In an interview with Towleroad, John Amaechi, the first professional NBA player to come out as an openly gay man, talks about closeted professional athletes’ responsibility to the LBGTQ community, his experience being openly gay and the Gay Games. Amaechi also offers some great insight on how honing in on closeted high-profiled individuals to publicize their sexual orientation does little to sway public opinion:
I think there are probably 5,000 mainstream professional athletes in the US, maybe 500 of them are LGBT, I just don’t think that is a key demographic in the quest for change. Some are “stunted” as I mentioned - not as many as I made out in that article in fairness - but I think it is a just a plot device we like to have in our mind that if a big enough star came out the fans would stop being homophobic, the family research council would rethink it’s policies and all would be well.
Instead, Amaechi, who’s British, suggests that the real reason why America isn’t hopping on the acceptance-train is its unique taste for discriminatory legislation. When asked about a UK’s willingness to accept LBGT soccer players he says:
That being said, I do agree that the open-mindedness and general acceptance of difference (especially LGBT) in the UK is better than ever before, even amongst fans. I think that many fans in the US already feel that way, and are simply “waiting” to be explicitly told it’s ok to lose the machismo, bullshit, “no homo” attitude, by enough people in authority, including current straight players, owners, etc. However, America is different from the UK in that you still suffer from people actively creating and maintaining anti-LGBT laws, and that informs the attitudes of fans: “if gays are banned from adopting in my state there must be something wrong with them, right?”
As long as discriminatory laws continue to pervade our judicial systems, like Prop 8 and SB1070, they will continue to foster prejudicial attitudes. But Amaechi’s interview does bring up an important question: Has outing anyone ever changed anything in the long run?