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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Gay and out in professional sports

With the story of former NBA center John Amaechi coming out in his autobiography, which is set to be released tomorrow, making its rounds in the media, it's important to remember that Amaechi joins a few other courageous athletes who have been similarly candid about their sexuality.

One such athlete is Esera Tuaolo, a former NFL lineman who came out in 2002, shocking the professional sports world. Now, just a few years later, Tualo is running a diversity seminar for 300 incoming NFL rookies.

"Having the NFL include me in the rookie diversity training is huge," said Tuaolo, who lives in the Twin Cities with partner Mitchell Wherley and their two children. "We're taking baby steps forward, but we're still far from getting the respect we need.

I was struck by Tuaola's desire for respect, rather than tolerance.

"I don't like the word tolerance," Mitchell said. "Are you supposed to tolerate me because I'm black, or are people supposed to treat me with respect because I'm a human being? ... I try to adhere to what the Bible says, try to treat everybody with respect and compassion and humanity, and hope everybody is happy."

For those athletes in the world of ultra-masculine professional sports struggling to tell the world who they really are, these two courageous men set a fine example.


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