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Report: Former NBA Player John Amaechi to Announce He's Gay

Speculation has been rumbling over the past couple of days on several websites that a former NBA player will be coming out of the closet on Valentine's Day.

Amaechi_1This evening I spoke with Howard Bragman, the mystery athlete's publicist. Though he wouldn't confirm the player's identity, Bragman did tell me that the former player has been retired for a few years, had a long career in the NBA "with a number of different teams", and will be coming out of the closet next Tuesday afternoon on ESPN's "Outside the Lines". The athlete has written a book that is being published by ESPN and will be in New York next week doing an aggressive media campaign. According to Bragman, "[the athlete] is an activist for a lot of different causes, and thought it was silly that he wasn't an activist for the LGBT community, so he decided there was no reason for him to stay in the closet. [During his career] he was discreet but not deeply closeted. For people who know him or have covered him it's probably not a shocking revelation."

Just after I spoke with Bragman, Outsports broke the story wide open, naming the athlete whom many had been speculating about, an athlete who matches Bragman's description perfectly — John Amaechi, a former player for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, and the Utah Jazz. Amaechi, the son of a Nigerian father and English mother, was raised in Britain where he currently works as a consultant and philanthropist. He runs the ABC Foundation, which works to construct sports centers and create mentors and athletic programs for children around England.

Outsports obtained a copy of the book Man in the Middle last week. They report:

He followed his time as a Cavalier with three years playing in Europe, where he dated and had a regular boyfriend for a time in England. He returned to the NBA in 1999 and was celibate until he went to the Jazz. His guaranteed contract with the Jazz set his mind at ease, and it was there that he began venturing out to gay establishments and building a mostly gay circle of friends (the first wide circle of friends of his life, according to the book).

"Those grumpy social conservatives who continue to insist that gay life is lonely and unhappy have obviously never met my friends," Amaechi wrote.

He writes of his first sexual experience in the United States, and how the Utah Jazz and Salt Lake City, controlled by the Latter Day Saints, was an odd backdrop for what felt like his coming out party. He also acknowledges that those in gay clubs like New York's Splash and Los Angeles' Abbey who have claimed in the past to have spotted him there while he was with the Jazz may, in fact, have done so.

"By the end of my second Utah season, I was practically daring reporters to take the bait and out me," he wrote. "But it never happened. My sexuality, I felt, had become an open secret, which was fine by me. I'd left enough open to interpretation that suspicions were gaining momentum."

He'll be the fourth professional athlete to come out of the closet, and the first from the NBA. The world and professional sports will be a better place for it.

We'll look forward to next week when this all goes down.

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  1. JA's accomplishments on the hardwood are made even more impressive by what he has since achieved with his money and fame. He not only talks the talk but is walking the walk by embracing his role as mentor to youth who idolize athletes. He is the whole package, not only a talented athlete but a man of character and a damn fine looking one. Gays could not have a better ambassador.

    Posted by: rudy | Feb 7, 2007 8:57:43 AM

  2. agreed jeff!
    not for nothing, how come nobody writes about the Penn State women's bball coach rene portland who won't let a lesbian play on her team? it was newsworthy for about two seconds, and people have just let it go. let's take the bitch down! :)

    Posted by: tiff | Feb 7, 2007 9:13:06 AM

  3. Andy should have said that Amaechi will be the SIXTH AMERICAN, MALE professional athlete in a MAJOR LEAGUE, TEAM sport to come out publicly.

    His predecessors would be:

    Billy Bean (Tigers, Dodgers, Padres)
    Glenn Burke (Dodgers, A’s)
    Dave Kopay (49ers, Lions, Redskins, Saints, Packers)
    Jerry Smith (Giants, Redskins)
    Esera Tuaolo (Vikings, Packers, Falcons, Jaguars, Panthers)

    There have been a number of American professional female athletes who have come out (Mauresmo, Navratilova, Swoopes, etc) as well as a number of American professional male athletes in individual sports (ice skating/Galindo et al, tennis/Tilden, etc) and lesser known team sports (lacrosse/Goldstein).

    Outside of the US there have been many more out professional athletes including males from top team sports like Justin Fashanu (English League Football) and Ian Roberts (Australian League Rugby).

    The numbers are still incredibly small and that makes Mr. Amaechi's decision all the more courageous and all the more welcome.

    I agree with Matt that having a person come out voluntarily, as opposed to being outed, coming out in scandal or being drug out kicking and screaming, is a much more positive statement both FOR the gay community (especially to those struggling to come out) and TO the greater straight community.

    Posted by: Zeke | Feb 7, 2007 9:49:29 AM

  4. Does anyone here have any opinions on why it seems gay male athletes get more of the media attention it seems than gay female athletes?

    My personal opinion is that the males make more money and their sport is watched more than the female counterpart.

    Posted by: Matt | Feb 7, 2007 9:53:18 AM

  5. Matt, Two possible answers: First, what you said (male sports are more popular, there's more money and therefore more coverage). Second, there's a stereotype that female athletes are lesbian-ish. From golfers to masculine-looking female tennis players and track stars, we grow up with the idea that lesbians are good at sports. So it's not so surprising when they do come out. But for male sports, it's the opposite. Gays are supposed to suck at sports. We're not supposed to be masculine enough. There's the stereotype of the gay kid always being picked last for the team. The idea of a gay professional athlete--especially in team sports--is shocking. A lot of homophobes think of sports as the very last place you would expect to see a homosexual male, so when there is one, it causes a big stir.

    Posted by: SGR | Feb 7, 2007 10:13:53 AM

  6. I remember when Magic Johnson disclosed his HIV+ status. There were some pretty nasty (and extreme) reactions from other NBA players, i.e., Karl Malone, about playing against Magic. That rampant ignorance and intolerance is still very much alive in the NBA, you can count on it.

    Yes, this is different in that John A. is coming out and not talking about HIV status. The point is, the NBA, like any of the other pro athlete leagues, is filled with homophobes and stupid, dumb jocks. I get why he didn't come out when he was still playing b-ball.

    Hopefully this will change, but c'mon guys: these pro athletes were once the assholes who called you 'faggot' in high school.

    Posted by: Todd | Feb 7, 2007 11:02:07 AM

  7. Good question for discussion Matt.

    I think SGR summed it up very well.

    It comes down to money and stereotypes.

    When a lesbian sports star comes out, the average American reacts with antipathy because they see it as expected based on stereotypes that they've come to associate with both lesbians and female athletes.

    When a gay male athlete comes out it does exactly the opposite. It goes completely contrary to the stereotypes that the average American has come to believe about both athletes and gay men.

    Posted by: Zeke | Feb 7, 2007 11:10:35 AM

  8. Billie Jean King?

    Posted by: mom | Feb 7, 2007 11:20:05 AM

  9. I guess I never looked at it from the aspect of we see female players as more "lesbionic". I guess that's why a lot of straight men and media get in such a stir about Anna Kornacova (sorry for the spelling) because she is very feminine and not butch at all.

    Posted by: Matt | Feb 7, 2007 11:24:39 AM

  10. I think we have to take issue with the "fourth professional athlete to come out of the closet" statement whether the reaction for female athletes is different or not (and I think the difference is only in the matter of degrees). The fact is these female tennis players and golfers etc... are professional athletes and they did come out.

    Posted by: Daniel | Feb 7, 2007 1:28:24 PM

  11. "I agree with Matt that having a person come out voluntarily, as opposed to being outed, coming out in scandal or being drug out kicking and screaming, is a much more positive statement both FOR the gay community (especially to those struggling to come out) and TO the greater straight community."
    Posted by: Zeke |

    I agree with you Zeke.

    Coming out should be a self-decided rite of passage & a proactive effort a lgbt makes to reclaim their power to live life as they chose without having to conform to silence or hide.

    Being outed essentially robs someone of that very important and transforming opportunity...and it forever highlights the negative elements of the outing deed:

    1)the shame of being caught
    2)the humiliation of having to admit the 'crime'
    3)the stigma of always being judged as less than courageous

    I think coming out & outing are two diametrically opposed concepts, and they should never even be equated..

    Posted by: Da | Feb 7, 2007 1:31:48 PM

  12. I just heard Reichen has already asked him out on a date.

    Posted by: gay is the new straight | Feb 7, 2007 2:30:10 PM

  13. "Andy should have said that Amaechi will be the SIXTH AMERICAN, MALE professional athlete in a MAJOR LEAGUE, TEAM sport to come out publicly".

    I don't want to be pedantic but he is not an American - English mother, Jamaican father and was raised in good ol' Blighty (where he is currently residing). Dare I say it, but growing up in the UK he was probably spared some of the more aggressively homophobic stuff that tends to be part and parcel of these intensely macho American sports...

    Posted by: Atheist | Feb 7, 2007 3:03:41 PM

  14. “The first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking guy.” = gay


    Posted by: Kermit | Feb 7, 2007 3:27:43 PM

  15. John was born in the United States and spent most of his basketball career in the U.S.

    Posted by: Cyd | Feb 7, 2007 4:25:46 PM

  16. First Katie Holmes marries a gay man and now this! Another Toledoan in the national gay news! (he went to St. John's HS locally) Now if our Congresswoman would just come out already!

    Posted by: Scott | Feb 7, 2007 4:39:16 PM

  17. Would love for more black/bi-racial and heck all other races of athletes to come out. Damn he is fine too.

    Posted by: Mike | Feb 7, 2007 6:53:41 PM

  18. He has a website,, where you can see a short film about him. He's a great guy. My son and I saw him in many Orlando Magic games when he played here, and got his autograph. He was very kind and gracious to my son, unlike Penny Hardaway, who swore at him :P

    He also is in the NBA hall of fame for scoring the first points in the new millennium. He's a class act and I wish him the best!

    Posted by: sue | Feb 7, 2007 7:18:34 PM

  19. Thanks for the website Sue.

    After watching the clip at I am blown away by this man.

    100% class act.

    This man will make a world of difference in countless numbers of kids' lives (gay and straight). I can't imagine a better role model for young gay kids today.

    I encourage everyone to check out the website.

    Mark my words: This man is going to move mountains!

    Posted by: Zeke | Feb 7, 2007 8:32:15 PM

  20. You're welcome, Zeke. Pass it on.

    Posted by: sue | Feb 7, 2007 9:48:05 PM

  21. Just watched this video; what an absolute star this man is. A very intelligent, very articulate, warm and compassionate man. And he just happens to be gay. At last people can see that not all gay men fit the stereotype. We need to hear much more about him and guys like him and MUCH less of pointless self-serving 'celebrities'. I dare say when he comes out it will be a total non-issue given the fantastic work he is doing over here. And that's just as it should be. Go John!!

    Posted by: Atheist | Feb 8, 2007 2:21:54 PM

  22. That's great to have an athlete come out especially in such a high profile lets keep 'em coming!

    Hey...anybody know if he was a really good player? I never pay attention to sports but it would definetly help if he was a good player.

    Posted by: FanGirlHater | Feb 9, 2007 8:50:25 PM

  23. As a Jamaican, I am happy to know that he has "yard" roots, given that here homophobia is rampant.

    Posted by: alphurleigh | Nov 12, 2007 2:07:19 AM

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