John Amaechi is back in the news. The handsome and articulate former NBA player came out of the closet in February 2007 and became a media sensation—as well as the target for ugly homophobic rants and jokes. Amaechi talks to The Voice, Britain's largest black newspaper, about his own coming out process and reflects on the life and death of another black gay athlete—Justin Fashanu, the football star who came out in 1990, suffered vile homophobic abuse from football fans and players, and, tragically took his own life ten years ago this week, on May 2, 1998.
Amaechi "paid tribute to the bravery of Fashanu and admitted he took note of the former footballer’s negative experiences before making his own decision to come out.
" 'I don’t think you can take anything away from the abject bravery of what he did. I just think that he entered the storm completely alone. I looked at his experience as a bench mark for how bad it could get, because it wasn’t just the fans - a lot of what went on was the absolutely abominable news coverage.' "
Last year, Amaechi said the response he has received from the community has been "overwhelmingly supportive and positive." The former professional basketball player also talks about the hyper-masculinity template applied to black men and black athletes, and, says black gay athletes face a "double prejudice."
"The juxtaposition of being gay and black in sports is especially powerful. Because if people were to guess who the gay people in sport were, they’d pick the white folk.
The bad part about that is it leads to a double prejudice. So you’ve got the black people stereotype - that black people are strong, can jump high, are really quick and very masculine.
"Then because you’ve got this one stereotype of black people, that automatically means they can’t be gay, because you’ve got a stereotype about what gay people are, which is absurd."
One of the most publicized, visceral reactions to Amaechi's coming out process was from former NBA player Tim Hardaway, whose on-air, anti-gay and homophobic rants cost him endorsement deals and a commentary slot with the NBVA All-Star Game.
Amaechi comes out again [Voice]
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