My take on John Amaechi

February, 13, 2007
I think the NBA is ready for an openly gay player.

By "ready" I don't mean that everyone on the guy's team or in his organization will like the fact that he's a homosexual, or that the guy might not get called names by opponents on the court, or even that his own teammates might not chuckle behind his back.

But by "ready" I mean that players will tolerate a homosexual teammate or opponent. Like Charles Barkley said, some have been doing that already.

Just look at the comments made by players, coaches and Commissioner David Stern when asked about former player John Amaechi's recent disclosure that he is gay.

The overwhelming majority of comments have been politically correct, even the ones that were considered homophobic by Philadelphia's Shavlik Randolph and Steven Hunter.

Go talk to guys at an open gym in your neighborhood, and lots of the comments won't be so polite.

But America has become so politically correct -- not to mention that, in my opinion, much of the media and Hollywood are promoting the idea that homosexuality is a normal lifestyle -- that many players are afraid to voice their true feelings publicly.

Thus, whenever a current player comes out as gay, you will hear overwhelming support for the guy. And while I think Mark Cuban went overboard in saying the guy would be "an American hero," I do believe he would be embraced by a sizeable segment of the population.

He would definitely get marketing/endorsement opportunities, and some folks in the media would champion him and the gay cause.

Well, anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I'm not concerned with being politically correct. So here's where I stand:

I'm a born-again, Bible-believing Christian (no, I'm not a member of the Religious Right). And I'm against homosexuality (I believe it's a sin) and same-sex marriage.

But before you label me "homophobic," know that I'm against any type of sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman. That includes heterosexual fornication (premarital sex).

Some cats in the NBA run around, sleeping with different women in every city -- I don't agree with their lifestyles.

Some players run around, cheating on their wives -- I don't agree with their lifestyles.

It's all wrong to me and against the biblical teachings I believe in.

I'm saying all that to say that if I can play basketball with a homosexual, just about anyone can.

I've played in several rec leagues with LZ Granderson, who is an openly gay writer at ESPN The Magazine.

I consider LZ a friend. I've gone out to lunch with him, talked music, sports, politics and lots of other things with him. I greet him with a handshake and a hug, just like I greet lots of other guys.

By the way, LZ can ball. In a league in New York City that features several former college players, we both made the All-Star team. He was kind of like our Shawn Marion minus the dunks (though he claims he can still slam!) and I was like our Gilbert Arenas (high game of 39, thank you).

Anyway, when we play in our rec league games, I give him high fives and hugs. Same with one of his friends who is on the team and also gay. When we're on the court trying to get a win -- or in the office talking about a story, for that matter -- his sexuality is not an issue.

Granted, I don't shower with LZ after games like NBA teammates do, and I'll admit that if I had to, it might be a little uncomfortable at first.

But if a gay player just goes about his business in the shower, showing that he has no sexual interest in his teammates and that he's not "checking them out," I think the awkwardness would wear off fairly quickly.

LZ and I know where each other stand and we respect each other's right to believe as he does.

I know he's gay, and he knows I believe that's a sin. I know he thinks I get my moral standards from an outdated, mistranslated book, and he knows I believe he needs to change his lifestyle. Still, we can laugh together, and play ball together.

That's real diversity. Disagreeing but not being disagreeable.

For the record, I covered Amaechi as a beat writer for the Akron Beacon Journal when he was a rookie playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

I like John. He's intelligent, nice and you can have a good conversation with him. I haven't seen him in several years but if I saw him today, I'd smile and give him a hug. I think dinner with him would be a blast, with lots of great discussion/debate about race, politics, religion, Africa and yes, sexuality.

Since Amaechi came out, I've read lots of columns about being "progressive." The implication -- or outright assertion -- is that anyone who believes homosexuality is wrong is not progressive or enlightened.

That's where this thing becomes problematic, because those who hold to that view are saying I must change my entire belief system/religion because of your belief system.

Where's the diversity in that?

Those folks don't want diversity. They want everyone to agree with their "enlightened" opinion.

Look, I'll accept your right to have your own belief system and to live as you please, but I'm not changing mine. Diversity is not just accepting alternatives to what has long been perceived as normal, but it's accepting the significant number of people who hold to long-standing "traditional" beliefs as well.

Millions of Christians who follow the Bible -- and Muslims who follow the Koran and Jews who follow the Torah, as well as many nonreligious Americans -- believe homosexuality is wrong.

That doesn't mean they're unenlightened. That just means their moral code doesn't fluctuate based on society's ever-changing standards. As long as we're not being violent toward one another, as long as we can be civil, everything should be fine. We don't have to agree.

And please don't compare being homosexual to being black. I consider that insulting to blacks for a number of reasons. The fact that some blacks make the comparison themselves only shows how crushed our racial esteem has become because of America's oppression (witness our insistence on calling ourselves the n-word).

You can't hide your skin color, choose your skin color, change your skin color or switch your skin color back and forth. Some argue that you can't do that with your sexuality either, but there are many scientists on both sides of the genetic debate, and I believe a truly objective person would admit the biological evidence for homosexuality is far from definitive.

Nor has the Bible, the Koran or the Torah ever associated a particular skin color with sin (it was only racist whites who twisted the Scriptures 400 years ago who did that, never the Bible itself).

I'm not trying to get into a religious or scientific discussion here, I'm just saying that some people will accept homosexuality as fine and others will not.

Some will write me off as a bigot for this article, but folks, this is real talk. Unfortunately, we can't have real talk in America nowadays.

Whites can't voice their real opinions -- no matter how legitimate -- about race for fear of being called racist, and everyone's afraid of offending anyone. It seems the only person who can be openly criticized, or disagreed with, is the President.

How crazy is that?

Until we can honestly hear each other out -- and be civil while doing so -- we won't get anywhere. One thing I hope this article does is encourage people to have frank discussions about sensitive issues such as this one.

Here's the bottom line: If I can accept working side-by-side with a homosexual, then he/she can accept working side-by-side with someone who believes homosexuality is wrong.

If an NBA player can accept playing with a homosexual, then the homosexual must accept playing with guys who don't agree with his lifestyle.

Believe me, when the ball goes up, his sexual preference isn't going to matter.




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