When John Amaechi
told the world he was gay, he steeled himself for a
torrent of negativity that never really materialized, the
former pro basketball player told the largest GOP gay
underestimated America. I braced myself for the wrath of a
nation under God,'' Amaechi said at the Log Cabin
Republicans' annual convention. ''I imagined that it
would be a firestorm, that it would be some insane
number of letters demanding my deportation or my death.
''And in fact 95%
of the correspondence I've had have been overwhelmingly
supportive and positive,'' Amaechi said. ''But I will say
that the 5% that I've had have been unbelievably,
viscerally, frighteningly negative.''
Amaechi is a
psychologist who works with corporations and also with
children. ''And I worried what America would make of that,''
he said. ''And it is not an issue.''
Among the most
vitriolic of critics was former NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway,
whose antigay remarks led to his disassociation with the
Amaechi, who was
raised in England, played in 301 NBA games over five
seasons with stops in Cleveland, Orlando, Utah, Houston, and
New York City.
former player said that while he's heard from everyone he
played with at Penn State, he has yet to hear from a single
former NBA teammate since coming out in February.
''Probably 30 of
my former [NBA] teammates have my e-mail and my
telephone contacts, and probably 16 or so of those I was in
regular touch with, and there are probably 10 people
whom I have [on instant messenger]. And
zero--nobody--who's active in the NBA has been
in touch with me since the day I came out, despite the
fact that most of them knew I was gay in the first
place,'' Amaechi said.
He also wondered
why NBA.com has never mentioned his homosexuality when
it was such a huge sports story everywhere else.
Amaechi said he
thinks the sports world is slowly accepting gay, lesbian,
bisexual, and transgender athletes, but he wasn't sure if
that was indicative of society's acceptance or even
whether sports was an appropriate barometer.
''They are our
gladiators, our heroes. On the other hand, there's not
many of you would trust them with your children, with your
car keys, or to do your accounting,'' he said. ''Let's
face it, for the most part the stereotype is that
they--we--are dumb as rocks. So I don't know if
they are a terribly good group to be looked at as kind
of indicative of societal change or as leaders in that
At times, Amaechi
said, he finds himself a little out of place as a gay
''I've spent a
lot of time in this country, and I do adore it on many
levels, but we live in a country where a man can be lured to
a parking lot, beaten, and chased to his death on a
freeway,'' Amaechi said. ''We live in a country where
a shoeless child can be strapped to a fence post and
left to die.... And yet somehow we expect that the general
public will sit up and pay attention when they can
focus on 'Gay Shaq.'
understand that. What happens to human empathy when the
death of children, of innocents, do not inspire the
kind of change we're looking for? But an athlete
potentially sacrificing an endorsement here or there,
or the chiding of his teammates--that would cause this
kind of change?''
In his speech
titled ''Is Pro Sports Changing?'' Amaechi said not all
change is relevant, a point he illustrated with a story
about doing plyometric training in Phoenix with other
elite athletes during his playing days. A young
football player begged to be allowed to jump onto the
highest of three boxes. He almost made it but clipped the
edge and fell to the floor, skinning his shins.
''Until he grew
up, until he got the strength that he needed, until he
got the size he needed, until his physical ability and his
experiences matched his will, he is indistinguishable
from those who could jump on the middle box,'' Amaechi
said. ''All he has to show for his attempt at this top
box is shins with no skin.
change has a threshold, and until you reach it there is not
really any progress.''
As for politics,
Amaechi chided Democrats and Republicans alike.
''It's hard for
me to hide the fact that I am no fan of this
administration, as much for their foreign policy as for
their stance on [LGBT] issues,'' he said. ''However, I
am no fan of the Democratic candidates who take four
days before they decide that General Pace's comments
were not very nice.''
Gen. Peter Pace
is the Pentagon's top general who two months ago called
homosexuality immoral and said the military should not
condone it by allowing gays to serve openly in the
armed forces. He later expressed regret for the remark
but did not apologize.
many in the audience by declaring he's not a sports fan
and that he has no desire to pick up a basketball again,
although he is intrigued by the thought of playing for
a gay team.
watched a professional basketball game in three, maybe four
years,'' he said. ''And it's not because I hate the NBA or I
harbor any kind of [resentment]. None of that. It's
just that Saturday afternoon, I can think of something
better to do.'' (AP)