April 29, 2013. It's a day that will live forever in the LGBT community. That's when Jason Collins came out publicly in Sports Illustrated. It's also the same day that ESPN NBA insider Chris Broussard went on Outside the Lines to say that he was against homosexuality and called it a life in "open rebellion to God."
Two weeks after that declaration, ESPN President John Skipper said at ESPN's Upfront in New York City that it was a mistake for Broussard to give his personal feelings when he should have been reporting the story. In a brief Q&A with reporters at the ESPN Upfronts in New York on Tuesday, Skipper said:
"Chris Broussard's job was to come on and talk about the news of the league, how the league was representing it, and through a series of events he made personal comments which was a mistake."
Skipper pointed out that openly gay columnist LZ Granderson was already booked to give his personal experience and opinion on the story. Skipper added the following to Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch:
",..we brought Chris on as a reporter and it was a mistake for him to cross the line into a personal point of view there. We don't quarrel with his right to have any personal point of view, although we do assert as a company that we have a tolerant point of view, we are a diverse company, and that does not represent what our company thinks."
That's fine, but once you get into a discussion on personal beliefs, you can't shut it off. Whether or not you agree with Broussard, he had the right to offer his opinion once the subject was broached in a personal manner. Outside the Lines did start with a look at Collins' declaration, but then Granderson and Broussard discussed their beliefs. You can't have one person offering his opinion in a panel discussion and the other there to only present the news in a split-screen discussion. The only way ESPN comes out in the clear in this situation was if Granderson was the only guest on the segment or if Broussard stepped out by voicing his personal beliefs during a news report. That simply did not happen and as Deadspin's John Koblin put it, Jason Collins had been "Bristolized."
ESPN had to know where Broussard stood before putting him on the air with Granderson, but the network has since put the reporter on an island and placed all the blame on his shoulders. One has to wonder whether it's fair for the network to distance themselves from his comments and see him take the brunt of the negative fallout when the network likely expected what he would say that day.