Features 41 GLBT History month
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Features 41 GLBT History month

John Amaechi (born: May 29, 1947)
PRO Basketball Player


“I am gay, black, British…and I am now asserting my activism”

 

Esera Tuaolo (born: July 11, 1968)
PRO Football Player


“I feel wonderful. I feel like a burden has been lifted. I feel like I’ve taken off the costume I’ve been wearing all my life.”

Features 41 GLBT History monthJohn Amaechi (born: May 29, 1947)
PRO Basketball Player


“I am gay, black, British…and I am now asserting my activism”

 

John Amaechi is the first NBA player to speak publicly about being gay. In 2007, three years after retiring from pro basketball, he became one of only six male professional athletes in the four major U.S. sports to come out.

 

Esera Tuaolo, an NFL player who came out in 2002, said of Amaechi, “What John did is amazing. He does not know how many lives he’s saved by speaking the truth.”

 

Amaechi, the son of a Nigerian father and a white British mother, grew up in England. When he started playing basketball at 16, his right hand was nearly severed in an accident. As a result, Amaechi became ambidextrous, which helped him become a better basketball player. Amaechi played basketball at Penn State University, where he was twice selected a First Team Academic All-American.

 

“It was absolutely my ultimate goal to play in the NBA,” says Amaechi. In 1995, Amaechi’s dream became reality. He played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, followed by the Orlando Magic and the Utah Jazz. In 2000, Amaechi made headlines when he turned down a $17 million offer from the Los Angeles Lakers. Opting to stay in Orlando earning $600,000 a year, Amaechi remained loyal to the Magic, who hired him when no other team would.

 

Amaechi’s memoir, “Man in the Middle” (2007), explores the challenges he faced as a closeted professional athlete.

 

After the NBA, Amaechi returned to Britain, where he turned to television sportscasting and covered the 2008 Beijing Olympics for the BBC. In Beijing, Amaechi also served as a human rights ambassador for Amnesty International. He appeared on several episodes of “Shirts & Skins,” a Logo reality series, where he mentored a gay basketball team and shared his experiences as an out athlete.

 

Amaechi owns Animus Communications, a company that provides motivational speakers. He established the ABC Foundation, which builds sports centers in Britain and encourages children’s involvement in sports and their communities.

 

Esera Tuaolo (born: July 11, 1968)
PRO Football Player


“I feel wonderful. I feel like a burden has been lifted. I feel like I’ve taken off the costume I’ve been wearing all my life.”

 

Professional football player Esera Tuaolo became the third NFL player to come out.

 

Tuaolo was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to a banana-farming Samoan family. He attended Oregon State University where he played football.

 

The Green Bay Packers drafted him in 1991. A defensive lineman, Tuaolo was the first rookie in NFL history to start in all 16 games. His record earned him a spot on the 1991 All-Rookie team.

 

While he was with the Packers, Tuaolo was asked to sing the National Anthem for a Thursday night televised game. He refers to this as one of his most memorable moments in professional football.

 

In 1992, the Packers traded Tuaolo to the Minnesota Vikings. From there, he went on to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Atlanta Falcons. He played in Super Bowl XXXIII with the Falcons. After a season with the Carolina Panthers, he retired. In 2002, Tuaolo came out on the HBO series “Real Sports.” The emotional interview dealt with Tuaolo’s constant fear of being outed, the homophobic culture of professional sports and the responses of former teammates and friends.

 

In 2006, Tuaolo performed the National Anthem at the opening ceremony of Gay Games VII. The same year, his autobiography “Alone in the Trenches: My Life as a Gay Man in the NFL” was released. The book made Tuaolo a spokesperson against homophobia, particularly the unofficial policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in professional sports. He served as a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Athletics Foundation.

Tuaolo is also an HIV/AIDS activist—his brother died from complications of the disease. He has appeared in public service announcements and is a major fundraiser for Camp Heartland for children and youth with HIV/AIDS.

 

Tuaolo shares custody of his adopted twin children with his former partner Mitchell Wherley.

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