Openly gay former NBA player John Amaechi has dropped a bit of a bomb, telling the Daily Telegraph he would recommend that active professional soccer players stay in the closet.
I personally have spoken to 10, 12 current professional footballers who are gay, they exist, I promise you. As it happens none of them have asked me if they should come out. But if they did, I would tell them not to. I'm not a gay right activist. I don't insist that they be a Joan of Arc. Why? Because that is what would happen: they would get burned at the stake. And how does that help anyone?
When asked if he was being a little dramatic, he said no.
Amaechi has long painted a deeply dire picture for openly gay athletes, but it's the first time I've ever heard him say he doesn't think they should come out. They'll be burned at the stake? Even as hyperbole, there's no evidence for that whatsoever. Thirty years ago, sure. But attitudes have changed, gay people can marry in England, more and more athletes come out all the time as pro-gay, the sports media is getting more welcoming of gay topics, etc.... There's no questioning the fact that gay people are not accepted as equals in our society. But burned at the stake is a really strong overstatement, given how many active college athletes and former pro athletes have been warmly embraced.
Amaechi makes a GREAT point that we shouldn't look to the gay athletes to force change, but it's the leagues and teams -- the power structure -- that should be out front on the issues.
I think the mistake we make is that we're looking at the footballers as if they are the problem. The FA framed the argument that because no gay footballer is brave enough to come out, homophobia will continue to exist. But it's not the job of the minority to make the environment safer.
Amen, brother. In fact, about an hour before I read this article I was interviewed for a college thesis paper and said the same thing: Change needs to start coming more from the top.