How to Be Gay in the NBA

Friday, May 03, 2013


NBA center Jason Collins drew media attention when he came out on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week. And while there were a few scattered criticisms, the response - from athletes, managers, and the general public - was mostly positive. So can we expect more active athletes to come out of the closet? Brooke talks to ESPN reporter Kevin Arnovitz about what we can expect to see from major sports teams and the journalists who cover them. 


Kevin Arnovitz

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [8]


David from NJ M.C. Escher like logic is confounding and frankly silly. Is it his point that those who believe gay people and their activities should be repressed, condemned and prohibited, as much it can be, by law and society? And that any effort to mitigate that oppression and expression is by definition an infringement of his rights? The history is clear: many with his world view, Christian or not, have oppressed many in the Gay community; not the other way around. David's point is more a whine than a legitimate argument for continuing social abuse of the gay community. My advice for David is be true to your beliefs and express yourself openly and it is my hope you will receive the social condemnation you deserve.

May. 11 2013 03:11 PM

Think about this: Any kind of power or evil can more easily rise up today. Tolerance and post-modernity give credence to the weak INITIALLY. Things that seem small or unprotected – not just people groups but ideas – are given a hearing. That's great. But when all ideas have merit without anyone having the ability to say that they are flat-out wrong – people are left without protection. People are now forcing their ideas of tolerance upon others! Dare I say this, but I think that is what you are doing, Brooke. Since your view of tolerance – as with all reality – has a liberal, humanistic bent, and you see the Christian view as being oppressive… you wonder whether we should even tolerate those views in the public square… and you become the very thing you decry.

May. 10 2013 02:34 PM
David from NJ

We are fast approaching a world, if we are not there already, where tolerance is becoming an absolute. We should be careful what we wish for:

Tolerance is an issue which fits inside of our postmodern regard for "the other," namely, for the oppressed. But our discussions of this, in my experiences, are muted and unhelpful – specifically because tolerance has become an unalloyed good. You have a hard time having a conversation about it because it is un-critiquable. It's a self-evident virtue that everyone must obey.

So consider this. When someone says we should NOT tolerate the next apartheid or the next holocaust, will we be able to say why? What reasons can we give? Any concept of transcendence – an overall good or truth – has by now been privatized. I am supposed to keep my commitments to the cross of Jesus Christ private. It's bad form for me to have a nativity scene on my lawn, and oppressive for Macy's to say Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah. I have to remove my commitments to my view about the integrity of God’s design for humanity and keep them from the public square. Bonhoeffer, in other words, should shut up.

The problem with the way we understand tolerance is that it is intended to protect pluralism and protect the public expression of a variety of beliefs. So, it should for instance PROTECT women who wear head-scarves, or girls that wear crosses to school, or a boy who wears a yarmulke to gym class. But my experience is that total tolerance actually banishes all questions of ultimate meaning from public life, AND the expression of those philosophies (WHY I wear a cross, yarmulke or headscarf) goes right out with them. This is because tolerance – as we currently think of it – presupposes that you MUST be neutral. You MUST suspend all conceptions of what is good for human beings. And it's lying. EVERONE has an idea about what is right for human beings. But you tell yourself that we're all being neutral here. So you disguise your position, and it really puts the other party in any debate at an unfair disadvantage… because you're not being honest with yourself or the other person.

And so public life is left without a discussion of what is good and right, and we have settled for what is most efficient, cost-effective or gives the most people the most temporal happiness. Tolerance actually makes the world SAFER for power.

May. 10 2013 02:34 PM
David from NJ


May I ask that you take a moment to read this?


May. 09 2013 11:39 AM

Of course there are two poles on this. Either you support equal rights for gay people or you don't. Do we have a middle ground to let people who claim they don't hate women, blacks, Asians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, the disabled, the lefthanded, but oppose their equal rights or equal morality?

May. 07 2013 12:21 PM

Of course the general reaction to Jason Collins was adulatory. Basically everybody in public life* knows that if you utter anything other than glowing praise, you'll be branded a bigot, or worse.

The real media story is the one that Brooke barely touched upon; that Chris Broussard of ESPN said something that was personally plausible and thoughtful, but less than glowingly positive about Jason Collins. And for that, Broussard was accused of bigotry, and placed in the center of a controversy that he could probably handle, but which would be too much for anyone else who wasn't a media professional and a professional commentarian to boot.

It is a bit odd that the media would turn to self-professed "Christians" for even the rarest criticism of Jason Collins. There's no good defined "Christian" position on homosexuality. Intolerance of homosexuality may be a position held officially by the Roman Catholic church and by the Southern Baptist Convention. But there are thousands of Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Unitarians (among many others) who would take a very different position and who have demanded that their central churches soften their positions.

There are quite a few Muslim players in the NBA; they might have a view on homosexuality that is harder-line and more institutional than "Christians."

Brooke didn't get into what a black NBA player might mean to a significant division within the Democratic party, with part of the deepest-blue base (African-Americans who turned out to vote in unprecedented numbers in '08 and '12, and voted more than 90% for Democrats) deeply uncomfortable with public accomodations of homosexuality. I suspect that that fact is a significant part of what became a full-blown media promotional campaign over the coming-out of Jason Collins.

The part of the story I don't get is that homosexuality in womens' athletics is the oldest and most mundane story around. Who knows but what 50% or more of the players in the WNBA or on the LPGA Tour are lesbians? Those numbers are in the starkest contrast to the NBA, the PGA Tour, or any of the other big team sport leagues. If every gay player in mens sports were outed, I think the numbers would be so miniscule, that that fact might be a story unto itself.

This story isn't about much of anything other than another rouond in the mainstream media's scolding the nation into a view that anything other than universal public acceptance of homosexuality is the equivalent of bigotry.

*The rare public figures who can stand the pressure of something less than glowing praise would be someone who is a hardened opinionator. A columnist, an Ann Coulter, a Rush Limbaugh. Et cetera.

May. 05 2013 06:32 PM

I'm amazed at how every media outlet gets a key face wrong: Jason Collins is NOT an active player on an NBA team. He's not on a team at this point in time. He's a free agent.

Given that he's 34 and played an average of two minutes a game this past season, it's not likely that he'd get an NBA offer for the fall. I wonder if he does not get on a team if that will be chocked up to homophobia, not a medicore career that was coming to an end.

May. 05 2013 05:10 PM
Kevin McGruder from Yellow Springs, Ohio

In explaining why Chris Broussard was chosen to comment on Jason Collins coming out story, ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz discussed Broussard's extensive basketball expertise. But the most visible part of Broussard's comments on ESPN were not about basketball but about his own perception of Collins based on Broussard's personal beliefs. I was disappointed that Brooke didn't ask Arnovitz why he thought ESPN seemed comfortable with Broussard focusing his comments on this area rather than on basketball. It seems to me that if ESPN wanted someone to speak about Collins and his faith they could have found someone more knowledgable about this area than Broussard. He presented himself as speaking for all Christians, when in reality he was really speaking for himself. Christianity does not require perfection (thus the saying that "we are all sinners saved by grace"). Although they are not as visible as the hostile voices, there are increasing numbers of Christians who welcome and support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as part of faith communities. Jason Collins seems to understand this better than Chris Broussard.

May. 04 2013 08:04 AM

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