John Amaechi, the only National Basketball Association player to openly proclaim his homosexuality, says the league follows the same “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with gays that was just outlawed in the military by Congress.
Amaechi, who is now retired, spoke at an event in New York City last night (Jan. 18) at the opening of a new gay and lesbian art exhibit.
After his retirement from the NBA in 2007, Amaechi became the first openly gay NBA player.
He says there are still many homosexual players in the NBA today, but neither fans, nor television viewers would know it, although fellow players might.
Amaechi set the league on its ear when he recounted his experience in his 2007 memoir “Man in the Middle,” which details the disdain for gay professional basketball players in the NBA.
He said his former Utah Jazz coach, Jerry Sloan is typical of the league’s insensitivity toward gay players.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been called the C-word so much as when I was there,” he said of his experience playing for the Jazz.
“I do not like him, he does not like me,” Amaechi said recalling the time on the team.
He said he’s had no contact with the Sloan since he left the team.
Amaechi, who is 6’10” tall and of Nigerian by heritage, was raised in the UK and moved to the United States to play high school basketball at St. John’s Jesuit High School in Toledo, Ohio.
He played college basketball at Vanderbilt and later transferred to Penn State, where he was a two-time First Team Academic All-American.
He played 28 games in the NBA for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 1995–1996 season, before moving to
Europe to play there.
He signed with the Orlando Magic in 1999, and went on to play for the Utah Jazz from 2001 to 2003.
In February 2007, he came out about his homosexuality on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program.
Surprisingly, his teammates knew he was gay while he was playing in the NBA and were ,mostly accepting.
He says they never “stopped talking to me, and didn’t stop asking me out to breakfast.”
He said the push back came from owners, who were the “real problem.”
“They said, ‘Look, I don’t need the problem right now,'” he recounted.
Much like the military, which recently outlawed the practice following passage of a bill in Congress, the mood in the NBA is “pretty much don’t ask, don’t tell,” he said.