The former NBA star came out as gay in 2007 and has since been an advocate for LGBT rights in sport
John Amaechi says that while a majority of sports fans are showing a willingness to accept LGBT players on their own teams according to some surveys, the situation should be viewed in a far more nuanced way.
The former NBA star came out as gay in 2007 and has since been an advocate for LGBT rights in sport.
He recently appeared before a parliamentary committee in the UK and revealed that he had been in touch with Premier League footballers who are fearful of coming out.
"Right now, people are talking about 'there are no gay people in sport'. There are tonnes of gay people in sport and many of these people are out to their friends and their families. Many of them have partners, many of them are out to some of their team-mates and, even in one case that I can think of, out to their coach," he said on Off The Ball.
"What they aren't is out to random strangers."
Britain's first NBA basketball star John Amaechi after receiving his Officer of the British Empire Medal (OBE) from the Prince of Wales at an Investiture ceremony in Buckingham Palace, London. Picture by Lewis Whyld PA Archive/PA Images
While a recent survey of sports fans found that many would have no issue with LGBT athletes on their teams, Amaechi picked out one nuance.
"That question [in the survey] was about a player on their team. It wasn't about gay players in total. So what it actually means is that if there is a gay player on your team, the power of your badge will restrict your ire or restrict your negative expression. It doesn't say anything about it restricting your negative thoughts and it doesn't say what happens if there is a gay player on another team and I think that's actually the telling part. You have to be aware that there's a different impact," he explained.
And in the case of English football, he feels that the situation could have been improved a long time ago, given the resources available.
"They could do anything they wanted. They have access to the very best academics, the very best everything. If they were really serious, this problem would be solved," he said.
Having spoken to Premier League players who are LGBT, he explained that they are "out to their friends and family and some of their co-workers".
Amaechi says that the biggest fear they have shared to him is being "redefined by something they never had to work for" rather than their abilities and careers.
He spoke about his own experience of coming out as well as how society conditions behaviour and actions.
"You realise very quickly that many straight men, their head is on a pivot as they walk down the street. If there's an attractive woman, they look at them. And you suddenly realise that's the level of the control you have to have of yourself. You can never turn over your shoulder as a gay man in a crowd of men and look at another bloke because it's instantly recognisable as a behaviour they've done, just of a different gender. It's an instant giveaway. You've got to be careful about the pronouns you use and you also have to be careful, even as an eligible man, if you spend enough time alone, people start to think that's odd/gay," he said.