Chris Broussard And The Right To Be An Idiot

  • Eric Goldschein

In the wake of Jason Collins’ Sports Illustrated article, we here at SportsGrid — like many outlets and individuals around the world — were witness to the reaction of Chris Broussard on First Take. As we have detailed, Broussard stated: “Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestlye, or like, premarital sex between heterosexuals… [the Bible] says that that’s a sin… I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.” Many disagreed with that sentiment. Others, like golfer Bubba Watson, applauded Broussard for expressing his opinion.

In our posts on these matters, we were not unbiased. We are a sports blog, and our stories are driven as much by the people who write them as the events themselves. Because of that, individual writers say things that may not always reflect the view of the blog as a whole. Believe it or not, we hold our collective self to some standards.

A similar situation played out on First Take, when Broussard was asked what he thought of Collins’ claim to be both a Christian and a gay man. Broussard spoke his mind. It did not necessarily reflect the views of the Disney-ABC Television Group, but he was asked to comment and he did so. In the United States of America, we have the right to speak our minds.

I’d like to take that sentiment one step further. In the United States of America, you have the right to be an idiot. You have the right to say whatever you feel, even if what you feel is, by any true standards of decency and rationality, wrong. No matter how stupid your feelings are, you have right to them.

We here at SportsGrid would like to applaud Chris Broussard for exercising his right to be an idiot. He did so despite knowing the consequences of his actions — and indeed, there are consequences to voicing your opinion on television. Particularly when that opinion disparages, insults and demeans a group of people that is no different from any other niche
of people in our country.

For thousands of years, religious doctrines around the world have been used as the basis for discriminating against and subjugating people. Religion was the original source of the caste system in India, for example. In America, there is a history of using the Bible to justify slavery, and subsequently segregation. As the minister Henry G. Brinton wrote: “In the 1860s, Southern preachers defending slavery also took the Bible literally. They asked who could question the Word of God when it said, ‘slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling’ (Ephesians 6:5), or ‘tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect’ (Titus 2:9).”

In the last few decades, we as a society have come to realize that any justification for subjugating an entire ethnic group or class of people is unacceptable. The same can be said for the long-time discrimination of women. Though we hold documents such as the Constitution and the Bible in high regard, we understand that our interpretations of their
words are subject to change. They are, after all, man-made — and man is fallible.

The argument that homosexuals are inferior to heterosexuals is akin to the argument that blacks are inferior to whites by virtue of birth. Just as I was born into white skin, Chris Broussard was born into black skin; just as I was born into a heterosexual body, Jason Collins was born into a homosexual body. To say that one of these distinctions is better
than another, and to cite a holy book as evidence, is to repeat the mistakes and prejudices of the past.

Broussard has tried to defend this position before, using his friendship with fellow ESPN columnist and openly gay man LZ Granderson as evidence of his open-mindedness: “I consider LZ a friend. I’ve gone out to lunch with him, talked music, sports, politics and lots of other things with him. I greet him with a handshake and a hug, just like I greet lots of other guys.” He goes on to say that he disagrees with Granderson’s “beliefs” and “lifestyle.” He equates his interpretation of the Bible with Granderson’s innate dispositions. It’s an unfair comparison.

As we look back in the history of this country and the world over, we see that many people have used similar arguments and justifications to refuse to accept other groups of people that make them, for whatever reason, uncomfortable. This is a terrible, hurtful, shameful viewpoint, one that will not be vindicated in the history books.

Consider the story of Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company and Rabbi Leo M. Franklin. The two were neighbors in 1910s Detroit, and Ford used to give Franklin a new Model T every year for his pastoral rounds. In 1920, however, Ford began publishing a series of articles on “The International Jew,” detailing what he believed to be the Jewish Menace in his newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. When Franklin returned his Model T to Ford in protest, Ford was surprised that a “good” Jew like Franklin opposed what he had written about so-called “bad” Jews. He could somehow disassociate his own intolerant, ill-informed prejudices from his real-life experiences — which, in hindsight, is clearly the highest form of hypocrisy.

Henry Ford, however, was exercising his right to be an idiot. The KKK exists because its members exercise their right to be idiots. The same goes for the Westboro Baptist Church. In America, these people and groups have the right to exist and to express their opinion — no matter how hateful and unfortunate their views may be.

Based on his own writings and comments, Chris Broussard does not accept that people are homosexual. He may “tolerate” them, but he does not accept them. The fact that Broussard is a public figure means that he must be called to task. He has a responsibility not disparage minority groups — groups of people that have fought, and continue fight, the verbal and physical attacks that an uncomfortable majority has thrown at them. His faith is no excuse in this regard.

As we have noted, blame must also be assigned to ESPN, which made a calculated decision to solicit Broussard’s opinion on-air. As a television-ratings move, it was genius; in regards to being an outlet of responsible journalism, it was not. Then again, they have the right to be idiots too.

Contrary to some of the comments left on our site of late, we cannot, and will not, squash or dismiss Chris Broussard’s right to be an idiot — to free speech, as it were. But we will also not stand by and watch as he uses religion to demean the rights, feelings and capabilities of a group that is different from his own. He can say what he likes, but we don’t have to like it. Similarly, we can say what we like, and you don’t have to like it. That’s the beauty of our system.

Except, in our case, we don’t discriminate based on innate personhood (we discriminate based on how badly you throw out the first pitch, instead).

I would like to cite the words — as many do in times like these — of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (who, it should be noted, was not exactly a champion of gay rights himself). Dr. King gave a commencement speech at Oberlin College in 1965 that included this passage:

All I’m saying is simply this: that all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be — this is the interrelated structure of reality.

That, my readers, is SportsGrid’s view on this matter. An injury to one is an injury to all. Here’s to making a better, more inclusive and less discriminating world for all of us to live in.

Thank you for reading.

Eric Goldschein
Managing Editor