People are, justifiably, going ballistic over ESPN writer Chris Broussard’s reaction to Jason Collins’ groundbreaking declaration that he is gay.
Broussard, appearing on ESPN’s journalistic flagship Outside the Lines, said Collins and everyone else living in sin (e.g. homosexuals, adulterers and unmarried fornicators) are “walking an open rebellion to God.” Smart take.
But settle down. The fault lies not with Chris Broussard, but with ESPN.
See, this wasn’t ESPN’s story. This was a Sports Illustrated exclusive. ESPN had no incentive to trumpet this moment in history — why help a competitor? For several hours after Collins’ story broke, ESPN.com was still leading with the news that a third-string quarterback with just 39 passing yards and 102 rushing yards in 2012 had been cut. Really. The Tim Tebow news was judged to be more important than the first openly gay male professional athlete in a major American sport. Except that’s not really the case — that judgment was, cynically, about ESPN not being in control of the biggest sports story in the country. It had to wait for its moment.
Enter Broussard, who is on record making some ridiculous statements about people living in sin. ESPN knows exactly what its reporters and guests will say when the red light goes on — every guest is surely pre-interviewed, and every reporter’s thoughts are usually somewhere else on this site. In this case, ESPN knew what Broussard would say if put on air, because this very same “debate” with LZ Granderson appeared in a Jemele Hill column in 2011.
“LZ and I know where each other stand and we respect each other’s right to believe as he does. 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 I know he thinks I get my moral standards from an outdated, mistranslated book, and he knows I believe he needs to change his lifestyle. Still, we can laugh together, and play ball together.”
Sound familiar? That’s exactly what happened on air today. Need more proof? After retired NBA player John Amaechi came out in 2009, Broussard, even while saying the NBA was “ready” for a gay player, shared similar thoughts on showering and sin and stories about LZ Granderson.
ESPN knew all this. And yet, during the network’s ONLY show that is supposed to prioritize reporting over clucking punditry, executives threw Broussard to the wolves (and Broussard was likely more than happy to be the wolf food). Why? Because now the story *is* ESPN. Now it’s not about SI’s exclusive. Now it’s about Collins, Broussard and ESPN.
The Worldwide Leader has long subscribed to the theory that no press is bad press, and this is not bad press. And like idiots, all of us are tweeting and discussing ESPN ESPN ESPN ESPN ESPN. Mission accomplished.
As an aside, the fact that Broussard stands almost alone among sports and political pundits is an important note. Wide receiver Mike Wallace wondered why men want to play with men. WFAN’s Mike Francesa called it a scam to sell magazines. But that’s mostly been it. Everyone from Kobe Bryant to rank-and-file NBA players to Michelle Obama to Commissioner David Stern to Bill Clinton weighed in with positive thoughts. That’s paramount here. Try not to get so worked up about the haters, for here they are minimal. On this story, and on future ones, the good far outweighs the bad.
Slade Sohmer is editor-in-chief of HyperVocal and co-host of SiriusXM’s Politics Powered By Twitter, a daily show from 2-3 pm ET on Ch. 124.