Faux bravery, empty diversity, and the secular sainthood of “gay” athletes

In case you missed it, NBA veteran Jason Collins is a “trailblazer” and a “role model” who has shown great “courage” and exhibited impressive “bravery” by publicly acknowledging that he is “gay”. The historic news broke on Monday, when Sports Illustrated posted a piece written by Collins in which he wrote about being the “first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport”, the qualfiers made necessary because many others have already “come out”, albeit in lesser sports. Collins wrote:

Now I’m a free agent, literally and figuratively. I’ve reached that enviable state in life in which I can do pretty much what I want. And what I want is to continue to play basketball. I still love the game, and I still have something to offer. My coaches and teammates recognize that. At the same time, I want to be genuine and authentic and truthful. …

When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged. I thought I had to live a certain way. I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue. …

The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn’t wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?

In addition to the talk about truth, Collins emphasizes that he is a Christian:

I’m from a close-knit family. My parents instilled Christian values in me. They taught Sunday school, and I enjoyed lending a hand. I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding.

And from his interview with New York Times‘ Frank Bruni:

While most reaction has seemingly been positive, some wasn’t. Were you aware that Chris Broussard of ESPN said you weren’t a Christian if you’re openly and actively gay, and what’s your response?

My response is, first, I am a Christian. I know other gay and lesbian members of the community, the LGBT community, who are practicing Christians. This is all about tolerance and acceptance and America is the best country in the world because we’re all entitled to our opinions and beliefs but we don’t’ have to agree. And obviously I don’t agree with his statement. This is where the discussion begins.

As I’ve followed this story on ESPN and the internet, I’ve marvelled a bit at the endless stream of effusive, ebullient praise for Collins. Some of it is indicative of the sports culture in the U.S., which acts as if playing with a sprained ankle is “courageous” or that attempting an aggressive putt is “brave”, and some of it is par for the course with pundits and journalists who are on ar relentless quest to celebrate the end of real or supposed barriers and prejudices.

I say “supposed” because I’m at a loss as to what great challenges and daunting difficulties will now confront Collins. The fact is, instead of being an adequate journeyman big man in the NBA (who is currently unsigned), he is now a celebrity and more: a hero for the Great Cause of Our (Nearly) Enlightened Age. ESPN has trotted out an eager line of executives, owners, players, and others to sing the praises of Collins’ act of disclosure, but this was much bigger than sports, if only because sports has long been much bigger than sports. As Collins told Bruni:

What about the reaction to your coming-out has most surprised or impressed you?

I expected some support for my teammates, from my coaches, but to get all the support from every single person I talked to . . . from the NBA family, the Stanford family . . . It’s been overwhelming, and then beyond that, it doesn’t get any bigger than the leader of the free world giving you a call and saying you did a good thing, congratulations—that I did something not only to help myself but to empower others, to help others. It’s just remarkable and overwhelming.

Did you have much of a heads-up or expectation that President Obama would call? Where were you when the call came in?

That was out of the blue. I spoke with President Clinton yesterday, but I’ve had a relationship with the Clinton family. Chelsea and my brother’s wife were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. They (the Clintons) came to my graduation party at Stanford. I’ve known the Clinton family and President Clinton said he would reach out to the Obama administration. And I spoke with Valerie Jarrett yesterday and I assumed that that was it….

Meanwhile, what about those who might not be on board with the gay parade and who might not believe, contra endless propoganda and “education”, that homosexuality is something worthy of such praise and celebration? If you are at loss for a descriptive, the Washington Post is eager to help you, referring to the “foam-flecked bigots” who would throw rocks of prejudice at the train named “Progress” as it flies down the tricky tracks of History. One of those lonely souls, as Bruni noted, was ESPN’s reporter Chris Broussard, who said, when asked for his opinion, said the following:

Personally I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly premarital sex [lifestyle] between heterosexuals. If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be. I think that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ.

Not surprisingly, Broussard’s comments were met with some spirited agitation and not-so-inspired name calling (as The Blaze reports; warning: vulgarity!). And it wasn’t long before Broussard, who is an excellent reporter, released a statement which included the necessary salute to Collins’ gritty, courageous action: “I believe Jason Collins displayed bravery with his announcement today and I have no objection to him or anyone else playing in the NBA.” Alas, this only furthers the confusion that so many people seem to have about the objections that orthodox Christians have against homosexuality, perceiving those objections as attacks on the value and dignity of the person in question. However, it is one thing to say, “I don’t think homosexual acts are good”, and quite another to say, “I don’t think anyone who is homosexual should be playing in the NBA.” The question isn’t, “Should a homosexual to play basketball?” but, “Is homosexuality something that should be celebrated and presented as morally good?” The fact that many people cannot understand the difference is hardly surprising; after all, the sports world that acts as if dog fighting is the greatest evil known to mankind rarely (if ever) says a thing about the prevalence of sexual promiscuity (and the accompanying ills of abortion, fatherless homes, etc.) in sports both major and minor.

When Tim Tebow’s Christian beliefs became an issue (partially because of his remarks; partially because of story hungry writers), the reaction among sportscasters, writers, and networks was, I think it’s fair to say, mostly negative. There weren’t many who were willing to defend Tebow; on the contrary, he was often the butt of jokes and open mockery. But the groupthink is alive and well when it comes to the self-outing of Jason Collins, as it has almost become a contest as to who can be most effusive with the mandatory praise (Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are leading the polls). That, in turn, has led to an Orwellian remark from ESPN after Broussard’s honest and genuine original statement:

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.

Please. Since when is “diversity” defined as “everyone vs. one”, with the solitary voice of the one forced to submit to the groupthink of everyone? (Answer: in poltically-correct circles.) Besides, anyone who watches ESPN knows the network is committed to promoting stories (NFL draft, anyone?) and teams (the losing Lakers, anyone?) that draw readers, not in simply presenting “news”. And I’m fine with that approach—except when the network wants to have it both ways, which it often does. 

Collins, at the conclusion of his piece in Sports Illustrated, writes, “The most you can do is stand up for what you believe in. I’m much happier since coming out to my friends and family. Being genuine and honest makes me happy.” This past week, the supermodel Heidi Klum, who has been married a couple of times and is now involved with her “bodyguard boyfriend”, uttered similar words of worldly wisdom: “At the end of the day, you have to do what makes you happy. That’s the rule I live by.” Oprah must be proud.


The Catholic Church, meanwhile, teaches that true happiness is found in becoming what we are meant to be, which involves aligning our thoughts and actions with the nature and will of the Triune God. Temporal, emotional happiness is often contrary to authentic, eternal happiness. If our desires, passions, and inclinations are the final word on what life is about and where happiness can be found, then we are merely living in a shiny, pseudo-civilized version of the Lord of the Flies. For decades now, Catholics have largely failed to both live and proclaim the Church’s vision of a life rightly ordered to truth, holiness, and goodness. That certainly needs to change, as Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have consistently stated in a myriad of ways. And that includes loving and accepting “with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” those struggling with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” while avoiding every “sign of unjust discrimination” (CCC 2358).


We are being continually pressured to give lip service to the “bravery” of unbrave acts and the “authenticity” of disordered actions, while being told (in deed, if not in word) that “diversity” does not include inconvenient truths about human nature. We do well to heed the words of St. Augustine, who knew a thing or two about dying to sin and self:


If, then, we ask what it is to live well,—that is, to strive after happiness by living well,—it must assuredly be to love virtue, to love wisdom, to love truth, and to love with all the heart, with all the soul, and with all the mind; virtue which is inviolable and immutable, wisdom which never gives place to folly, truth which knows no change or variation from its uniform character. (De Moribus Ecclesiae Catholicae, 13, 22)

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About Carl E. Olson 1197 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.