Shock waves (though rather minor ones) were sent through the professional basketball community as retired, former journeyman center John Amaechi became the first professional basketball player, past or present, to come out of the closet. If one and ten people are gay, then it could be estimated that there is at least one homosexual on every team, that’s 30 players living in the closet about their homosexuality.
Amaechi now finds himself in a greater spotlight than he could have ever imagined. As As he put it in an interview, “sports are the last bastion of male masculinity.” In American sports, there has never been a current athlete to come out of the closet.
A superstar like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning could probably come out of the closet and there would be little reaction from their teammates, because they’re the start, they can do whatever they want. Their endorsement deals might, however; suffer.
A lesser risk to them not having any endorsements might be their being rejected by their teammates. LeBron James has said multiple times during his career that he would not be comfortable playing with a teammate who was a homosexual.
It’s unfortunate that some players feel this way. The league has been shown to have a large number of players who serially cheat on their wives, and a large number of players who father children out of wedlock, for whom they are deadbeat dads to. These things would seem to be much more morally egregious than a player’s homosexuality.
This being said, I’ve never heard of an instance where a player has actually had a problem with a teammate due to the aforementioned things. Sports in itself seems be a haven for repressed homosexuality. Can you think of another profession where everyone pats each other on the butt, and showers together? Can you imagine? “Well, Johnson, great job closing the Tokyo deal today, now let’s hit the showers.”
Maybe we’re not giving these players enough credit. They’re not all Neanderthals; maybe most of them could accept a player for who he is and respect his ability on the court or field. Charles Barkley was quick to dismiss this as not being a big deal. Barkley said, he’s had two or three teammates in his career he knew were gay, and it didn’t bother him in the least. Is Charles Barkley the norm, or just an enlightened exception?
The story of an ex-basketball player who was marginal during his career coming out of the closet may not be big news in itself. Amaechi has a book due out later this month, which is being published by ESPN Books. ESPN, coincidentally, has been the network to jump the most on the story, pushing it the forefront, while other networks have reported little about it. Is ESPN’s desire to sell more books influencing their news coverage?
With Amaechi coming out, and being received fairly well, maybe some time, in the not to distant future, we will see a current athlete have the courage to come out of the closet.
Amaechi’s coming out isn’t just a victory for the gay and lesbian community; it is a victory for every one who supports a person’s right to be open about who they are.
Olin Meyers is a senior majoring in motion pictures. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org