by Eric Paolini
Calling Jason Collins a sinner shouldn't have been the only thing ESPN reporter Chris Broussard got into hot water for. The manner and regard in which he shared his opinions should as well.
Recently, free agent center Jason Collins became the first active athlete in a major team sport to announce he's gay. There are numerous other athletes in different sports that are gay, but none that play in a league as popular as the NBA.
Professional sports can seem to have a "bro-eyness" that has manifested in some homophobia, or at least the perception of homophobia. Sports is often part of the checklist of manliness in America. Depending on your interactions with sports, they may seem like nothing but beer, boobs, and ball. Having an active gay athlete can help change this incorrect stigma.
Sports don't exist in a societal vacuum. They are a part of society, a society that is currently in a fairly deep discussion about gay rights. Often when an athlete or sportswriter comments on something that is not sports related they are criticized. They can be told to "stick with what you know". After Jevon Belcher's tragic murder-suicide Bob Costas was criticized for broaching the topic of gun control during a Sunday Night Football broadcast.
Broussard shared his traditional Christian values on ESPN's Outside the Lines along with fellow ESPN writer LZ Granderson, who is gay. Broussard stated his beliefs that homosexuality is against the Bible, as is pre-marital sex. He called it an "open rebellion to God".
Broussard shared these opinions with an air of simultaneous nonchalantness and an uncomfortableness. He was calling homosexuals sinners while a gay coworker was on the air with him. Later that day he took to Twitter and stood by his comments.
While I disagree wholeheartedly with Broussard's beliefs, I don't think he should be disciplined by ESPN. In the aftermath a hashtag broke on Twitter calling for his firing. In one sense I agree with the Broussard defenders, he should be allowed to share his opinions. However, that does not mean they need to be agreed with or even respected. Broussard has a demeaning opinion of homosexuals and feel it is perfectly acceptable to say them on television, even in the presence of a homosexual.
Giving opinions with a mentality of "these are just my beliefs" is nothing but an attempt to distance oneself from potential ramifications. It is so often easy to provide a self defense that "this is just what I believe" which is followed by some sort of expression that "there is no hard feelings". While not necessarily present in Broussard's case, this mindset can lead to cognitive dissonance.
After Broussard's comments editor-at-large for conservative site Breitbart.com Ben Shapiro came to his defense. According to Shapiro, the backlash and outrage against Broussard is just another example of liberals unwilling acceptance of Christian ideals and the desire of shutting them down from sharing them. And this is where I believe cognitive dissonance does come into play in this story.
The backlash has nothing to do with Broussard's Christian beliefs. The outrage is being forced to be another example of conservative disdain. Congratulating Jason Collins isn't an attack on Christianity (he's a Christian himself) or against conservatives. People are upset because Broussard is sharing hurtful opinions that are going to become more and more antiquated.
It is amazing what a large amount of backlash and forced prospective can do. Four years ago in response to former NBA player John Amaechi announcement he was gay, fellow former NBA player Tim Hardaway shared his thoughts on the matter on a radio show. Hardaway said, "I don't like to be around gay people. I'm homophobic." Since then Hardaway has come around on his beliefs and has even spoken in favor of gay rights. On the B.S. Report podcast Collins shared that Hardaway had called him and congratulated him.
I don't necessarily want Broussard to be judged or ridiculed into changing his opinion. As I mentioned before, he has the right to his opinions. Hardaway's backlash gave him a different perspective, one that made him more tolerant. I don't see how that is a bad thing. What I do wish for Broussard, is that he realizes that his comments are hurtful. And that just because they are your opinions it does not make them valid.
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