“For real? He’s gay for real?” said Philadelphia center Steven Hunter, who added he would be fine with an openly gay teammate.
“As long as he don’t make any advances toward me I’m fine with it,” he said. “As long as he came to play basketball like a man and conducted himself like a good person, I’d be fine with it.”
Orlando’s Pat Garrity acknowledged reaction was bound to vary throughout the league.
“They would have teammates that would accept them for being a good person and a good teammate, and there would be people who would give him a hard time about it,” he said. “I think that’s true if you’re playing basketball or in an office job. That’s just how the world is right now.”
In his book, Amaechi describes the challenge of being gay in a league where it’s assumed all players are heterosexual. He describes the blatant anti-gay language and attitudes he experienced in NBA locker rooms.
“We’re all insensitive at times. There’s no taboo subject in the locker room,” said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who coached Amaechi in Orlando, where he said he had one of his strongest locker rooms. “I think if he would have come out they would have got on him jokingly. ... And I actually think that when guys do come out, when that day happens, it will make it easier.”
Amaechi also writes that while playing in Utah, coach Jerry Sloan used anti-gay innuendo to describe him. Sloan said Wednesday that although his relationship with Amaechi was “shaky” because of the player’s attitude, he didn’t know Amaechi was gay. Sloan had no comment about Amaechi’s contention that Sloan used anti-gay innuendo when referring to him. Amaechi said he found out about it in e-mails from friends in the Jazz front office.
Asked if knowing Amaechi was gay would have mattered, Sloan said: “Oh yeah, it would have probably mattered. I don’t know exactly, but I always have peoples’ feelings at heart. People do what they want to do. I don’t have a problem with that.”
Former NFL running back David Kopay came out in 1977; offensive lineman Roy Simmons and defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo came out more recently. Glenn Burke, an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland A’s in the 1970s, and Billy Bean, a utility player in the 1980s and 1990s, also have come out.
Each did so after retiring. Burke died of complications due to AIDS in 1995.
He competed for Penn State, then played in 301 NBA games over five seasons. The 6-foot-10 center averaged 6.2 points and 2.6 rebounds. He began his career with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1995-96, then spent a few years playing in Europe. He rejoined the NBA to play for the Orlando Magic from 1999-01, then played two seasons for the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz traded him to Houston, which traded him to the New York Knicks. When the Knicks waived him in January 2004, he retired.
Amaechi came out of retirement to help England’s men’s basketball team win the silver medal in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia.
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