When I heard that former NBA player John Amaechi recently announced that he is gay, I wanted to ask him the question that I think is on everyone’s mind:
“What did you think of that Snickers commercial?”
That’s about it.
I know Amaechi has a book to sell and a story to tell, and I applaud him. I’m sure that he has a cornucopia of thoughts, ideas, anecdotes and observations about what it was like to be a gay professional athlete that are worth putting down on paper. I’m sure most of them can be summed up, and/or paraphrased, this way:
“I didn’t want anyone to know, so I kept a low profile.”
This is news?
The recent decision by the company that makes Snickers to pull the ad broadcast during the Super Bowl that shows two men locking lips and then trying to overcome their discomfort over it — a move that was made after pressure was mounted by a prominent gay and lesbian organization, which felt it painted homosexuality in an unflattering light — actually caused more of a stir than the announcement about Amaechi’s book.
And that’s understandable, because the real issue is how the sports world would react if someone like Amaechi came out while he was still playing in the NBA or another major sports league. And I think there’s a good chance we may never know, because it probably will never happen.
Amaechi’s story is still an important one for some. Without having read the book, “Man in the Middle,” which is due out later this month, it sounds like it’s about a man coming to grips with who he is, and that type of realization is always relevant, whether it pertains to sexuality or some other aspect of human existence. In his case, perhaps his experiences will inspire others to confront themselves and reach a similar point of self-discovery.
But it doesn’t change the status quo. It won’t shake the foundation of a male-dominated sports world. It isn’t a pioneering event.
Instead, it’s more about a man chronicling intolerance from the outside, where such an examination will do the least amount of good.
The real news will break when a player currently drawing a paycheck from a major American sports league announces that he is gay. That will tell us a lot about where we are as a society, and how much further we still have to go.
In response to the release of Amaechi’s book, NBA commissioner David Stern had this to say to the Associated Press: “We have a very diverse league. The question at the NBA is always, ‘Have you got game?’ That’s it. End of inquiry.”
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