John Amaechi, former NBA player, comes out

John Amaechi, British import to the NBA, recently publicly declared he is gay. His story is fascinating and his plans for British basketball are ambitious. Watch this video for more information on this interesting fellow. There is a Wikipedia entry about him as well (…raised by his mother, you know what that means…). His first TV interview on this subject will be on ESPN’s Outside the Lines program at 9:30am, 2/11/07.

David Jones, a Patriot-News writer who knows Amaechi from his Penn State University days provides an in-depth report.

His disclosures and the ESPN coverage is sure to raise the profile of homosexuality in sports. Watch the video on the ESPN website about the possible prevalence of gay athletes and the issues raised if a current player came out of the closet.

UPDATE: 2/17/07 – In a move toward Donnie Davies, NBA star Tim Hardaway disparaged gays in an interview and is reaping what he sowed. He later apologized but has been banned from All Star weekend.

I thought Mary Buckheit had an appropriate response.

23 thoughts on “John Amaechi, former NBA player, comes out”

  1. Well this certainly brings up another interesting point. I don’t have any good arguments against the “Sissy Boy Syndrome” as a possible indicator of later male homosexuality, but I think we can all agree that perhaps a little too much has been made of it.

    We know we have gay soldiers in combat who are able to pass the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” test. They are also able to duck the Pentagon’s very aggressive attempts to root out gays in the military, often in violation of the spirit of “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell”

    We also know we have gay male athletes in some very serious and physically demanding team sports. And of course, there are the dockworkers, policemen, construction workers, and so on and so on…

    And don’t forget the gay rugby teams that are springing up all across the country.

    So have we made so much of the “Sissy Boy Syndrome” merely because these gender-variant behavior boys were visible and couldn’t remain hidden no matter how hard they tried? It’s been my experience that those who want to remain closeted are much more successful at remaining closeted when their mannerisms, interests, talens and favorite leisure activities don’t draw suspicion.

    And as long as so many men and women remain hidden from view simply because they can, it’s interesting to consider the possible ramifications this has for social science research that is dependent upon finding gay men and women who are willing to be found.

  2. What makes this interesting for me, other than the general interest in sports that I have always had, is the violation of the stereotype that Mr. Amaechi and other gay athletes represent. I think the theory that has the best support is one that stresses gender atypical preferences in early adolescence. Mr. Amaechi did not play until he was 17, I believe. He may fit in with the theory but even if so, his transformation into an NBA level athlete signals that reversing the process does not change sexual attractions, at least for him.

    Many approaches in the conservative world stress masculinity and then provide some kind of stereotypical masculine intervention (JIM weekends, Gatorade, etc), but this does not often lead to radical change. Such interventions may be good for other reasons but they do not of necessity lead to the predicted change.

  3. Warren’s ” (…raised by his mother, you know what that means…)” comment really irked me too and I was about to leave a shrill comment. However, I’m glad to know it was tongue-in-cheek. After all, I probably would have made the same joke. Contrary to last weeks’ over-the-top outcry against the Snickers commercial, gays (and ex-exgays) do have senses of humor.

    Bussee: “. . .Next you’ll be telling me that there are gay soldiers and truckdrivers and construction workers and policemen and dock workers and . . .”

    I assume you’re excluding the Village People. 🙂

    I think it’s great that pro athletes like Amaechi are coming out about their sexuality. I even wish more “ex-gays” would be more willing to come out publically (although Ted Haggard’s claim last week seems a little too soon to be believeable).

    It seems silly that it’s such a big deal, but it makes it a little easier for the next gay/ex-gay/questioning athlete or public figure to know that it’s normal and not really noteworthy.

  4. I was a gay soldier, Us Army . There are many gay soldiers, just that most adhere, to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I am sure there are many more pro athletes that are gay and closeted. I think it will take a jackie Robinson type, to openly admit that he is gay.

  5. Timothy’s statement:

    “or maybe we all agree that no one really knows for sure and that there may well be different paths for different people, some of whom are influenced by biology and some by (pre or postnatal) environment or by some combination thereof”

    This, of course, could also be said (word for word) of heterosexuality, except that very few people ask (or even care) what “causes” straightness. That should tell us something. If people were truly intellectually curious (and not just looking to confirm their bias) they would ask BOTH questions.

    TImothy is right. The only truthful answer to the question of “what causes sexual orientation” is “no one really knows”.

  6. I think the confusion came into play because perhaps JAG is not aware of what Warren (tentatively – for now – until research is better) believes.

    JAG assumes that Warren buys into the ridiculous notion that absent fathers cause homosexuality. Nonsense, nothing of the sort.

    No. Warren buys into Bem’s ridiculous notion that sexualizing the exotic-ness of “real boys” causes homosexuality.


    (or maybe we all agree that no one really knows for sure and that there may well be different paths for different people, some of whom are influenced by biology and some by (pre or postnatal) environment or by some combination thereof)

  7. JAG: I hadn’t thought of it from that angle — and you are right. It’s very sad, but very true. Maybe some day people will be judged by the quality of their character and not their sexual orientation.

  8. Michael –

    I think it’s not only about stereotype, but environment. A gay fashion designer is accepted in his circle, can thrive and be successful despite others being aware of his orientation….it likely will not affect his career, etc. An athlete (much like a soldier) has quite a battle ahead – with his peers, the media, and his career in general (sponsorships, etc.).

  9. Back to the subject of gay athletes: why does this make news? If a famous fashion designer or composer or author came out as gay, it wouldn’t get any press at all. But when an athlete comes out — WOW! (It’s only news because it doesn’t fit the sterotype.)

    You mean gay men can be athletes too? Next you’ll be telling me that there are gay soldiers and truckdrivers and construction workers and policemen and dock workers and …

    I had to stop. Is it hot in here?

  10. That’s how I read it… poking fun at the theory, not the man. Hmmm… sometimes I assume someone knows what I’m talking about without saying what I’m talking about.

    You know, maybe I ought to go back to the good old days where I wrote things out on a tablet of paper, when back to look at it, and re-wrote the whole thing. 😉

  11. “…that would have still been the same thing: talking about what “went wrong” to make him gay, …”

    Jim, this is exactly my point. Natural variation is quite different than indicating that something “went wrong.”

    Nothing “went wrong” to make someone black, nothing “went wrong” to make you male…they are natural variations. Implying that something “went wrong” is simply in poor taste – and bad science.

  12. This isn’t about African Americans. It’s about us. We can laugh or we can cry. Between “us girls”, I have no problem with laughing a little at a little well-placed jab given in the spirit of fun.

    I think sometimes we err by take things just a little too seriously — myself at least as much as anyone else here. And I have to admit that if I saw such a thing on the now-defunct NARTH blog, I’d be miffed.

    I don’t know where you stand on these things, but I suppose you realize that discussing biological causes for homosexuality can be seen in the same light. For example, what if Warren had said “(….youngest of for boys, you know what that means…)” or “(…left-handed, you know what that means…), that would have still been the same thing: talking about what “went wrong” to make him gay, except this time we’d be talking about biological signs.

    As for me, I lean biological, but I have no qualms about saying that environment plays a role for some people. Heck, it may play a role for many people with several biological factors laying the groundwork. Who know?

    I’ll let Chris Rock do the tongue-in-cheek about African-Americans. As for this instance, I think Warren’s okay.

  13. I think you both are misinterpreting my statements.

    I “got” that it was attempted humor – I just didn’t find it funny.

    Again, if we were making tongue-in-cheek humor about how african american skin got black…this would be considered inappropriate.

    Shouldn’t it be the same standard here?

    I’m not the PC police…but gheesh, I thought you all were professionals, and well…thoughtfully aware?

  14. JAG: I don’t know about giraffes and turtles, but I’ve had some experience with budgies. I used to breed them. Even with their Moms and Dads around, I had two pairs that were definitely homosexual. Two males, Scout and Blue, formed a pair bond, rejected any advances by females and would sit for hours on their perch kissing and grooming each other. They attempted mating and did everything the heterosexual pairs did — except choose a nesting box. Scout escaped one day and I am sure Blue died of loneliness.

    Two females, Pepper and Salt, did choose a nesting box. They mated with the same male and then would have nothing to do with him. They laid a total of 12 eggs in the same box and cooperated in raising the chicks. I told the owner of the bird farm about these two pairs and he told me “it could never happen”. I guess he didn’t want to be confused by the facts. Of course, their Mom’s may have been overbearing and the Dad’s may have been distant — but I didn’t notice any of that. Maybe there was soy in the bird food.

  15. JAG – You haven’t been around the blog long enough perhaps to see the tongue-in-cheek nature of my comment about being raised by his mother. I am not a proponent of reparative drive theory as a general environmental explanation for same sex attraction and have written often about that here.

  16. “…raised by his mother, you know what that means…”

    No, I’m not sure I do. But I’m sure it’s somehow implying that he is gay because of this.

    actually MANY americans would be gay if this were the case…have you seen the stats on single-parent households that are maternally led?


    Oh, I’m forgetting – the over 300 species that demonstrate same-sex attraction are doing so, not because of instinctual leanings…but because their papa just wasn’t around. Those giraffes, turtles and others simply must get their family situations remedied.

    But seriously, he’s a fortunate man to have been raised by his mother – there are many children adopted who have no contact with their biological parents at all.

    Good for him, being himself, and not being afraid in the homophobic world of professional sports.

    It takes courage.

    and if you want to read a blog a bit more focused on same-sex relationships, rights etc…..feel free to jump to:

    my god, it must be a whole MOVEMENT of people raised by mothers!


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