Sun. Dec 4th, 2022

Melbourne United player Isaac Humphries has been praised for his bravery after appearing publicly and becoming the only openly gay male professional basketball player currently playing in a top league anywhere in the world.

The 24-year-old center said he was going through “extremely dark times”, revealing that he is gay in a social media video taken in front of his teammates in the locker room on Wednesday morning and in a statement from his club. journey but “happy with who I am now”.

“All my life I’ve kept something about myself from everyone I’ve loved, and sometimes even from myself,” Humphries said. “It’s a fact about myself that I’ve wanted to deny for a long time, but now I can safely say it all to you. It’s a fact, I’m gay.

“I learned a lot about myself outside of this last season and thought a lot about it. I knew that if I joined a team and started a season, I had to explain who I was and not hide any longer.

“I finally got to a point where I knew I could show myself as a gay man and still play professional sports.”

Humphries is making history as the first Australian men’s basketball player and the first openly gay player in the NBL. It follows in the footsteps of Josh Cavallo, who followed a similar path in the football world in October last year.

He is the second male basketball player to come out as gay while playing in one of the world’s top basketball leagues, after NBA veteran Jason Collins in 2013.

Melbourne United CEO Nick Truelson praised his “enormous courage” and said he hoped Humphries’s courage would inspire others to follow suit.

“Today is an incredible step in Isaac’s journey and we as a club wholeheartedly support him,” said Truelson. “Not just as a member of our club, but as a person. This is a very important opportunity for him personally, but also important for men’s sport globally.”

Humphries also received support from the NBL: League commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said the player had always been held in the highest regard by the league and stood by him after the announcement.

“Isaac, today and throughout his career, has acted admirably in dealing with what has clearly caused significant distress and bewilderment to him personally,” Loeliger said.

“Basketball is a game that brings people together, and it is not more evident than today.”

Dr Erik Denison, a research fellow at Monash’s BehaviourWorks research institute, told Guardian Australia he was pleased to see widespread support for Humphries, but found the video he recorded “heartbreaking”.

“Professional athletes should not feel compelled to choose between taking their own lives, quitting the sport, or opening up to their teammates,” Denison said, calling for more resources to be devoted to driving behavior change in sport.

“Leaders in sport must start taking meaningful steps to stop the very harmful homophobic, sexist and racist ‘pranks’ that continue to be prevalent,” he said.

Pride in Sport, Australia’s non-profit national engagement program, acknowledged that Humphries’ decision to make a public statement, given those potentially discriminated against, would not be easy, but said his courage should be commended.

“His journey illustrates the unfortunate reality many athletes face when they are unable to enjoy their favorite sport as their true selves,” said Beau Newell, Pride In Sport’s national program manager. “Like Humphries, many athletes self-regulate their sporting presence and spend a large part of their daily energies hiding their true selves from others. His statement highlights many athletes’ fear of going out.”