It looks like the love fest for Jason Collins has officially ended.
While response to the NBA player’s announcement in Sports Illustrated that he is gay remains overwhelmingly positive, a few dissenters have publicly spoken out to denounce him.
In a series of appearances on air, ESPN analyst Chris Broussard criticized the player for “openly living in unrepentant sin,” and, in particular, took issue with Collins describing himself as Christian. Broussard’s comments, which sparked an uproar online, prompted ESPN to later release a statement saying: “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.”
Homosexuality, Broussard said, is akin to “adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be – I believe that’s walking in rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ,” he said on air. “I would not characterize that person as a Christian.”
In a separate ESPN interview, Broussard said that he’s spoken with others in the basketball field who agree with him, but that they’re afraid to say anything because “a lot of people understand it’s a politically correct climate.” He added that he’s heard from other players that Collins “could become alienated a little bit in the locker room, because if some players, if they’re close to him, their sexuality may be questioned.”
And Broussard wasn’t the only dissenting voice. In a tweet he later deleted, Miami Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace wrote: “All these beautiful women in the world and guys wanna mess with other guys SMH.” (SMH is Web-speak for “shake my head.”) Wallace later tweeted an apology.
As for whether any of this criticism will bother Collins, he said he’s ready for it. “I’m a pragmatist. I hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” he wrote in Sports Illustrated. “The most you can do is stand up for what you believe in,” he added. “I’m much happier since coming out to my friends and family.”
And, it seems he’s gained a lot more friends by doing so. Collins started Monday with fewer than 4,000 Twitter followers, and as of Tuesday morning, had over 85,000.
Meanwhile, prominent voices on and off the basketball court continued to voice their support for him. “Proud of @jasoncollins34. Don’t suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others,” wrote Kobe Bryant, who just two years ago was fined $100,000 (U.S.) by the NBA for directing an anti-gay slur at a referee.
“I’m proud to call Jason Collins a friend,” wrote former U.S. president Bill Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea attended Stanford with the basketball player.
“Bravo, @JasonCollins34!” added actor Neil Patrick Harris. “Thanks for stepping up. For standing tall. And at 7 feet, that’s saying a lot.”