He was 18 at the time, legally an adult but still clearly finding his way in the world, a top NBA Draft pick with expectations beyond anything most people could comprehend.
Since then, he’s become a legendary NBA figure on the court, winning an NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers, an Olympic gold for Team USA, and he’s an eight-time NBA All-Star.
Most recently, Howard, a free agent, seemed to advocate for the Detroit Pistons signing him, as the team experiences an historic losing streak.
Rumors have circulated for years about Howard being gay or bi. This year, those innuendos garnered some very public standing, in the form of Howard’s acknowledgement that he does, in fact, have sex with men.
That has all come out in legal proceedings following the allegations by a man claiming he was sexually assaulted by Howard. Instead of denying the sex, Howard acknowledged it and said the sex between the two (and possibly three) was consented to.
This has been no small issue. This is one of the best NBA players over the last two decades acknowledging that he has sex with men.
So is Howard gay? Bi?
About 99% of sports fans would say Howard is “gay” or “bi.” Probably closer to 99.9%.
Outsports has bent over backward for years to not impose labels on other people.
At the same time, it’s virtually impossible for any rational human being to, given legal records, not see Howard as “gay,” “bi,” “queer,” “pansexual,” or at the very least “LGBTQ.”
Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski sees it differently from me, sharing in a thoughtful op-ed that he doesn’t see Howard as an “out athlete.”
I truly get the sentiment. We embrace the term “out athlete” as celebratory, not accusatory as in these legal proceedings. Howard’s revelations aren’t because he made some powerful personal commitment to the LGBTQ community, but rather because he’s being accused of sexual assault.
It’s not pretty, no matter how you look at it.
Regardless of how anyone “labels” Howard... he is an NBA superstar and he has unequivocally acknowledged he has sex with men.
It’s been met with mostly a ho-hum response from the media and many fans. That speaks volumes about where the American sports are today.
One of the best players in his sport over the last 20 years can seemingly talk about having a three-way with two other guys and, other than Stephen A. Smith’s ridiculous “uncomfortable” response, it gets a pass.
That seems to be progress, even if many people would love to see Howard publicly embrace this part of himself even more.