Anderson Cooper on Gay NBA Player: 'The Tide of History Is Moving Forward'

Hosting liberal filmmaker Spike Lee on his Tuesday show, CNN's Anderson Cooper supported Lee's prediction that more professional athletes will come out as gay like NBA player Jason Collins.

"The tide of history is moving forward," the openly-gay Cooper remarked in a not-so-subtle boost of the gay rights movement. On Monday, Cooper hailed Collins as "a true pioneer" and lauded his announcement as a "historic decision."

Lee, for his part, lashed out at the "homophobic" reactions from within the African-American community, including ESPN's Chris Broussard's condemnation of Collins' decision. Broussard had called homosexuality a "sin" like "all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is," and added it was in "open rebellion" to God.

"There are, I will say, a large segment of African-Americans who are very homophobic," Lee noted before mentioning Broussard by name. "And he's an African-American brother from New Orleans. And he's a Christian," Lee said. He added that being a Christian does not force one to oppose homosexuality.

"Well, look, to be honest, there are many gay people in the church. Let's keep it real. There are gay people in the black church. So you just can't say, I believe in God, and that means that I'm against homosexuality."

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on Anderson Cooper 360 on April 30 at 8:19 p.m. EDT:

[8:19]

ANDERSON COOPER: Well, support keeps pouring in tonight for Jason Collins' decision to come out. The seven-foot center has heard from President Obama, Bill Clinton, Oprah, Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, and a string of other NBA greats. According to Sports Illustrated, his Twitter following has increased more than 20-fold. That said, one Sports Illustrated writer's characterization, quote that "Collins' coming-out party was a joyous affair is just a little optimistic." Collins has also gotten a dose of negative reaction, even some out-and-out hate messages. Still, he sounded very happy today as he spoke about the journey he's been on with ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

(Video Clip)

JASON COLLINS, NBA player: From the beginning, I think they call it like the 12 steps, you know, you go through anger, denial and – you know, it's just – but when you finally get to that point of acceptance, there's nothing more beautiful. And just allowing yourself to, you know, really be happy and be comfortable in your own skin.

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: As I said, that decision to be open about who he is did not come without a measure of condemnation by some, but the detractors seem outnumbered by supporters, at least publicly, including filmmaker and basketball fanatic Spike Lee who joins me now.

(Video Clip)

COOPER: So, Spike, Jason Collins' decision to come out, were you surprised by it? What do you make of it?

SPIKE LEE, film director (via phone): I wasn't surprised. I mean, the day is coming. The world is changing. And at the same time, it took a courageous – it was a courageous act by Jason and you're always going to have your haters out there but I feel good about all the players, a lot of people, Kobe, a whole bunch of people come out in full support of Jason Collins. So I think it's a momentous historic day yesterday when the article came out that's going to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

COOPER: You know what's interesting, as you said, there was a lot of public support from other players, President Obama, the First Lady. I was reading your Twitter feed from yesterday and there seemed to be,  in addition to a lot of praise, there was also a lot of vitriol against him. You actually were – you were responding.

LEE: They were coming at me like I was the one that said I'm coming out. You know, in my tweet I supported Jason, then the haters started to hate-tweet. And I just had to, you know, go back at them and say, you know, whoever's doing this, the individual, I said you're ignorant and you need to wake up.

COOPER: It was interesting because in some of your tweets, and I talked to Julian Bond about this a couple – probably about a month or so ago, about – and he sees the struggle for equality for gay and lesbian Americans as part and parcel as a continuation of the civil rights struggle.

LEE: What people forget is that women's liberation, everything, even what's happening now with gay rights, it started with the civil rights movement. And I find – I always find it very peculiar, people who want a right and then forget about who started it, you know. And so human rights is human rights. So you can't be for gay rights and still be, you know, racist against anybody and have ill will toward anybody else. Because as Julian Bond said, as you just stated, it started with the civil rights movement. And the women's rights movement came after that. And now we're going with the gay movement.

COOPER: But there are people, and I've talked to a number of African-Americans, who do not believe – who are in fact offended at that comparison, who say, you know, look it's completely different.

LEE: Anderson, there is no -- I cannot make an excuse for that. There are, I will say, a large segment of African-Americans who are very homophobic. That is – there's no getting around that.

COOPER: Where do you think that comes from? Do you think –

LEE: In fact Chris Broussard, one of the top guys at ESPN came out yesterday on air and said – not come out, he didn't come out, but he said that, you know, that it was a sin against god, homosexuals. And he's an African-American brother from New Orleans. And he's a Christian.

COOPER: So do you see that in the African-American community, as something based largely on religious beliefs, religious tradition?

LEE: Well, look, to be honest, there are many gay people in the church. Let's keep it real. There are gay people in the black church. So you just can't say, I believe in God, and that means that I'm against homosexuality.

COOPER: And Jason Collins makes a point of saying he's a Christian and this is – I mean, this is in line with his beliefs. How do you think fans are going to respond? How do you think other players are going to respond? You know, not just publicly but, you know, in the locker room, on the court.

LEE: Look, there will be a couple of jokes, but I think that with the tweets I've read, he's going to get – if he does happen to get on a team next year, he's going to get respect from – definitely from the league because Commissioner Stern has said already, you know, this is a great thing. So I think we'll be – he's going to be – he's going to get a warm welcome from fans, majority of fans, as he goes around.

Once again, he's a free agent. There's no guarantee he's going to be picked up next year. But I think he's getting a warm response. I think that, you know, this nation is moving forward, we're progressing, and I think people are more forward-thinking and going to let, you know, live -- live and let live.

COOPER: Do you expect other basketball players, football players, do you see other pro athletes coming out soon?

LEE: Oh, it's going to happen. And here's the thing. There are gay players in the four major sports. Their teammates know it. The organizations know it. But they're not going to put them on full blast so, and they're not -- what I mean by full blast, not going to out them. So there are gay -- known gay players playing professional sports. And I think that what Jason Collins did is give them maybe the same courage for them to do the same thing.

So I would say that coming the next few months, Jason Collins is not going to be the only one who will step forward and say, you know, how he's living.

COOPER: The tide of history is moving forward. Spike Lee, it's great to have you on.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014