Posted by Anne
1. An NBA player came out last week! I totally missed it at the time. John Amaechi — who is a big (6’10”) bald black dude who played in the NBA for five years and looks every bit the part. Hooray for more queer role models who look like mainstream gender-role icons — manly men, womanly women! Hooray for more queer role models who aren’t white!
2. But now another NBA player has gone on record as being agin’ it. This admirable forward-thinker, Hardaway, says:
“I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.”… [If there were a gay player on his team, he would ask for the player to be removed from the team.]… “Something has to give… If you have 12 other ballplayers in your locker room that’s upset and can’t concentrate and always worried about him in the locker room or on the court or whatever, it’s going to be hard for your teammates to win and accept him as a teammate.”
So I got to thinking (there’s so much here to comment on, but I’ll stick with the most obvious). I know that there are quotes like this from white baseball players and managers from the 1940s and ’50s. We can’t have black players in the major leagues; all of us guys know it, but I’m brave enough to say it. I won’t play on the same field. That kind of thing. Good company to place yourself in, Hardaway.
3. Interestingly, I went looking for parallel quotes about the racial integration of basketball, and discovered that there aren’t any. Basketball integrated earlier, and with comparatively little hostility among players or from fans.
The National Basketball League, a forerunner to the NBA, became the first major professional [sports] league of the modern era to integrate, in 1942.
The reason you may not know about the NBL’s pioneering efforts is because integration in the NBL and professional basketball as a whole came with much less fanfare and fewer problems than it did in other sports. Unlike baseball, hockey, and football, basketball was largely an urban game played by a diverse population on every level but the pros.
From what the article says, basketball was integrated in the early ’40s because the war made good white players harder to come by. But baseball didn’t integrate then, although the first rumblings came then. It sounds — from the wiki links above — like a large part of the difficulty came because to integrate major-league baseball would require integrating the minor leagues, whose teams largely played in southern and rural areas where racism was most acute. (Purely speculation, but I wonder if basketball was also less dominated by the racism of individual star players, since at that time basketball stars would have been much less known than baseball stars.)
Howls of outrage (13)