US television network ESPN has responded to criticism arising from a reporter’s recent claim that, in coming out as gay, NBA star Jason Collins was living an “open rebellion to God”, to say that it became a “distraction”.

Chris Broussard, a reporter on US television sports channel ESPN, on Tuesday commented on the coming out of NBA star Jason Collins, to say that he thought it was an “open rebellion to God”, and that “lifestyle”, is “a sin”.

Jason Collins on Monday spoke about his sexuality, confirming he is gay in an article in Sports Illustrated magazine. He said: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.

Speaking during a segment on the channel’s ‘Outside the Lines’ programme, Broussard, a senior writer for ESPN Magazine, spoke out against Collins’ decision to come out, saying that he was “living in unrepentant sin”.

He since tweeted, to clarify his position, by saying: “As part of a larger, wide-ranging discussion on today’s news, I offered my personal opinion as it relates to Christianity, a point of view that I have expressed publicly before. I realize that some people disagree with my opinion and I accept and respect that.

“As has been the case in the past, my beliefs have not and will not impact my ability to report on the NBA. I believe Jason Collins displayed bravery with his announcement today and I have no objection to him or anyone else playing in the NBA.”

The network has now responded through a statement by Josh Krulewitz, which said: “We regret that a respectful discussion of personal viewpoints became a distraction.”

Krulewitz went on to say that the network was “fully committed to diversity”, and that it welcomed Collins’ decision to come out, reports the Associated Press.

Since coming out, Collins has revealed that he had been making a quiet statement of solidarity with the gay community, every time he stepped out onto the court, by wearing a 98 jersey, in memorial of murdered Wisconsin student Matthew Shepard. 

Collins has received thousands of messages of support, including from President Barack Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton, his teammates, coaches, the Commissioner of the NBA, and countless others.