×

Broussard Shows ESPN Only Knows One Way to Keep Score

Truth be told, nobody was really interested before Monday in whether ESPN basketball analyst Chris Broussard thinks homosexuality is a sin. For the most part, he’s content to weigh in on whether the Lakers need to make a change before the trade deadline, or Oklahoma City has enough firepower to win a playoff series with star Russell Westbrook out of the lineup.

Still, there was Broussard being asked to discuss the news that NBA center Jason Collins had revealed he’s gay, becoming the first U.S. player in a major professional  team sport to do so. And Broussard responded by unleashing this lesson on biblical theology: “If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, (but) adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals … I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ,”  he said. “I would not characterize that person as a Christian, because I don’t think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian.”

Update: Asked to comment about criticism of Broussard’s remarks, ESPN sought to have it all ways in one statement, which read:  “We regret that a respectful discussion of personal viewpoints became a distraction from today’s news. ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins’ announcement.”

In other words, we respect Broussard’s right to his opinions; we just sort of wish they hadn’t become a “distraction” — which amounts to PR-speak for “Let’s try to make this go away without potentially offending anyone else,” on either side of the debate.

Now, Broussard is obviously not alone in these views — although if the NBA ever initiates a policy against premarital sex and fornication, good luck fielding one team, much less 30. But the real question is whether he, and ESPN, were equipped in journalistic terms to deal with a news story that went beyond the usual X’s and O’s.

In this regard, watching the sports network try to navigate the Collins story brought to mind another bit of breaking news playing out almost simultaneously — the New York Jets splitting with quarterback Tim Tebow, who is as well known for his devout evangelical Christianity as his exploits on the field. Whatever you think of Tebow’s merits as a player, the NFL’s heightened ratings with him had at least as much to do with those rooting for or against him because of his faith, an issue football analysts have often struggled to put into the proper context.

So it goes with the uncomfortable juxtaposition of sports and larger societal issues, whether that’s gay rights, religion, big business and labor matters, or NBC’s Bob Costas discussing America’s relationship with guns. (Notably, ESPN did suspend analyst Rob Parker in December for comments he made about the “blackness” of Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III.)

The truth is sports media — including sportstalk radio, which is almost invariably the shallowest part of the media gene pool — are frequently in over their heads when called upon to deal with anything of greater consequence than who won last night’s game. Perhaps that’s why a random sampling of the local L.A. sportstalk shows Monday found most seeming to be more interested in dissecting the abrupt end to the Lakers’ season than the implications of the Collins announcement.

For now, though, the Collins story is big news (he’ll appear on “Good Morning America” Tuesday), and ESPN — the biggest player in the world of sports journalism — is going to have to cover it.

The question is whether the channel needs to look beyond its customary assortment of talking heads, or otherwise risk more exchanges like the one of which Broussard was a part on Monday. Again, Broussard has every right to his personal opinions, but what he expressed goes well beyond his role as an expert on basketball.

From its weekly sports journalism showcase to its “30 for 30” documentaries, ESPN does some yeoman work. So far, however, in regard to the Collins story the channel and its hoops crew clearly look way out of their league.

More TV

  • NBC Sky World News Plots Summer

    NBC Sky World News Plots Summer Launch

    The company known for American news staples like “Today” and “Meet The Press” wants to create similar journalism landmarks for audiences around the world. NBCUniversal and Sky, both owned by parent Comcast Corp., will this summer launch NBC Sky World News, a news service aimed at English-speaking audiences around the globe. The company intends to [...]

  • 'Vikings': Katheryn Winnick on Directing the

    'Vikings’s' Katheryn Winnick Breaks Down Directing the 'Start of Bjorn's Downfall'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Valhalla Can Wait,” the eighth episode of the sixth season of “Vikings.” When “Vikings” creator Michael Hirst came to terms with killing off the fan-favorite Lagertha character, he knew he wanted to bring portrayer Katheryn Winnick back into the creative fold at least once more [...]

  • Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com 22/01/2020 -

    Tartikoff Honorees Call for Commitment to Diversity and Protection of Press Freedom

    MIAMI — Jeff Zucker didn’t mince words. “Nothing is as important than what I’m doing now,” the CNN Worldwide chief said of his long career in media as he was feted Wednesday night as one of five Brandon Tartikoff Award honorees. Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide and chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports, sounded the [...]

  • Greta Gerwig, Ava DuVernay Urge Changes

    Greta Gerwig, Ava DuVernay Among Directors Urging Changes in DGA Parental Policies

    Greta Gerwig, Ava DuVernay, Reese Witherspoon and more than 40 other women directors are urging the Directors Guild of America to change its policies for new and expectant parents. The directors have co-signed a letter by documentary filmmaker Jessica Dimmock seeking an extension of the qualifying period for DGA health insurance coverage to 18 months [...]

  • NBC Orders Drama Pilots 'Echo,' 'At

    NBC Orders Drama Pilots 'Echo,' 'At That Age'

    NBC has picked up two more drama pilots for the 2020-2021 season. Universal Television will produce both pilots. The first is titled “At That Age.” It is described as an exploration of an African-American family’s legacy. After the Cooper family’s golden child suffers a catastrophic event, seven family members face a foundational shift, make life-altering [...]

  • Tom Papa Netflix special

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Reveals Premiere Date for Tom Papa's Standup Special

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix announced the premiere date for “Tom Papa: You’re Doing Great!” and Quibi unveiled the title and artwork for its upcoming series starring Liam Hemsworth and Christophe Waltz.  DATES “Tom Papa: You’re Doing Great!” will launch globally on Feb. 4, Netflix announced. The veteran comedian aims to remind viewers to [...]

  • Alex Okosi

    YouTube Hires Viacom Exec Alex Okosi to Bolster EMEA Growth

    YouTube has tapped ViacomCBS Networks International exec Alex Okosi as managing director of emerging markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), the company announced Tuesday. Okosi will be responsible for running YouTube’s business and partnership teams in Russia, the Middle East, and Africa, and will report to the head of YouTube EMEA, Cécile [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content