A few days after telling a reporter that he doesn't recommend gay athletes come out, openly gay former NBA player John Amaechi says he does not necessarily recommend staying in the closet either. First is an interview with Queerty:
Under what circumstances would you recommend gay athletes stay in the closet?
I'm not recommending it. ... I think organizations should help athletes to come out. Now conveniently, people haven't looked at that at all. But the reality is, these people, from their positions of apparent omniscience, who are talking about 'It's the responsibility of athletes to come out,' they aren't the ones who have to hear the stories when it doesn't' go so well. These people aren't cannon fodder to be thrown out.
He's also posted some clarification on his blog:
I am not suggesting that an athlete who wants to come out shouldn't but the 16 year old at a premiership football academy doesn't owe the LGBT community his immediate coming out - especially when we know it will have a negative impact on their career and probably their emotional and psychological safety as well.
I've spent a good amount of time with John. He's a thinker and an iconoclast, and I've enjoyed the time I've spent with him for those reasons. He pushes buttons, and I don't think that's a bad thing. I have no doubt he said he doesn't recommend that athletes come out, and I have no doubt he believed it when he said it. I don't believe or agree with it, but my biggest issue with what he said was really just how he said it. There's a difference between "I'd recommend staying in the closet" vs. "I'd recommend staying in the closet if that's what he felt he had to do." Semantics aside, none of it changes the fact that I'm really glad John is out there talking about these issues. He has a unique, thoughtful perspective and is really, really good for gay people in sports whether they're in or out.
I remember when Sheryl Swoopes came out and she said she didn't think people are born gay. I appreciated her saying that very much (in part because I don't feel I was born gay). But I remember so many gays wanting to tar and feather her because she didn't walk in lockstep with the established gay doctrine. That made me appreciate her more.
John mentioned on his blog that he felt he went from hero to pariah because of his statement. That sucks. John's done amaaaaaazing things since he came out. John is not the person any of us should be tarring and feathering; We should keep thanking him for what he's done and pushing him (like he's trying to push us) to do better and better.