Chris Broussard, a devout Christian, didn’t know until 30 seconds before he appeared on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” (OTL) to report on NBA player Jason Collins coming out of the closet that he would share the segment with gay columnist LZ Granderson.
“Oh. This is going to be interesting,” thought Broussard. “I knew at that point with LZ on that there was the potential for my personal opinion to be brought into it. I wasn’t going to just blurt out my personal view. I was just going to let the show go wherever it went.”
And it went there.
Sports Illustrated reported on Monday, April 29 at 11:01 a.m. ET that Collins told the publication about his same-sex attraction. He became the first active openly gay professional athlete as a result. The news spread rapidly across national news outlets.
“SportsCenter” invited Broussard to report on how players, coaches and other people around the NBA were reacting to the announcement. He collected reactions and appeared on the show several times that afternoon as an objective reporter. Broussard assumed the same role on OTL until Granderson used the respectful discussions that he and Broussard have had in the past about homosexuality as an example of beneficial dialogue on the subject.
Granderson and Broussard met when the two worked for ESPN The Magazine, Granderson as an assistant editor and Broussard as a writer. They became friends over work, lunch, recreational basketball and those respectful discussions about homosexuality.
Broussard responded to Granderson on OTL by detailing their discussions, thus introducing his views on the topic as a Christian. He then transitioned from reporter to commentator after host Steve Weissman asked him about his take on Collins proclaiming Christianity in Sports Illustrated’s report.
As news of Collins coming out of the closet spread, so did Broussard’s statement. Many, primarily Christians, praised Broussard for standing up for his beliefs. Numerous viewers tweeted “#IStandWithChris” to show their support.
Hip-hop artist Swoope even wrote a verse about the occurrence.
Even more viewers, however, showed disdain. Critics called Broussard a bigot and homophobe for sharing the traditional Christian stance on homosexuality. Some of the harshest—and according to Broussard, most uneducated—criticism came from the media.
Deadspin perceived Broussard’s statement as “thoughts of a bigot pushing doctrine from the shittiest parts of Leviticus.” Broussard called the journalism of those who accused him of simply referencing Leviticus 18 ”disappointing” and “amazingly poor,” given that it isn’t the only Bible verse that condemns homosexuality.
“Journalism is about representing the truth,” Broussard told The Cabinet. “It’s not promoting an agenda. They weren’t doing it objectively.”
He also responded to Barbara Walters who said on “The View” that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality.
“Jesus never specifically mentioned rape or pedophilia as being wrong either,” said Broussard.
He received far more criticism this spring than the previous time he had shared his stance on homosexuality on a major platform. In 2007 former NBA player John Amaechi came out of the closet on OTL. Broussard felt the need to share his stance after he saw the media calling anyone who didn’t support Amaechi “Neanderthals, not progressive, bigots and dumb jocks.”
He wrote a column on ESPN.com, explaining how it’s possible to disagree with someone and still respect them—what he called “real diversity”—and readers highly praised the piece. Broussard claimed that he received thousands of emails, 90% of them positive.
“Here we are six years later, I say essentially the same thing and I’m loudly criticized and castigated for it,” he said. “That shows you how far this country has gone in that regard just in the past six years.”
Speculation of ESPN firing or suspending Broussard arose, but never materialized.
“ESPN never even gave me a hint that there would be any discipline,” he said.
The television network told Broussard that it would keep him off the air for a time to let the controversy die down, but he served as its sideline reporter for the Atlanta Hawks-Indiana Pacers NBA playoff game that Friday.
ESPN president John Skipper labeled Broussard sharing his opinion on OTL as a “mistake” in a statement to reporters, but Broussard claimed that ESPN never talked to him about its admission before or after its release. ESPN did advise him to release a statement, which Broussard did on Twitter, but he refused to apologize.
To Broussard—the president of K.I.N.G. Movement, a non-profit organization launched to “empower men through the Lord Jesus Christ”—Weismann didn’t just ask him about the traditional Christian stance on homosexuality. He asked about what it means to be a Christian.
Broussard elaborated on his beliefs on Power 105.1 FM’s “The Breakfast Club” that Wednesday after co-host Charlemagne Tha God pegged him the “Donkey of the Day” on Tuesday. He referenced 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Romans 1:26-29 as examples of the New Testament condemning homosexuality, Acts 10 and Ephesians 2:11-22 as passages detailing the new covenant and Galatians 5 reaffirming the moral laws of the old covenant on-air.
“Christians, we need to be able to defend what we believe,” he said. “We need to be able to state it intelligently and share it with people in this time, particularly with this topic.”
Broussard called Charlemagne on Tuesday night because he felt that the host misunderstood him. He also called Collins that night to clarify his comments, explaining that he respects him, believes he should be allowed to play in the NBA and that he didn’t intend to steal his spotlight.
If Broussard were to go back in time to that Monday afternoon and change what he said to muffle that misunderstanding, he would have plugged God’s mercy.
“I may have added something like, ‘Of course, God loves everybody and the grace of God is available to anyone, whether heterosexual or homosexual, who repents for their sins,’” he said. “God is ready to accept them, love them and invite them into his kingdom, but you must repent. You can’t openly live in a lifestyle that God says is sinful.”
Broussard admitted that he wouldn’t adjust much, though: “What I said was consistent with 2,000 years of Christian doctrine, teaching and practice.” He added that adjustment is what too many churches have done in the midst of a culture pushing for LGBT acceptance.
“The world is trying to get us, the church, to acknowledge that homosexuality is not sin,” said Broussard. “Some churches are falling for it.”
In May of 2011, the New York Times reported that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to allow openly gay ministers, elders and deacons. This past spring, the Los Angeles Times reported that Evangelic Lutheran Church elected its first openly gay bishop.
To Broussard, there’s a significant difference between tolerance and compromising. Tolerance allows for conversation. Compromising ends the conversation, “not doing sinners any favors” as a result.
“Obviously Christianity is about Jesus, but it’s about Jesus forgiving us and dying for our sins,” said Broussard. “If there’s no sin, then what’s the need for Jesus? That’s where the devil is working behind this thing spiritually because he wants to get us to stop thinking stuff is sin.”
Broussard claims language distortion has made it easier for Christians to accept acting on same-sex attraction as unsinful behavior. He said that just like blacks were called three-fifths human to justify slavery, just like babies are called fetuses to justify abortion, sexual preference is called sexual orientation because the phrase allows the term “homosexual” to be taken on as an identity.
“Never before in human history has a person been defined by their sexuality,” said Broussard. “Never. Even in Rome and Greece where homosexuality was rampant, a person was never defined as a homosexual, like that’s the essence of who they are.”
The Independent reported two decades ago that scientists had discovered evidence linking same-sex attraction to a genetic predisposition. A predisposed sexual preference is often used to argue that acting on same-sex attraction is unsinful. This debate continues because people use language such as “born gay” instead of born with same-sex attraction.
“Sex was an act [in Rome and Greece]. And it still is an act,” said Broussard. “It’s not who you are innately. It’s not that you were born that way. The devil wants us to think that it’s different than an act. It’s not. It’s an action. It’s a temptation. Everybody’s tempted.”
Broussard stressed that someone tempted to act on a same-sex attraction is no different than him being tempted to sleep with a woman who isn’t his wife.
“When a Christian realizes it’s a temptation—that’s all it is,” said Broussard. “I think that’s a big step in overcoming—stop thinking of it as an identity.”