John Amaechi claims lack of will in football to tackle homophobia
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 08/11/16 4:33pm
John Amaechi has rejected Football Association chairman Greg Clarke's view that the national game is not ready for an out, gay, male player and accused the sport of lacking the will to tackle homophobia.
Amaechi, one of a handful of Britons to make it in the United States' National Basketball Association, was giving evidence to MPs in a Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing on homophobia in sport.
The 45-year-old came out in America in 2007 and, despite a mixed initial reaction to his announcement, said "being out is better than being in: it frees you in so many ways".
But when asked why more British athletes from team sports, particularly football, have not come out, Amaechi delivered a damning indictment of the game's leadership.
"Fundamentally, it's about will. These people have access to all the resources they need. They could do it now. They just don't have the will to do it," said Amaechi.
Last month, Clarke told the CMS committee on Football Governance he would not advise a footballer to come out while still playing because of the abuse they would get from the terraces and social media.
The first and only active footballer to come out in the UK was Justin Fashanu in 1990. Since then, players such as Thomas Hitzlsperger and Robbie Rogers have revealed their sexuality, but only after retiring - a decision reversed by the latter three months later when he agreed terms with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Amaechi said he was "surprised" we are still talking about this but blamed that on "sport lagging behind society". He also claimed football did not treat homophobia as seriously as racism.
On Clarke's point that fans were not ready to accept a gay player, Amaechi was dismissive.
"There is always an undesirable and ignorant segment of society and you will find it on the field, in the stands and in boardrooms - I would say the percentages move up when you reach the boardroom," he said.
"It is outrageous for these powerful men to suggest that those who look up to them for leadership are solely responsible.
"We would not accept that at a school or in business but we are led to believe fans are feral and somehow uncontrollable.
"But tacit messages come from leadership. The lack of sanctions for sexist emails or homophobic behaviour, for example - that seeps down. These leaders are responsible for the tone they set, for allowing what they allow."