Former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire says he would take measures to avoid a teammate if he found out that player is gay.
"I'm going to shower across the street, make sure my change of clothes are around the corner," Stoudemire said in an interview with Israeli website Walla Sport. "And I'm going to drive -- take a different route to the gym."
Asked if he was joking, Stoudemire responded, "I mean, there's always a truth within a joke."
Stoudemire is playing for Hapoel Jerusalem in the Israeli Premier League. Some teammates interviewed for the piece said they "wouldn't have an issue" with a gay teammate.
While he was playing for the Knicks, Stoudemire was fined $50,000 after he tweeted a gay slur at another user during the 2012 offseason.
At the time of the fine, Stoudemire issued an apology through a statement.
"I am a huge supporter of civil rights for all people," he said. "I am disappointed in myself for my statement to a fan. I should have known better and there is no excuse."
[Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.]
Fifteen years ago, when Suns rookie Amar’e Stoudemire moved into his first Phoenix home, a neighbor welcomed him with a plate of cookies. Unsure of how to respond, the 19-year-old improvised and delivered a pair of signed basketball shoes.
If only Stoudemire continued to react with such tact.
The former NBA player’s comments Tuesday that he would “shower across the street” if he learned a teammate was gay was further proof that we’re a society still struggling to adapt to the more-transparent face of pro sports, one that includes gay athletes, officials and administrators.
It’s time to trade the vitriol for compassion, ignorance for education, hysteria for patience.
Few feel comfortable discussing the reality: Gay athletes exist in professional locker rooms. If 3.8 percent of the population is gay, as a recent study by UCLA’s Williams Institute suggests, then approximately 64 NFL players, 29 baseball players, 26 NHL players and 17 NBA players are, too. Even if the numbers are lower, it still says something that no active athlete in the four major men's sports has come out.
Dialogue is needed. League leadership should set the example.
At least the NBA has. During last year’s LGBT Pride Parade in New York City, the NBA and WNBA became the first professional sports leagues to march in the event, with NBA commissioner Adam Silver wearing an #OrlandoUnited T-shirt in remembrance of the Orlando mass shooting at a gay nightclub that killed 49.
The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers have held special LGBT events, but they are more the exception than the rule.
Locally, the Mercury annually celebrate with a Pride event and the Coyotes have held an LGBT night. In fact, the Coyotes’ Reebok Gray Rainbow Pride T-shirt is a top-seller among T-shirts on NHL.com.
But many other pro teams are hesitant to do anything. One reason is personal beliefs by executives. Some have told me such events are hard to reconcile with their Christianity.
An article in the Christian Post last year called for NFL players to “threaten a boycott if the NFL continues to be an aggressive tool of gay activism and an aggressive opponent of religious liberty.”
That’s the ideal example of an argument that demands discussion – civil discord, not finger-pointing and pejoratives. Both sides would benefit from thoughtful debate, but as the presidential election has taught us, passion leaves little room for healthy conversation.
We don’t have to agree.
We just have to talk about it.
And compassion should extend in all directions.
Stoudemire, who is playing for Hapoel Jerusalem in the Israeli Premier League, made his comments after an Israeli Web site reporter asked him what he would do if he learned a teammate was gay.
When asked if his comments were a joke, he said, “I mean, there’s always a truth within a joke.”
He later issued an apology saying he was a “huge supporter of civil rights for all people.”
His quick apology was important. People say dumb things all the time. It shouldn’t shape him. It’s how he moves forward that matters.
Former WNBA player Candice Wiggins found herself in the headlines recently when she told the San Diego Union-Tribune she was bullied by other league players.
“Me being heterosexual and straight, and being vocal in my identity as a straight woman was huge,” she said. “I would say 98 percent of the women in the WNBA are gay women. It was a conformist type of place. There was a whole different set of rules they (the other players) could apply.
“There was a lot of jealousy and competition, and we’re all fighting for crumbs. The way I looked, the way I played – those things contributed to the tension.”
The good news is this is a conversation we weren’t having a decade ago. And while many are concerned Wiggins’ comments are playing into stereotypes, we shouldn’t be so quick to attack her either. She felt something, perceived or otherwise, and it should be examined.
Former Mercury player Monique Currie, now with the San Antonio Stars, put it best in her personal blog when she said that if Wiggins “was bullied because she was ‘proud to be a woman,’ then these feelings are real and we cannot discount what she felt,” but also that “Wiggins needs to check her privilege at the door, and not group her very unfortunate personal experiences on an entire group of women.”
She added that “in my 11 seasons in the WNBA I've never witnessed the kind of bullying Wiggins describes in her interview. This does not mean it did not happen, but I'm proud to be a part of a league that supports inclusion and celebrates all players regardless of their race, religion or sexuality. We are a family made up of players that love and respect the game of basketball.”
Isn’t that ultimately what matters, that all of us – fans, players, owners – love and respect the sports we watch/play/rule?
Let’s continue to talk about them, With civility.
Reach Paola Boivin at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at Twitter.com/PaolaBoivin.