Monday, February 19, 2007

Gay ex-NBA Englishman Amaechi receives threats

NEW YORK (AFP) - John Amaechi, the British former NBA player who revealed last week that he is gay, said he has received threats since making his homosexuality public.

"I have received e-mails that would make you sick," Amaechi said in promoting his new book. "Man in the Middle", an autobiography of Amaechi's life as a closeted gay man in the NBA, will hit US bookshelves next week.

Amaechi said his mission is less to change NBA attitudes toward gay men than it is to send a message to gay athletes in all sports.

"This was the right thing to do at the right time," Amaechi said.

"I'm not doing this to change the NBA. I'm doing this for the high school (American football) quarterback who is thinking about sticking his head in a noose because he can't come to grips with the fact he's gay.

"What I'm trying to do is create a discourse, open people's minds. Obviously people are going to talk about (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered) people in sport. But there's a more global issue beyond that.

"It's a workplace issue, bearing in mind there are places in this country where people can be fired for being gay. It's a diversity issue."

Amaechi ridiculed NBA commissioner David Stern's notion that the predominently black NBA is a diverse league.

"I like David Stern and we've spent time together talking about these issues, but to suggest a league is diverse when it is 80 percent black and zero percent openly gay - well, that's not diverse," Amaechi said.

Amaechi suggests that NBA players interact with people from similar backgrounds and accept rhetoric on homosexuals rather than seeking their own answers.

"The fears of society are distilled into the small space of the locker room," Amaechi said.

Some NBA players have said they would be fine with gay teammates as long as they did not make advances toward them.

"The narcissism and vanity is remarkable," Amaechi said. "Part of the stereotype I hope to break is that gay men are ready to jump on anything that walks by."

Amaechi said he never faced such locker room issues.

"It was something that never came up for me," Amaechi said. "I always showered and dressed quickly because I didn't want to be interviewed while I was naked."

The 36-year-old Englishman who played five NBA seasons with Orlando, Utah and Cleveland said there are gay players now in the NBA but would not identify them.

"It would be inappropriate to a massive extent to jeopardize somebody else's mental and emotional welfare to prove a point," Amaechi said.

Yahoo Feb 13th 2007

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