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Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 19 April, 2015

Gay ex-NBA star says homophobic slurs commonplace in basketball

John Amaechi says he cannot understand the public’s surprise at Kobe Bryant’s use of the word “faggot.”

Image: David Zalubowski/AP/Press Association Images

AN OPENLY GAY former NBA player has said that people shouldn’t be surprised by basketball players making homophobic remarks – because it happens all the time.

John Amaechi, formerly of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Utah Jazz and Orlando Magic made the comments in an interview with USA Today discussing the recent controversy surrounding Kobe Bryant’s use of the word “faggot.”

The Lakers star was fined $100,000 by the NBA after TV cameras showed him shouting the obscenity at referee Bennie Adams who had awarded a technical foul against him on Tuesday evening.

Bryant later apologised in a statement released by the Lakers, saying that he had used the phrase in the heat of the game and that “the words expressed do NOT reflect my feeling towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone.”

However, such terms are frequently used on-court according to Amaechi, who played professional basketball from 1995 to 2003.

“I’m surprised that people are surprised,” the British-born athlete said. “This is common language when I played. It was an everyday word that I heard.”

I haven’t seen anything new put in place [by the NBA] to tackle homophobia. There’s no reason for it to somehow get better.

While agreeing that Kobe’s actions merited a fine at the very least, Amaechi was anxious to highlight the disparity which he sees between the manner in which homophobia is regarded compared to other forms of discrimination, such as racism.

“I’d like to know what the response would be if a white and gay player had called Kobe a n****r,” he asked. “My concern is that the penalty axed on that player would be greater than this penalty.”

And if Bryant is truly sorry – as he indicated in his apology – Amaechi believes that he has the power and the public profile to make a much larger contribution to the battle against homophobia in sport.

What I’m interested in is if you’re really sorry, that this is a one-off mistake for you, use the power you have to make a difference. That means a proper apology and doing something with his brand.

Good Lord, he’s got the power with one executive decision to get people moving and do something good here. Do something good.

Read more of John Amaechi’s interview with USA Today here >

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