ESPN President John Skipper had been somewhat silent in the aftermath of Chris Broussard’s comments on gay NBA player Jason Collins. But at Tuesday’s upfront presentation, he spoke to Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch about the incident.
“I think we did great other than we made one mistake: The mistake was not being more careful with Chris Broussard, and there is a collective responsibility there,” he said. “Chris Broussard’s job was to come on and talk about the news of the league, how the league was representing it, and through a series of events he made personal comments which was a mistake.”
In case you forgot, Collins made international headlines after coming out of the closet, and Broussard went on ESPN and said being gay is “walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.” ESPN went out of their way to show their support for Collins, but did not exactly condemn Broussard, since he was merely expressing his “opinion.” Why?
Former ESPN personality Rob Parker was just expressing his (dumb) opinion back in December, when he called Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III a “cornball brother” and questioned his “blackness” since RGIII is politically conservative and has a white wife. It’s a terrible thing to say, but it’s an opinion nonetheless. Parker was suspended and then fired almost immediately. Of course, his contract was able to expire, but there was no question here that ESPN disagreed with Parker and made him an example of the network’s “commitment to diversity.” Other ESPN personalities have been suspended for much, much less than attacking an entire group of people on TV based on their sexuality.
So why does Broussard still have a job? Maybe it’s because his opinion is religiously based, rather than racially. Maybe it’s because he attacked a gay person on national TV for being gay, rather than for being black (or not black enough). If Broussard had called Collins “not black enough” for coming out of the closet, he’d be collecting unemployment checks and calling up his buddies in the NBA to see if anyone had room in their entourage. Instead, he’s still on TV.
ESPN did the right thing in distancing themselves from Broussard’s anti-gay comments. But it seems like they’re enforcing a kind of double standard when it comes to race vs. sexuality. If the implication is that you must treat everyone with equal respect, but can disagree with them on a personal level, that’s honestly very open and forward-thinking. Forget political correctness, or at least relax it, and let these TV people express themselves fully.
But if the actual result is that you can express your disgust with people simply because your religion says you can, that’s a slippery slope. Does Broussard also hate, say, atheist athletes? Mormon athletes like Jimmer Fredette or Jabari Parker? How about Jewish ones like Jordan Farmar or Omri Casspi? Would it be ok for him to attack new WNBA star Brittney Griner while calling her highlights next year, simply because she is gay?
The point is: When did religious freedom and freedom of expression become expressing hate on TV and hiding behind the Bible? ESPN is sending a heavily mixed message in not even suspending Chris Broussard, and saying they disagree with him nearly three weeks after his comments is too little, too late.