Video: Ex NBA star John Amaechi attacks lack of diversity in sport on visit to UEL
15:25 25 June 2014
Former NBA star turned psychologist John Amaechi visited Stratford last Tuesday, to talk to students about the benefits of sport.
Widely regarded as one of the world’s most high-profile gay athletes, “Meech” was speaking at the University of East London (UEL), where he was awarded an honorary doctorate of arts in 2011.
Chatting exclusively to the Recorder before delivering his talk, the 43-year-old spoke of his own experiences, insisting sport can be damaging for many youngsters, if not run correctly.
He said: “Sport is an ideal place to build resilience, but it’s delivered in a way that’s emotionally illiterate, intellectually incurious and deadeningly dull in the way it’s taught.
“There’s a rare few who fit perfectly into the elite track, but the rest are wounded by sport and made to feel inferior. It’s especially damaging that we can create an environment for amateurs that would be so unacceptable anywhere else.
“If a child’s French teacher stood eight inches from their face and was screaming to them about propositions while their spittle was hitting their face, that would be child abuse. If a coach does the same thing, it’s forceful coaching.”
Amaechi made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic when he became the first and only Briton to have his jersey hung in the US Basketball Hall of Fame – just 12 years after first picking up a basketball.
The ex-Utah Jazz and Orlando Magic centre, who once turned down a $17-million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, came out as gay in 2007, a year after leading England to a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games.
He launched a scathing attack at the lack of diversity in the upper echelons of the governing bodies of sport, particularly in football.
“I would challenge people to understand that an absence of parts of the community is not accidental,” he added.
“It’s not accidental that the gap between men and women in sport is even greater than normal life or that gay people are apparently absent from male team sports, with one notable exception.
“Things are better than they were, but in much the same way as our criminal justice system is better than in the medieval times – it doesn’t mean it’s good or fair.”
“There are no black mangers. It will change, but the dinosaurs need to die,” he continued. “There are too many people comfortable with the way things are and don’t want change.”
“FIFA are about to make £3bn. If they wanted change to happen, it could take place tomorrow.
“But they don’t want change. If they did, do you honestly think someone like [FIFA president] Sepp Blatter could still run it? Of course not, he’s a dinosaur.”
“Football is particular and special in a bad way, because they exploit the expertise and abilities and skills of minorities and then halt their progress.
“It’s a plantation mentality where football knows where black people re good and that’s on the field, picking cotton, but they don’t want them to come up to the big house.”