Sports at the Center of Debate

Sports at the Center of Debate

All the way to the White House, NBA player Jason Collins was hailed as a hero in late April when he became the first active male professional sports athlete on a North American team to publicly declare his homosexuality.

President Obama said he “couldn’t be prouder” of Collins, who made the announcement via a Sports Illustrated cover story. First lady Michelle Obama appeared at a fundraising event with Collins and said he “has just made the difference in the lives of so many of our young people.”

It was yet another example of our culture’s dramatic turning away from biblical values and toward embracing homosexuality as a civil right.

ESPN reporter Chris Broussard, a devout Christian, was blasted for pointing out a biblical perspective on the matter, even though he tried to do so in a way that didn’t single out a gay or lesbian lifestyle. Appearing on the network’s “Outside The Lines” program on April 29, Broussard said the Bible defines homosexuality, as well as any heterosexual activity outside of marriage, as sin.

Though Collins said he considers himself a Christian, Broussard said the Bible could suggest otherwise because it says true believers saved by grace are evidenced by their fruitful obedience to God’s Word.

“If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin–not just homosexuality but also adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be–I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ,” Broussard said on the show. “I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the Bible would characterize him as a Christian.”

The backlash against Broussard was ferocious. He was widely labeled a hatemonger and homophobe. A Los Angeles Times headline said he sparked an uproar.

After initially standing behind Broussard’s rights to share his personal viewpoint, ESPN leadership later said the network erred in putting him in a position to editorialize given that his normal role is as a reporter. Network president John Skipper said Broussard’s viewpoint “does not represent what our company thinks.”

Ironically, L.Z. Granderson, a gay reporter who appeared on “Outside The Lines” with Broussard, indicated on the program that Broussard–or anyone–should have the right to express their views without being attacked or negatively labeled.

“I’m not one to stranglehold a respectable conversation because someone disagrees with me,” Granderson, a friend of Broussard, told viewers.

Broussard and Granderson said they frequently discuss the topic respectfully with one another.

“He knows where I stand, and I know where he stands,” Broussard said. “True tolerance and true acceptance is being able to handle [differences] as mature adults and not criticize each other and call people names.”

Despite the fact that both men advocated a civil approach to an easily inflamed issue, their efforts got lost in the furor over Broussard’s position.

Broussard’s only extensive remarks since the controversy began came during a national prayer teleconference for a men’s Bible study organization he founded.

“Even though I’m getting a lot of hate, God is being glorified,” Broussard said on the call. “I’ve been resting on the Scripture, ‘Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake'” (Cf. Matthew 5:10).

“My whole vision is that we impact America so much that [people will] turn toward God.”

Popular evangelical leader and theologian John Piper posted on his Twitter account that Broussard’s comments were “solid steel,” true to the Bible.

Piper added in an interview on his website ( that the criticism hurled at Broussard likely is a sign of things to come. Piper also expressed hope that God will send a revival that will bring many to repentance.

“I do think there is biblical warrant and cultural warrant to expect things to get worse,” Piper said. “In other words, expect more sin to be flaunted more openly and more biblical truth to be criticized more severely.”

The issue of homosexual players in locker rooms is prevalent throughout pro sports.

Washington Redskins backup quarterback Kirk Cousins, the top reserve behind rising star Robert Griffin III, said he expects intolerant reactions to boldly stated biblical truths.

“If you do not believe the Bible is the foundational playbook for your life, I can understand how you would attack Chris’ comments,” Cousins said.

“When I go places to speak about my faith, I start off by asking people to hold up their Bibles and to repeat after me: ‘This is my Bible, God’s Word. If I read it and respond to it, it will change my life.’ Then I go on to say, ‘Everything I’m going to speak about is based on the fact that the words in that Book are true … and if you disagree with that, what I say has no merit to you.'”

Cousins acknowledges that the Scriptures have the power to change the hearts and minds of even the most hardened skeptics, but that it’s also clear that believers will be assailed for speaking out for Christ.

“It’s not like it’s a surprise,” said Cousins. “Jesus said if they hate [us], they hated Him first.”


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