I admit that I rather enjoyed the Celtics’ recent 18-game losing streak. (So must many Celtic fans looking for more ping pong balls.) I do sympathize with Celts coach Doc Rivers, a Proviso East alum who was an informative broadcaster (a job he is likely to resume, perhaps joined by his current boss, and excellent commentator himself, Danny Ainge). My respect for Rivers increased as I read reports that he has been the only NBA figure to reach out to his former player John Amaechi, who just came out as gay.
“It was none of my business…It was brought up to me and you look and say, ‘So what? Can he rebound? Can he shoot? Can he defend?”‘ Rivers said before joking about Amaechi’s defensive shortcomings. “But with everything else, he was great…It was difficult for people to watch Jackie Robinson, and they got used to it. They started watching him and started cheering for him,” Rivers said. “It would be difficult for fans if the guy couldn’t play. That’s what’s difficult to me, nothing else should matter…Unfortunately, we’re talking about his sexual orientation, which I couldn’t care a flying flip about.”
I read Rivers’ comments after learning of the (admittedly) hateful comments of another former star point guard from Chicago, Carver High alum Tim Hardaway:
“I’m homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States…First of all, I wouldn’t want him on my team. And second of all, if he was on my team, I would, you know, really distance myself from him because, uh, I don’t think that is right. I don’t think he should be in the locker room while we are in the locker room.”
I wonder how Tony Dungy would respond to being aware of a gay player in his locker room. As Rick Telander notes, Dungy is speaking next month at the Indiana Family Institute’s ”Friends of the Family” banquet. Cyd Zeigler Jr. at OutSports reports that
IFI is affiliated with Focus on the Family, a rabidly anti-gay organization that has made it its mission to oppose gay marriage rights, among other issues of gay equality. Focus on the Family hosts a conference series called Love Won Out, which asserts that gay people can be “cured” of being gay. Among the group’s online initiatives is No Moo Lies, which claims that, because dogs can’t moo like a cow, people aren’t supposed to be gay.
Ziegler also notes Bears coach Lovie Smith’s comments about the prospect of gay players in his locker room:
“We don’t try to judge people’s lifestyles and things like that,” Smith said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We don’t get into people’s personal lives in that way. We judge players based on one thing: Can they play football? If you can play football, you can get into the locker room.”
(I wonder how many sports journalists are in the closet– and how teams and players would react to more of them coming out?)
There are more reactions in this TV piece– contrast the attitude of Amaechi’s former coach Jerry Sloan (and his body language) with the “no big deal” comments from Charles Barkley and LeBron James.