John Amaechi: The NBA is light years ahead of British football when it comes to dealing with gay players

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

British football still has a long way to go in accepting gay players, retired basketball star John Amaechi has said.

In an interview to the Associated Press, Amaechi revealed he spoke to fellow NBA player Jason Collins ahead of Monday’s announcement, where Collins confirmed he’s gay in an article to Sports Illustrated magazine.

“I told him there isn’t anything negative about it,” Amaechi said. “Being out is better than being in – unreservedly.”

Collins is the first openly gay athlete in one of the big-four American team sports to come out as an active player.

He has received an overwhelming amount of praise from US political leaders, sports figures and celebrities.

John Amaechi came out as gay three years after retiring as a professional NBA player in 2007.

Turning his attention to the issue of gay tolerance in British football, Amaechi said: “The NBA is light years ahead of football … There is no doubt about that.”

“If it wanted to be a better, more progressive organisation that supported diversity, not because it looks pretty when you put it on the back of your annual report … it could be,” Amaechi said of the British Football Association. “It has the resources. It doesn’t want to get rid of the dinosaur, so the dinosaurs continue to roar through the hallways of football, making sure that everyone knows how you have to behave.”

Alluding to the on-pitch incident involving’s Liverpool’s Luiz Suarez a week ago, Amaechi added: “Let’s face it. You are better off being the kind of football player who bites like a 5-year-old than a gay player in football. One would get you less ridicule from the powers that be. It’s shocking to me.”

Britain’s first openly gay professional footballer Justin Fashanu killed himself in 1998.

The next notable player to come out was Robbie Rogers, a former member of the US national team who had been playing for Leeds. Aged only 25, he felt he had to retire at the same time he made his announcement in February.

Asked if any privately gay players had contacted him, Amaechi replied: “Yes, a few.”

“There are plenty of them who are already out, who have come out to some of their teammates,” he added. “But they just don’t want (to in public). They don’t have any faith in football to do its job, to do its duty.”