JOHN AMAECHI OBE

PSY­CHOL­O­GIST AND FOR­MER NBA PLAYER

GT (UK) - - COMMUNITY - amaechiper­for­mance.com, @johna­maechi, @amaechiper­form

I came out pub­licly af­ter I re­tired, and when I did, it was more of a po­lit­i­cal state­ment than any­thing else. I was out to my fam­ily and friends and I was out to some of my team­mates for a long, long time be­fore — I just sim­ply wasn’t out to ran­dom strangers. I was more try­ing to draw at­ten­tion to the fact gay peo­ple don’t just look like one stereo­type. They have a bit more diver­sity than what is im­plied by what you see in the me­dia. The vast ma­jor­ity of men that have come out in sport are black — that’s not a sug­ges­tion, it’s just a fact.

The in­ter­sec­tional mi­nori­ties in the LGBT+ com­mu­nity that have done a good job of rais­ing the peo­ple are re­ally con­cerned about sport and hav­ing more LGBT+ sport role mod­els that are ac­tive, you have to start ask­ing why, in ma­jor sports, there hasn’t been any. It’s not down to the in­di­vid­ual, my­self or other LGBT+ ath­letes, but is­sues that are still at the heart of many sports. I had a re­ally pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence with many of my team­mates; most were in­ter­ested if I was dili­gent and good at my job, and only in­ter­ested in my life to a lim­ited ex­tent. I ex­pe­ri­enced a lot of sup­port with a small amount of prob­lems.

I think it’s per­fectly rea­son­able to look at sports­men and women who are LGBT+ and wish they de­liv­ered the prom­ise of be­ing role mod­els. Ev­ery­body needs their own time and not ev­ery­body is as equipped as oth­ers to han­dle the pres­sure.

There’s some­thing about the fact that it’s quite ir­ri­tat­ing to spend a life be­com­ing some­thing that’s in­cred­i­bly rare, as a pro­fes­sional ath­lete, and then overnight to have your de­scrip­tion changed from pro­fes­sional ath­lete of all the im­pli­ca­tions of the graft and the grind, to then one day wak­ing up and you’re just a ‘gay ath­lete’.

For some peo­ple, they just need to pick their own time, and for oth­ers, they by this.

There’s lots of gay Pre­mier­ship foot­ball play­ers, but the fact that

you don’t know about them is not a state­ment about them be­ing clos­eted or ashamed, they live in the same way most of us live, but they’re just not out to strangers.

What hap­pens is you look at Tom Da­ley and sud­denly think div­ing is ac­cept­ing, or you look at Gareth Thomas and think rugby is ac­cept­ing. But where are the 11, 12 and 13-year-olds? We know that kids are com­ing out ear­lier and ear­lier now — where are they in sport?

The re­al­ity is that peo­ple re­spond to be­ing well led, and at the mo­ment they’re not be­ing well led in sport.

Sports have de­cided for the most part – when I say this, I’m re­ally talk­ing about the big money sports – to put money be­fore prin­ci­ples.

I think in ev­ery sport, there’s been a lot of progress. It’s true that some are bet­ter cur­rently than oth­ers when it comes to com­ing out, and it’s ab­so­lutely cor­rect that div­ing and gymnastics are in some part, maybe, fur­ther than oth­ers. The ex­cuse that team sports would make is that they are more ‘in­di­vid­ual sports’, but I don’t think that’s true. I think these sports have just de­cided that they’d rather have the per­son op­er­at­ing at their best, rather than ham­per them and forc­ing them to stay in the closet.

As long as we have their ad­vo­cacy, whether they be straight or LGBT+, that’s the kind of sup­port that I re­ally want. I’d re­ally like it to put the em­pha­sis on the or­gan­i­sa­tions, and their so­ci­eties, and say I’d like them to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment where com­ing out was just ev­ery­day.

An­nounc­ing you have a husband as a man has no more of an im­pact on life and your ca­reer and op­por­tu­ni­ties than an­nounc­ing you have a wife. That’s what I’d like, but that’s not the cir­cum­stance right now.

I do a fair amount of work with or­gan­i­sa­tions in China, and one of the lessons I learned there is that you can’t judge the po­si­tion of a coun­try with the po­si­tion of all its peo­ple. Rus­sian laws on the LGBT+ com­mu­nity are ter­ri­fy­ing, as are parts of Africa and even the Caribbean. Same with other parts of East­ern Europe, and same in China. But the peo­ple en­tirely. So I think that ath­letes at the up­com­ing Olympic Games don’t have to worry about the in­di­vid­ual ath­lete, what they have to worry about is that, if you’re a run­ner, if you’re in ath­let­ics, you will end up in those coun­tries.

That’s when it im­pacts your per­for­mance, be­cause you’re in a place where you’re con­sid­ered il­le­gal or wrong or bad, and that poses a threat – es­pe­cially if you’re an out ath­lete go­ing to one of these coun­tries.

It’s al­ways about if you’re safe. I’d give a sports star the same ad­vice I’d give to a 16-year-old in a highly re­li­gious fam­ily that told them they will not pay for them through col­lege, will not sup­port them and will not al­low them to live un­der their house. I would NOT sug­gest to that 16-yearold to come out and be proud, be­cause I can’t be re­spon­si­ble with what might hap­pen to them.

I’d say the same thing to ath­letes, and that’s the ma­tu­rity level we need when we look at what we ask of ath­letes.

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