Ex-NBA Player Amaechi Comes Out Publicly

By BILL KONIGSBERG
The Associated Press
Thursday, February 8, 2007; 4:20 PM

-- No more whispers. A day after former center John Amaechi became the first NBA player to publicly come out, everybody's talking about Amaechi and the idea of gay players in the NBA.

Amaechi, who spent five seasons with four teams, acknowledged his sexuality Wednesday, making him the sixth professional male athlete from one of the four major U.S. sports _ basketball, baseball, football, hockey _ to openly discuss his homosexuality.

Amaechi details his life in his autobiography "Man in the Middle," which will be released Feb. 14.

"He is coming out of the closet as a gay man," Amaechi's publicist Howard Bragman said.

Player reaction was mixed, but Martina Navratilova, perhaps the most famous openly gay athlete in the world, lauded Amaechi for taking a courageous stand and said it's imperative for athletes to come out because of what she called an epidemic of suicides among young lesbians and gays.

"It's hugely important for the kids so they don't feel alone in the world. We're role models," she said. "He will definitely help a lot of kids growing up to feel better about themselves."

Orlando's Grant Hill, who said he didn't know Amaechi when he was with the Magic, also applauded the decision to go public.

"The fact that John has done this, maybe it will give others the comfort or confidence to come out as well, whether they are playing or retiring," Hill said.

NBA commissioner David Stern said a player's sexuality wasn't important.

"We have a very diverse league. The question at the NBA is always 'Have you got game?' That's it, end of inquiry," he said.

LeBron James, however, said he didn't think an openly gay person could survive in the league and worried about any players who have not revealed they are gay.

"With teammates you have to be trustworthy, and if you're gay and you're not admitting that you are, then you are not trustworthy," James said. "So that's like the No. 1 thing as teammates _ we all trust each other. You've heard of the in-room, locker room code. What happens in the locker room stays in there. It's a trust factor, honestly. A big trust factor."


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