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French Tennis Star Yannick Noah 'Outed'

Joakim Noah's father one of 50 prominent Cameroonians called gay by tabloid

Bryn Lennon

Story from Feb 8, 2006

Former tennis pro Yannick Noah has been named in an anti-gay outing campaign that is sweeping the West African country of Cameroon. Noah is a Frenchman of Cameroonian descent. He has not commented on the report.

Noah, 45, is best known for two things. First, he won the 1983 French Open - his only Grand Slam singles win - and followed it up the next year with the French Open doubles championship. The International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee also appeared in eight other Grand Slam singles quarterfinals.

But maybe more than for his playing, Noah was known for being a playboy. It was often thought that he sacrificed winning on the court for conquering in the bedroom. He was sometimes caught by the cameras the night before a match heading into a club with a girl on each arm.

The assertion about Noah being gay came in tabloid reports in Cameroon, a conservative African country. Some 50 people were named and accused of "deviant behavior," the BBC said. "There are going to be a lot of very surprised women, both in France and Cameroon," said journalist Tansa Musa of Inter Press Service.

The campaign has sparked a national debate about gay rights and privacy, the BBC said. Communications Minister Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, who is one of those named, has threatened legal action and told Cameroon's media they risked breaking up families, reports Reuters news agency. "Whether it is heterosexual or homosexual, sexual intercourse takes place in an intimate environment between two persons," he said last month.

Three tabloids in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, have been listing high-profile Cameroonians in their papers since the Christmas Day homily delivered by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Yaoundé, Victor Tonyé Bakot, who attacked the European Union for giving legitimacy to homosexual couples with marriage and adoption rights. Homosexuality is illegal in Cameroon and punishable by six months to five years in prison. But the BBC's Randy Joe Saah, based in Cameroon, said it is an open secret that homosexuality is alive in the country and that the law banning homosexual acts is rarely used.

Most of the people "outed" by the tabloids have vehemently denied being homosexual, according to several reports.

Noah is now a recording artist and has been since he released his first album in 1993. Noah's son, Joakim Noah, is an emerging sophomore star on the Florida Gators basketball team.