John F. Kennedy began his 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning Profiles in Courage with a quotation from Edmund Burke. The British statesman rose in Parliament in 1783 to eulogize Charles James Fox, who had told the truth about the tyrannical and powerful East India Company: “He has put to hazard his ease, his security, his interest, [but] calumny and abuse are essential parts of triumph.”
Kennedy’s book included short biographies of eight brave U.S. senators who did what was right and received intense criticism. No one, to my knowledge, has written such a book about sportswriters, who sometimes get little respect for their work in what political reporters label the “toy department.” But when someone does, ESPN’s Chris Broussard deserves chapter one.
Anyone in mainstream media these days knows what the third rail of journalism is: Don’t say anything negative about homosexuality. Even one well-established conservative known for speaking out on many subjects told me recently that he zips his lip when it comes to gay issues. But, as Leigh Jones reported yesterday, when the host of ESPN’s Outside the Lines asked Broussard to comment on NBA player Jason Collins espousal of both homosexuality and Christianity, he was not afraid to speak truth to one of today’s most powerful lobbies (see video clip below).
Broussard’s comments made him not only a profile in courage but also a profile in how to talk about homosexuality. He said, “If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.” That’s exactly right: We are all in rebellion against God, and by endorsing sin we make our words rather than God’s Word the authority on what’s right or wrong.
Broussard knew what he was getting into: He said many Christians in the NBA would be silent because “they don’t want to be called bigoted and intolerant and things like that.” He noted that a defender of homosexuality who calls for tolerance should exercise tolerance himself: “Just like I may tolerate someone whose lifestyle I disagree with, he can tolerate my beliefs. He disagrees with my beliefs and my lifestyle, but true tolerance and acceptance is being able to handle that as mature adults and not criticize each other and call each other names.”
Broussard put to hazard his ease, and the abuse he has received is an essential part of his triumph—as the abuse Jesus received was an essential part of His. And, Broussard continued his pitch-perfect record by posting this comment on Twitter, as a lynch mob formed against him: “I realize that some people disagree with my opinion and I accept and respect that. … I believe Jason Collins displayed bravery with his announcement today and I have no objection to him or anyone else playing in the NBA.”
When ABC’s George Stephanopoulos referred to Broussard’s views during an adulatory interview with Collins yesterday, the player missed an opportunity to say, “Chris Broussard displayed bravery with his reaction and I have no objection to him working on ESPN.” I hope that’s coming.