Sports Show with rainbow LacesA couple of weeks ago, former NBA star John Amaechi dropped some knowledge on us.

He advised gay sports stars to take their time with coming out. I agree with him completely.

“For an under-prepared and psychologically stunted individual who plays sports at a high level to come out before they are ready is like being born prematurely,” he told the Manchester Evening News. “Unequivocally, being out is better than staying in, but those who do come out need support.”

Amaechi knows what he’s talking about. After spending his entire NBA career in the closet, he came out during an Outside the Lines special report on ESPN four years after his retirement.

Amaechi is the only openly gay player to address the issue of homosexuality in the NBA. Knowing what we know now, it’s statistically impossible to believe that he’s the only one. Realistically, he’s the only one who had the courage to come out.

I can understand why.

The climate of NBA itself is representative of the alpha male — lots of bravado, toughness, and male chauvinism rolled into one. There’s no room for homosexuals—that’s the current belief. Like it or not, it’s a lot easier for a male figure skater to come out than it is for a professional basketball player because of the image of the sport.

I play a lot of basketball, and I play with guys from time to time. Some still try to flex their muscles at me, so to speak, drawing lines in the sands of masculinity. I’m a woman, I can only imagine how absurd some of them would act if I was an openly gay man.

Despite the fact that he played in the NBA, Amaechi’s advice is still coming from a good place. He knows firsthand the whirlwind of emotional turmoil a professional gay athlete faces day in and day out. It’s not something to be taken lightly. We want gay athletes to come out in order to help make it easier for the rest of us. It’s a selfish reason, really.

Like everyone else, gay athletes should be given the respect and time they deserve to come out only when they are ready. It shouldn’t make a difference whether they can dunk a basketball or not.

They are still human.