Earlier this week, the co-hosts of the Sports Illustrated Now program championed the NBA as a progressive league and red flagged former player and coach Mark Jackson's aspirations to coach again because he's a Christian. Jackson compiled a winning record in three seasons as coach of the Golden State Warriors from 2011-2014, and this week a current member of the team suggested Jackson is being blackballed by the NBA because of past citations of the Bible on sexuality.
While promoting his new book, The Sixth Man, at The Breakfast Club, in New York, Warriors' forward Andre Iguodala said he believes Jackson may be the victim of blackballing by the NBA for expressing his religious beliefs about homosexuality. Jackson is a pastor who, as Golden State's coach, often live-streamed church services to his congregation from the Warriors' team facility.
The Shadow League's J.R. Gamble explains that, in 2013, "Jackson became public enemy No. 1, sort of speak, to the LGBTQ community when he made some controversial comments when NBA player Jason Collins came out as gay."
Jackson had said at the time, “As a Christian man, I have beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong … . That being said, I know Jason Collins, I know his family, and am certainly praying for them at this time.” Collins was a 13-year bench-warmer in the NBA who came out of the closet shortly before his retirement in 2014.
Iguodala said that Jackson’s views offended the gay Warriors executive Rick Welts and their working relationship soured after that.
"Jackson’s alleged intolerance spread around the league like wildfire and in this current climate, hiring a man with his strong views against gay lifestyles as the face of the franchise wouldn’t be beneficial to any team’s public image," Gamble writes.
On the Sports Illustrated Now program, Amy Campbell said:
"Right, and I think when you're talking about religious beliefs and acceptance when some people's religious beliefs are not accepting of other people's lifestyle you can kind of have a little bit of a conflict there, especially when I think about the NBA being the most progressive sports league in this country and how accepting and tolerant the NBA is of all those types of things and how celebrating the NBA is of all different things that you could see where that could be a red flag if the coach isn't, you know, a superstar, winning, no-questions-asked-type-of caliber coach."
Campbell's co-host Robin Lundberg disputed the blacklisting, but also questioned Jackson's living out of his faith.
Lundberg said: "I don't think Mark Jackson is a bad coach, but let's start with the coaching record itself. Steve Kerr came in there, and the Warriors improved by 16 games and won the NBA championship. So I don't think he's a must-hire coach either. And that's where I think some of this stuff might factor in.
"I don't think he's being blackballed from the NBA, in the sense, where it's keeping him out for sure, but as with any hire, you're weighing all that comes with said hire," Lundberg said. "In Mark Jackson's case, there is a bit of baggage both with some of the views he expressed and how that conflicted with Golden State with some behind-the-scenes turmoil."
Lundberg encouraged everyone to do what works for you, but Jackson's religious stand "seemed very overt at times."
Jackson is well liked by NBA players, but the closest he's come to the league again has been as a broadcaster. Gamble wrote, "It’s unfortunate that a brilliant mind and hoops icon like Jackson can announce the games but won’t be allowed to get anywhere near an NBA team. He’s one of the bright African-American coaching minds into the game and a proven franchise jump-starter."