By BILL KONIGSBERG, AP Sports Writer
February 7, 2007
AP - Feb 7, 1:55 pm EST
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 will appear on ESPN's Outside the Lines on Sunday, and his autobiography "Man in the Middle," will be released Feb. 14.
"He is coming out of the closet as a gay man," Amaechi's publicist Howard Bragman said.
Martina Navratilova, perhaps the most famous openly gay athlete in the world, praised Amaechi's decision and said it's imperative for athletes to come out because of what she called an epidemic of suicides among young lesbians and gays.
"It's hugely important for the kids so they don't feel alone in the world. We're role models. We're adults, and we know we're not alone but kids don't know that," she said. "He will definitely help a lot of kids growing up to feel better about themselves."
Three years after his playing career ended, Amaechi become the sixth professional male athlete from one of the four major American sports (NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL) to publicly discuss his homosexuality.
Former NFL running back David Kopay came out in 1977; offensive lineman Roy Simmons and defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo came out more recently. Glenn Burke, an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland A's in the 1970s, and Billy Bean, a utility player in the 1980s and 1990s, also have come out.
Each did so after retiring.
Burke died of complications due to AIDS in 1995.
"What John did is amazing," said Tuaolo, who came out in 2002. "He does not know how many lives he's saved by speaking the truth."
Tuaolo said coming out would be a relief to Amaechi.
"Living with all that stress and that depression, all you deal with as a closeted person, when you come out you really truly free yourself," Tuaolo said. "When I came out it felt like I was getting out of prison."
NBA commissioner David Stern said a player's sexuality is not important.
"We have a very diverse league. The question at the NBA is always 'have you got game?' That's it, end of inquiry," he said.
In his book, Amaechi describes the challenge of being gay in a league where it's assumed that all players are heterosexual. He describes the blatant anti-gay language and attitudes he experienced in NBA locker rooms, and writes that while playing in Utah, coach Jerry Sloan used anti-gay innuendo to describe him.
Sloan said Wednesday that although his relationship with Amaechi was "shaky" because of the player's attitude, he didn't know Amaechi was gay. Sloan had no comment about Amaechi's contention that Sloan used anti-gay innuendo when referring to him. Amaechi said he found out about it in e-mails from friends in the Jazz front office.
When asked if knowing Amaechi was gay would have mattered, Sloan said: "Oh yeah, it would have probably mattered. I don't know exactly, but I always have peoples' feelings at heart. People do what they want to do. I don't have a problem with that."
Amaechi, 36, who was raised in England, writes in the book that he never touched a basketball before the age of 17. A quick study despite being a "terrible athlete," he found his confidence in the game and made it his goal to play in the NBA.
He competed for Penn State, then played in 301 NBA games over five seasons. The 6-foot-10 center averaged 6.2 points and 2.6 rebounds. He began his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1995-96, then spent a few years playing in Europe. He rejoined the NBA to play for the Orlando Magic from 1999-01, then played two seasons for the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz traded him to Houston, which traded him to the New York Knicks. When the Knicks waived him in January 2004, he retired.
Amaechi came out of retirement to help England's men's basketball team to the silver medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia.
Wouldn't want to have backed him down in the lane, or vice versa
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I wouldn't have a problem with that as long as he doesn't have a boner running the fast break...
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He probably loves that Valentine's pic of MP on the Warriors website.
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If dun isnt gay i don't know what he is.
Funny thing is Stern said something like, Does he have game? or something like that and the answer to Amechi is NO.
I actually think Troy and Dung had something going, the matching Hair-Do's the sharing of hotel rooms ect.
I wonder what the rednecks Pacer fans are gonna hate more their gang banging club going gun toting jiggas or their gay forward tandem from the Bay Area?!?!?!?
They'll always hate Jackson more because he was black.
Honestly, when you look at that trade, what did the Pacers get? A couple of white boys in exchange for a couple of good players?! I'm betting Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird (who, I'll wager, are both Nascar fans) just wanted to aquire a couple more light skinned players. Its probably the truth.
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LOL yea man its the truth, not being racist, its just facts of life, right or wrong. I think Murphy can be close to great for them. Plus they needed to move SJax to sell more tickets, then Tinsley and Daniels go act up.
I doubt race was a factor in the trade (well, maybe I'm being naive, but I can't understand doing business that way).
It's more like they wanted to get rid of Jax no matter the cost... and the cost was taking over the contracts of those two. Nothing comes easy in life.
Last edited by TMC on Wed Feb 14, 2007 5:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
You ever been around a racist American TMC? If not watch Borats' Frat boy scene.....then you'll get it.
I think Larry and Donnie really wanted to get rid of SJax... but I also think it's kinda weird that they'd be willing to swallow the horrid contracts of two guys who've never been anything more than role players (and Dunleavy wasn't even a good role player) with nothing to offer that they didn't already have. Larry said they wanted rebounds, which is why they made the trade. Are you kidding me? Dunleavy for rebounds?? Wow...
Murph gives them boards and an occasional jumper, but nothing else. Other than that, they got Ike in the trade and that's it.
I think the reason the Pacers trade was so easy is the same reason I thought Barnett's geriatric ass used to praise Dunleavy: because Mike's white. And Indy is in the middle of the Red states. It's just the truth. I know it's not something anyone wants to hear... but what else does Dunleavy bring to the game, besides being white?
If you think racism is gone, I can assure you it's not. My buddy, FurZo, because a Kings fan because (at the time) they were the whitest team in the league (Bibby, Vlade, Christy, Pollard, and a few others I can't think of right now). And he's not even a redneck, like Larry or Donnie.
Just food for thought.
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You're all sounding like Rush Limbaugh now...
If that's the reason for the trade (and I still refuse to believe it, but maybe based on personal convictions), it's retarded as hell.
Nah, Rush would be totally wacked out on pills and hardly able to compose his sentences.
Its just the truth, man. We're not saying WE believe in it (God knows, I think racism's moronic), but why else would the Pacers make that kind of trade...?
They'd just aquired Harrington via free agency (who wasn't gelling with Jermaine, true, but he'd have made an exceptional 6th man to spell O'Neal). Why would the Pacers outbid at least 3 teams and viciously pursue Harrington if they didn't want him to be around for at least the next 5 seasons? And even if they did wanna trade him... they couldn't find a better offer than Troy Murphy? Dishing him for lesser talent with equal contracts just doesn't add up...
Plus, Larry Bird was totally creaming over Cabbage the past 3 years. And the Pacers tossed him into the trade like Filler. Doesn't that sound a little suspicious...?
Murphy is a good player, Dunleavy's a terrible player (with the ability to come up big, occasionally), Ike Diogu is an average player with the potential to be huge, and Keith McCleod is 3rd-string quality, at best.
Why else would the Pacers make that trade? They aren't stupid; they knew they were giving up a ton of talent. Their fans knew it, their coaches knew it, and even Larry and Donnie (who had prepared a BS, question-dodging speech during their trade conference) seemed to know it.
Why else would the Pacers want Mike Dunleavy instead of Stephen Jackson? Or Troy Murphy instead of Al Harrington...?
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