The small, exclusive club of openly gay professional male athletes has a new member. Former NBA center John Amaechi, who spent five seasons with four teams, on Wednesday became the first NBA player to publicly come out. Amaechi details his life in his autobiography Man in the Middle, which will be released Feb. 14.Hey, baby steps still mean progress. So bravo to Amaechi for coming out.
Martina Navratilova, the most visible gay athlete in history, applauded Amaechi's courage suggesting that gay youth need roll models. "It's hugely important for the (gay) kids so they don't feel alone in the world. We're role models," she said. "He will definitely help a lot of kids growing up to feel better about themselves."
Reaction from the NBA was encouraging. I'lll share a few quotes here in order from least- to most enlightened.
"For real? He's gay for real? Nowadays it's proven that people can live double lives. I watch a lot of TV, so I see a lot of sick perverted stuff about married men running around with gay guys and all types of foolishness."Then an olive branch perhaps:
"As long as he don't make any advances toward me I'm fine with it. As long as he came to play basketball like a man and conducted himself like a good person, I'd be fine with it."That's the nastiest comment i could find surrounding Amaechi's coming out. So if Hunter's remarks represent the the most inherently homophobic sentiments in the NBA, then we are in pretty good shape in the big picture.
"As long as you don't bring your gayness on me I'm fine," Randolph said. "As far as business-wise, I'm sure I could play with him. But I think it would create a little awkwardness in the locker room."
"With teammates you have to be trustworthy, and if you're gay and you're not admitting that you are, then you are not trustworthy," James said. "So that's like the No. 1 thing as teammates -- we all trust each other. You've heard of the in-room, locker room code. What happens in the locker room stays in there. It's a trust factor, honestly. A big trust factor."Keep in mind, LeBron is widely considered the future on the NBA, Jordan's heir aparent. Sounds like his criticism is valid. Living in the closet does create trust issues.
Sooner or later, gays in sports (or in politics, government, the military, etc.) will be a non-issue. But in the meantime, I'll remind folks (as nicely as possible) that WE'RE HERE, WE'RE QUEER, WE'RE NOT GONNA DISAPPEAR.