On balance it appears the news that Jason Collins is the first openly gay male athlete currently playing for an American team sport has been generally received positively.

A number of NBA players outwardly showed support. They demonstrated the obvious in that they were under no illusion that Collins coming out will prohibit the sun from rising in the east. It bears no impact on their lives or livelihoods.

But there are some, who have yet to read the memo that we are now in the 21st century.

On the ESPN show "Outside the Lines," NBA reporter Chris Broussard stepped out of his familiar role of informing viewers of what teams must do to move on in the playoffs, and into a less familiar one of public theologian.

"I'm a Christian. I don't agree with homosexuality. I think it's a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is. ... If you're openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be ... that's walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ."

It is important to note Broussard was asked for his opinion on-air and the network was already familiar with his views. Back in 2009, when asked was the NBA ready for an openly gay player, Broussard stated:

"I think the NBA is ready for an openly gay player ... players will tolerate a homosexual teammate or opponent."

But those critical of Broussard's most recent remarks are met with the common refrain: "What about his right to free speech?"


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No one is attempting to take away Broussard's free speech. But free speech should not be confused with immunity from criticism. Embedded in Broussard's comments about Collins is the antiquated belief that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice akin to bell bottoms and platform shoes.

Broussard's remarks are the continuation of an unfortunate legacy that puts forth a selective theological understanding to offer a sociological theory to describe a physiological reality.

To justify his brand of Christian beliefs, Broussard offered his friendship to openly gay writer LZ Granderson as proof that he is not bigoted. It is the proverbial catchphrase: "It's not that I don't like gays and lesbians, but my faith won't allow me to affirm their humanity."

The irony here is that Jesus said more about judging others than he did about homosexuality. Yet, to use Broussard's language, he freely, in open rebellion, cast judgment on Collins' faith because his orientation differs from the dominant culture.

In fact, Jesus' most emphatic command to his followers is the requirement to love. It is an inconvenient love that requires one to love even his or her enemies. Moreover, he says nothing about "like."

In the Christian theological context it is quite possible to love someone, without liking or agreeing with them. I doubt Martin Luther King actually "liked" Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor, but he understood that his humanity was inextricably linked to Connor's regardless of his personal feelings.

Broussard's comments do not rise to the level of hatred exemplified in Birmingham 1963, but it does represent a belief that will soon be permanently enshrined to 20th century orthodoxy.

I don't see how anyone could read Collins' Sports Illustrated article with an open heart and not appreciate the journey that led to his coming out.

In terms of professional sports, Collins' took the courageous step to shine a light on what many already knew to be true -- homosexuality exists in professional sports. But his real value will be to countless numbers of young people in high school and college that may now feel empowered to follow in his footsteps.

Contact Byron Williams at 510-208-6417 or byron@byronspeaks.com.