners and in open-rebellion against god, that declaration does beg the question: "What era are you living in?"
Broussard and others who share the same views have every right to those views. We have freedom of religion in this nation, and that freedom must be applied to even those who we disagree with.
Freedom to practice one's religion is not the same as freedom to practice one's religion without having to put up with opposing and critical view points.
As a non-religious individual I find almost all religions to be somewhat archaic. There's still a huge difference between the Christianity practiced by Granderson and Collins which clearly does not exclude them due to their sexuality, and what Broussard subscribes to, which regardless of Broussard's personal feelings, unquestionably promotes homophobia.
The solutions to these problems won't be found in the firing or punishing of Chris Broussard.
Broussard is ultimately just another symptom of some far greater problems.
There are television networks who thrive not on reporting news, but on making news. ESPN's Outside The Lines program didn't report on any new angle dealing with Jason Collins and his bold and courageous decision.
In fact, up until ESPN aired Outside The Lines on Monday, the response to Collins declaration had been almost unanimously positive. Perhaps sensing that their programming wouldn't be able to report on any juicy stories of conflict over Collins coming out, they instead decided to create some of their own?
The station almost went so far as to own up to that charge when they released an apology not just for Broussard's remarks, but for the content of the entire program, and the controversy that it stirred up.
The other problem of course is that Chris Broussard practices a form of Christianity that promotes narrow-minded, and ultimately destructive viewpoints.
Telling an entire segment of the population that they can't get married, are living in sin, and are living in rebellion to god does absolutely nothing to bring the nation together.
To somehow imply that these people are entitled to their opinions, is a nice and easy way to skirt the issue.
What if their opinions were that interracial marriage was a rebellion against god? What about segregated schools? Embracing people who consistently disseminate biased and bigoted viewpoints because of their religion doesn't promote freedom of religion, it promotes religious conflict.
Do people such as Chris Broussard have a right to practice their religion and defend it? Of course they do, but that right doesn't protect them from critique, it doesn't protect them from being called out for their beliefs either.
Chris Broussard is a proud, born-again Christian, good for him. He's also promoting homophobia, and that's bad for all of us.
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