John Amaechi Hub

Towleroad Interview: John Amaechi

Former NBA player John Amaechi was the first pro player in that league to come out as an openly gay man. He chatted with me recently about being an openly gay athlete, his newfound friendship with Ian McKellen as well as his involvement in this year's Gay Games.

SP: Now that it's been a few years, how does it feel to be the first NBA player to publicly come out of the closet?

JA: I have to be honest that I rarely think of that aspect, not because it was a bad experience - in fact, it was resoundingly the opposite, but I try to stay in the moment and now the issues facing the LGBT community feel so much bigger than any one professional athlete. On reflection, and in talking to people from workplaces and schools in parts of the US, parts of Africa and Eastern Europe, that I have spoken to in the last few years, I had it easy.

SP: A study in the UK found that the majority of soccer fans in that country are ready to support an openly gay player. How close do you think basketball fans in the US are to feeling that way?

JA: I have to tell you that the geek in me looked at that survey and it is really lacking in a number of the reliability and validity aspects you need in really good research. That being said, I do agree that the open-mindedness and general acceptance of difference (especially LGBT) in the UK is better than ever before, even amongst fans. I think that many fans in the US already feel that way, and are simply “waiting” to be explicitly told it’s ok to lose the machismo, bullshit, “no homo" attitude, by enough people in authority, including current straight players, owners, etc. However, America is different from the UK in that you still suffer from people actively creating and maintaining anti-LGBT laws, and that informs the attitudes of fans: "if gays are banned from adopting in my state there must be something wrong with them, right?”

SP: You recently told the Manchester Evening News: “I get into trouble sometimes with the gay community by saying it is not the job of sports stars in the closet to come out. That is not how change happens. For an under-prepared and psychologically stunted individual who plays sports at a high level to come out before they are ready is like being born prematurely.” At what point do you think a sports star is ready to come out?

JA: I think there are probably 5,000 mainstream professional athletes in the US, maybe 500 of them are LGBT, I just don’t think that is a key demographic in the quest for change. Some are “stunted” as I mentioned - not as many as I made out in that article in fairness - but I think it is a just a plot device we like to have in our mind that if a big enough star came out the fans would stop being homophobic, the family research council would rethink it’s policies and all would be well.

I was in Cologne for the gay games and I spoke to person after person - all from southern or central states in fairness - who were not out at work: high school teachers (a LOT of teachers) , several IT technicians, two journalists, a TV production person and others... all of whom felt it dangerous in one way or another for them to be out at work - all of whom said that gay athletes should come out even though they felt they couldn’t. When all teachers, engineers, etc, etc feel safe to come out, maybe then the argument for professional athletes to do the same would not ring with so much hypocrisy. A gay sportsman coming out just isn’t going to have the impact you think. Young people are mostly already won over in terms of LGBT human rights, and those with the real power, aren’t going to be swayed by an athlete, because they aren’t swayed by the hate crimes statistics, they aren’t swayed by the genuine love of gay couples and they aren’t swayed by the logical argument for equality.

SP: How close to you think we are to having an an active, openly gay player in the NBA?

JA: One could be outed at any second, but not close otherwise. Also, we should note that lots of professional athletes are out in the same way that many in the LGBT community are out. They are out to family and/or close friends, to some of their team mates and coaches, but not to the universe - they are no more “In the closet than the numerous (a majority?) of LGBT people on-line whose profile obscures their face and says “out to everyone except family” or “not out at work."

Read the rest of the interview, AFTER THE JUMP.

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Amaechi: 'Not The Job Of Sports Stars In The Closet To Come Out'

In an apparent response to Lord Browne's essay in The Guardian this past Thursday, the paper takes on the coming out of high-profile figures and wants to know if revealing your homosexuality is a "career killer." While being gay has become "a non-issue" for politicians (at least those in the UK), many people in sports and entertainment have remained closeted until they've reached a certain level of success and even then those are few and far between. Ricky Martin and Gareth Thomas are both used as examples.

Attitude magazine editor Andrew Todd: "I think that if Ricky Martin had come out in 1999, I don't think he would have had the career that he has had. In Hollywood, there is still a message that you can't be gay."

Am Some athletes, such as openly gay former professional basketball player John Amaechi, are now suggesting that pro ballers should not even be pressured to come out of the closet. Amaechi told the Manchester Evening News:

“I get into trouble sometimes with the gay community by saying it is not the job of sports stars in the closet to come out. That is not how change happens. For an under-prepared and psychologically stunted individual who plays sports at a high level to come out before they are ready is like being born prematurely. Unequivocally, being out is better than staying in, but those who do come out need support.”

When speaking to The Guardian, he expanded upon those thoughts:

"I wish the environment was such that more people felt they could come out. It's absolutely amazing to me that some people think that not coming out is a weakness of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people, whereas instead it's because of a hostile culture. It's never the responsibility of the minority to make the majority change."

While it may not be the responsibility of the minority, sometimes the minority has no choice but to take on that responsibility.

Related, Amaechi has just become a patron LGBT History month in the UK which will be observed in February.

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BaldazzleRoadWould you "baldazzle" yourself? "Levine's latest work is a Swarovski crystal headpiece which he calls his best design yet -- and may give Jennifer Love Hewitt's vajazzle a run for its money. It includes 1,000 crystals that are painstakingly placed one by one onto his scalp."

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Road  Newly-discovered asteroid to pass close to Earth on Thursday.

RoadJanice Dickinson to OUT magazine: "The gays need more money. My gays need more money for AIDS and AIDS research. Elton John, pediatric AIDS -- we need to find a cure for AIDS. I’m obsessed. Here’s the deal: I love my daughter, she’s out there, Mother’s Day is coming, Mother’s Day to all you queers, but we need to find more money for AIDS. That is why I decided to do music -- to raise money for AIDS, more research, and the cure for fucking AIDS. Thank you."

RoadDiffering accounts of anti-gay hate crime complicate case of Brooklyn man who faces deportation.

RoadSt. Vincent's hospital in Manhattan to close. One of first hospitals with dedicated services for HIV/AIDS patients.

RoadFinal ruling in Malawi gay couple's case coming May 18: "The court is now awaiting written submissions from both prosecutors and defence lawyers for the two accused after the couple chose to remain silent. Khumbo Magwira a court official said the magistrate has warned the two parties that although he values the submissions, he will still make his ruling even in the absence of them."

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Hope  RoadCourt rules against Shepard Fairey in AP "Hope" case: "U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein ruled in favor of The Associated Press in most of its requests for evidence, including when Fairey's lawyers first knew the AP had asserted that it holds the copyright to a photograph the image was based on. He said lawyers must disclose relevant documents that were deleted or destroyed from Fairey's files and when the deletions or destruction occurred.

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RoadUK conservative party leader David Cameron urged to explain party's stance on gay rights.

RoadJohn Amaechi slams Cameron: "As a black, gay man (amongst many other things) I was horrified that the only remotely brown face of Conservative power - and one ostensibly in charge of our societies ‘social action’ couldn’t even spit out words in support of equality. “I can only conclude, that should Cameron and his remarkably un-evolved group take power that LGBT people will be a big part of his ‘great ignored’."

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DolceRoadHercules presents luscious slabs of Dolce & Gabbana (site nsfw).

RoadWinona Ryder's comeback begins again.

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Brits_gaga  roadLady Gaga arrives on red carpet at Brits.

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Mtsthelens   roadMan falls into crater of Mount St. Helens: "Rescue crews in Washington state will try again Tuesday to get to a hiker who fell 1,500 feet into the crater of Mount St. Helens volcano. The 52-year-old hiker was with another hiker Monday afternoon at the summit, near the edge of the crater, when the accident occurred...The man was posing for a picture when he fell into the volcano, said Chief Tom McDowell, who headed up one of the rescue teams."

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Latinamerica  roadBlabbeando has a great wrap-up of all the Valentine's Day gay demonstrations in Latin America.

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 roadTorchwood action figures.

 roadTens of thousands of organic compounds found in new analysis of meteorite that hit Australia in 1969: his stuff basically freezes a record of some of the earliest chemistry taking place in the solar system that we have access to."

 roadJohn Amaechi: Sporting world must help athletes out of the closet. "I personally have spoken to 10, 12 current professional footballers who are gay, they exist, I promise you. As it happens none of them have asked me if they should come out. But if they did, I would tell them not to. I'm not a gay right activist. I don't insist that they be a Joan of Arc. Why? Because that is what would happen: they would get burned at the stake. And how does that help anyone?" Also: We must redefine what it means to be a man.

Watch: UK Football Association's Anti-Homophobia PSA

Earlier this week I posted about an anti-homophobia video produced by the Football Association set to premiere at Wembley Stadium this week which was pulled at the last minute, inspiring criticism from gay rights groups over the FA's commitment to fight anti-gay behavior at matches.

Fa  The campaign, which was in development for two years, features a football fan on his way to his office, hurling anti-gay slurs in the workplace and on the street, and asks, 'if that kind of language is not permitted in those situations, why should it be permitted at a football match?'

The Guardian reported:

The decision has also sparked a debate within the gay community about whether the shocking video was the right strategy. Tatchell agreed that Ogilvy's approach was effective but said he would have preferred a more "uplifting, MTV-style" video featuring high-profile players and criticised the FA for not doing more to sign them up.

But John Ameachi, the gay former NBA basketball player, was scathing about the clip's content and what it said about the attitudes at the top of English football.

"Football can't shock fans out of being bigots – this process requires a highly strategic, multi-modal approach, not to mention a significant investment," he wrote on his blog, also criticising the "cheap" £10,000 budget. "Ninety seconds of bad language that will only be seen on the internet is not a solution to the problems faced by football and the concept of trying to create a 'viral video' to combat homophobia in football feels crass at best."

Watch the spot as well as a news report on the controversy, AFTER THE JUMP...

(clip via afterelton)

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ESPN Produces NBA Shaq Ad with Homophobic Undertones


ESPN has produced a commercial for NBA on ESPN that, while not overtly bashing gays, contains undertones that can be construed as homophobic. The ad features NBA commenter Mike Breen and Shaquille O'Neal in the NBA on ESPN van. After Breen shoots a basket he asks Shaq for a fist bump which he calls a "fist kiss."

Fistkiss_2Replies Shaq while physically moving away from Breen on the sofa: "No fist kiss, no fiss love, no fist hump. None of that. You're a weirdo man. Stay over there. Fist kiss. Disgusting."

First of all, when has anyone ever called it a "fist kiss"? The term itself seems contrived simply for the dramatic purpose of causing Shaq's "icky" reaction. Anyway, aside from all that, the commercial is moronic at best.

Former NBA player John Amaechi told AfterElton: "I think the ad is in poor taste; it just seems like another signal of yet another flagging, unimaginative, desperate, clutching-at-straws marketing department grasping for the lowest common denominator. It seems so out of character to ESPN ads of old. It makes me feel disappointed, but not angry in anyway...the ad itself is just too tenuous to even bother getting riled about. The character's reaction to the "fist kiss" is of course homophobic, the subtext is that a man asking another man for any kind of kiss, even a 'fist kiss' should be met with repulsion - I am surprised Shaq went anywhere near this ad, given I don't think that would be his true intention or belief; but as a player, I too would have disparaging words to say about someone calling 'fist bumps' anything like "fist kisses" - simply because it's massively dumb ."

Watch it, AFTER THE JUMP...

Shaquille O'Neal Wants Kobe to Tell Him How His Ass Tastes [tr]
Love Shaq: Shaquille O'Neal assists Miami Beach police in apprehending gay basher [tr]
Critic Hits Out at Ad Agency Head Over Homophobia [tr]

Continue reading "ESPN Produces NBA Shaq Ad with Homophobic Undertones" »


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