The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community remains a hot topic in the United States. Sure, there aren’t as many LGBT folks as there are straight folks, but you still have to keep in mind that 10 million Americans, which is four percent of the population, identify as LGBT. The LGBT movement emerged as early as the 1870s, but homosexual rights groups didn’t appear until after World War II in September 1945. The LGBT rights movements began to support bisexuals in 1972, which caused an uproar among some folks, but it is what it is.
It’s fairly important for LGBT people to come out of the closet. They won’t be accepted by everybody, but they’ll at least get a heavy load off of their chest. This includes NBA players and just athletes in general. The NBA and its fans may not agree with the personal statements the NBAers make about themselves, but you can’t evade the fact that there are LGBT athletes in every sport. Moreover, there are also straight allies who support the LGBT community, most likely because they have friends and/or family who identify as LGBT. There’s nothing wrong with either type of person.
From the first LGBT NBA player John Amaechi to Golden State Warriors president and former Seattle SuperSonics ball boy Rick Welts, you’re sure to recognize some, if not all, of the names on this list. Same goes for the straight allies you’re about to come across. Here are eight basketball players who identify as LGBT and seven straight allies.
15. LGBT: Kye Allums
Kye Allums isn’t in the NBA, but he’s best known as a transgender pioneer in the basketball world. He played college basketball for the George Washington Colonials women’s basketball team at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Fun fact: Allums’ first nickname is “Kay Kay,” which was given by his former teammates at GWU. He later asked his friends and family to call him “Kye.”
Allums came out as a transgender male in 2010. He told outsports.com, “My biological sex is female, which makes me a transgender male.”
Allums also made a name for himself in the academic world. He graduated from GWU with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 2011. However, he did attempt to take his own life after ESPN published a controversial story on transgender athletes. That’s not a good thing at all. But negative things happen and all you can do is deal with the outside noise with the best of your abilities and move on with your life.
14. Straight Ally: Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant isn’t just a superstar forward who plays for the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Durant is normal like the rest of us. He has mentioned that his hobbies include playing video games. He also has a close relationship with his mother, Wanda, which was well-documented in the Lifetime movie The Real MVP: The Wanda Pratt Story.
Durant participates in a variety of philanthropic causes. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the 29-year-old tweeted his support for the NBA marching in the LGBT Pride Parade in New York City earlier this year. He seems to care about the people, no matter what your background is.
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) June 25, 2017
It was a refreshing sight to see because the NBA often provides game updates or shocking fights, but not enough of the NBAers who continue to be down-to-earth since they haven’t forgotten where they came from. Good move by Durant. Keep doing great things.
13. LGBT: Rick Welts
To add onto the topic of the Warriors, president Rick Welts came out as gay in an interview with the New York Times in 2011. Welts has never played in the NBA, but he has worked as a ball boy for the then-Seattle SuperSonics before becoming a director of public directions when the SuperSonics won their only NBA championship in 1979. Welts later worked in some of the NBA’s offices and eventually rose to become an executive.
The fact that Welts came out in a time where LGBT politics were just getting started was really courageous of him because he had the guts to speak out about something like that. And, of course, Durant tweeted his support for him in the last tweet we shared with you in his section above. Homophobia is something that shouldn’t have a place in sports because LGBT folks can be fans, media members, employees and executives too.
12. Straight Ally: Adam Silver
You may not like NBA commissioner Adam Silver, but you can’t deny that he believes in equal rights for all. This includes females as well as the LGBT community. He doesn’t seem to care what others think. He’ll believe what he thinks is right. That’s the right mindset to have when you work a high-profile position in the sports world.
Silver was one of the NBA attendees at the LGBT Pride Parade in NYC. He was spotted wearing a black t-shirt with a rainbow heart that said “#OrlandoUnites.” We, as a country, need to unite and not just because of the tragic gay nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, that occurred last summer. Maybe you can follow by example and try to accept your LGBT neighbors, friends and relatives if you haven’t already done so.
11. LGBT: Travon Free
Travon Free is another example of a “what if.” The Los Angeles Times described Free as “the team’s best player” in 2002 when he started playing basketball at Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif. However, Free chose to stay local and played college basketball for the California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). Free had his chances to earn a starting role, despite the struggling program. Unfortunately, injuries like a torn meniscus in his right knee halted his dreams of playing in the NBA, and he apparently didn’t want to play overseas.
Free made headlines in 2011 when he came out as bisexual. He was one of the few Division I men’s basketball players who have came out. Even in the NCAA, the topic of sexuality isn’t much of a cultural norm, so he was a brave soul to admit something that big.
Now, Free writes for the late night news satire show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS. Free previously wrote for the Daily Show on Comedy Central and Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons on HBO. Free won an Emmy Award for his work on the Daily Show in 2015.
10. Straight Ally: Charles Barkley
Inside the NBA analyst and former NBA player Charles Barkley is a household name. Aside from working as an analyst, Barkley is known for his compulsive gambling and lost nearly $10 million at one point. Even though he’s 75% black, Barkley apparently doesn’t care about his fellow black brothers and sisters out there.
But Barkley has been a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage and rights. In 2011, Barkley took some time to talk about anti-LGBT discrimination before a game between the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic. Barkley told advocate.com, “You know, people try to make it about black and white. He talked about equality for every man, every woman. We have a thing going on now — people discriminating against homosexuality in this country. I love the homosexual people. God bless the gay people. They are great people.”
9. LGBT: Derrick Gordon
As you can see, former NCAA basketball player Derrick Gordon is wearing a black customized Nike t-shirt with the hashtag “#BeTrue” written in rainbow letters. Gordon played college basketball for Western Kentucky (2011-12), UMass (2013-15) and Seton Hall (2015-16). He graduated from UMass in 2015.
Gordon never made it to the NBA, but he has cited retired NBAer Jason Collins as his primary inspiration in the coming out process. His family reportedly had mixed emotions towards the announcement, but he still changed the game, becoming the first Division I men’s basketball player to come out as gay and play in games. He also received praise from Collins and former NFL defensive end Michael Sam, who became the first openly gay football player.
Although it’s unclear why Gordon made NCAA history and then suddenly stepped out of the limelight, he has made a slight difference in helping young LGBT men and women realize that they’re not wrong for being the way they were.
8. Straight Ally: Kenneth Faried
Denver Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried has been a gay rights supporter for a long time. Growing up, the 28-year-old was raised by two mothers in Newark, New Jersey. His biological father is Kenneth Lewis.
In 2013, Faried partnered with a LGBT advocacy group called One Colorado. He reportedly pushed for the legalization of civil unions in Colo. He told Rolling Stone, “A lot of people [are] saying civil union…I don’t like it being called that because I can get married to a female and it can be called a marriage. Why can’t a female be married to a female and male be married to a male and it be called a marriage? You still have the same thing, same love and happiness.”
7. LGBT: Josh Selby
Josh Selby last played for Maccabi Kiryat Gat of the Israeli Premier League. Selby was selected by the Memphis Grizzlies with the 49th overall pick in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft. He played for the Kansas Jayhawks in the 2011-12 NCAA season.
In 2011, rumors surfaced, claiming that Selby was gay after an alleged email to another man was leaked. The email reportedly contained suggestive photos and text. Selby later denied those claims, saying “Bruh, I am just curious, not gay.” He can continue to deny the claims, but he still said that he was just curious, so that’s likely the sexual orientation in which he identifies as. If he has romantic feelings to both men and women, that shouldn’t be our issue because he was basically born that way. But, as fans, all we can do is speculate and see what happens next in this mini saga featuring constant denial.
6. Straight Ally: Steve Nash
When then-Phoenix Suns president and CEO Rick Welts came out as gay in May 2011, former NBA point guard Steve Nash pledged his support in favor of the LGBT community. Moreover, Welts became the first active executive in American’s four major sports leagues to do so.
Shortly after Welts’ scandalous announcement, Nash made a video for the New Yorkers for Marriage Equality campaign. Nash said in the video, “A growing number of professional athletes are speaking out in support of gay and lesbian couples getting married, I’m proud to be one of them.”
Nash is an all-star on and off the court. Aside from his open support for gay rights, he also runs the Steve Nash Foundation, which helps children who are affected by poverty, illness, abuse or neglect, and creates opportunity for education, play, and empowerment, in Phoenix, Arizona, and British Columbia, Canada. He seems to care about people who have to deal with personal issues.
5. LGBT: Jason Collins
Jason Collins is a retired NBA player who played 13 seasons in the league. He played college basketball for Stanford University, where he was named an All-American in the 2000-01 season before being selected by the Houston Rockets with the 18th overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft.
After the 2012-13 NBA season came to an end, Collins came out as gay. He was previously in an eight-year relationship with former WNBA player Carolyn Moos, who he popped the question to, but called off their wedding in 2009.
Collins was the first active male athlete from a professional North American sports league to publicly come out. He was featured in the cover story of Sports Illustrated on May 6, 2013. He also wrote that he wished to maintain his privacy and confirmed that he wasn’t in a relationship at the time. He later chose to retire No. 98 to honor the murder of the late University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was gay.
4. Straight Ally: John Salley
John Salley is a talk show host and former NBA player. Salley was the first player in league history to play on three different championship-winning teams (Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers), where he captured four championships. Aside from Tim Duncan, he was the other player to win a championship in three different decades.
Salley made a new career out of mouthing off for the television, but he dropped the trash talk for some decisive words to support same-sex marriage during an appearance on Good Day LA in 2010. He told Good Day LA, “I think gay marriage, same-sex marriage is important…Let them go through what we go through.” We thought it was pretty funny how he also mentioned the not-so-glamorous side of marriage. Salley also appeared alongside his fellow Lakers teammate Rick Fox on RuPaul’s Drag Race, which was likely another form of support towards the LGBT community.
3. LGBT: Will Sheridan
Will Sheridan is a former NCAA basketball player who played for Villanova University from 2003 to 2007. After his college graduation, Sheridan traveled to Italy to play for the Italian Basketball League before returning to the United States to pursue a career in music.
Sheridan apparently decided to not play in the NBA, which is perfectly fine. He still made a statement in a kind of close-minded world. In his freshman year at Villanova, he first came out as gay to his teammate and roommate Mike Villa before confessing to his parents three months later. All his teammates knew about his sexual orientation, but kept a wall of silence, deciding to opt for team unity instead of possible discord. He later admitted his orientation in an interview with Dana O’Neil of ESPN.com.
2. Straight Ally: Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili is an Argentine and Italian NBA player of Marchesan descent. He has played for the San Antonio Spurs since 2002. He’s married to a fellow Argentine named Marianela Orono, who gave birth to three sons (including one set of twin boys). There’s no doubt that he’s a talented veteran guard who appears to be a family man.
When Argentina became the first South American country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2010, Ginobili showed his support towards his home country’s decision. He told The Big Lead of USA TODAY Sports, “I am all for marriage. I think we all have the same rights. Although in reality with regard to adoption do not feel able to give an opinion.” He’s definitely a supporter of same-sex marriage, and while we don’t know how he really feels about the adoption part of such marriages, at least he’s open-minded.
1. LGBT: John Amaechi
John Amaechi, an English retired NBA player, deserves to be at the top of this list. Amaechi was the first former NBAer to publicly come out as gay after retiring from the league. He made this not-so-simple decision in his 2007 memoir titled Man in the Middle. Since then, he has been regarded as one of the world’s most high-profile gay athletes.
Previously, Amaechi talked about gays in the NBA in an interview with Scotland on Sunday. He said, “If you look at our league, minorities aren’t very well represented. There’s hardly any Hispanic players, no Asian-Americans, so that there’s no openly gay players is no real surprise. It would be like an alien dropping down from space. There’d be fear, then panic: they just wouldn’t know how to handle it.” Things are sort of better now, but there’s still work that needs to be done.
Last year, the NBA moved its 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina, due to the state’s law that limits anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people. Hopefully, North Carolina will make changes to its current LGBT law, but all we can do is hope.
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