JOHN AMAECHI RAGES AT LACK OF DIVERSITY IN SPORTS
Administrators are ‘anti-intellectual and emotionally illiterate’
Former NBA star delivered conference keynote address
How do you get a roomful of mainly white, largely ageing, mostly male sports administrators to start shuffling nervously and looking at their shoes? Hire former basketball star John Amaechi to give the opening keynote address at their annual conference.
The first openly gay NBA player, now a psychologist who runs the Amaechi Basketball Centre in Manchester, issued a brilliantly crafted challenge to conventional wisdom that had one or two at the CCPR event spluttering into their coffee. “We are producing people in sport at the coaching level and the administrative level who are anti-intellectual and emotionally illiterate,” he said. Too often sport “indulges a hierarchy of bigotry” and promotes a culture of “rank anti-intellectualism”.
Amaechi took aim at the “raging blazerati” of British sports administration: “People have existed in sport as if they have tenure. Even when they disappear from one organisation they appear in another at equal or greater status. The status quo is kind to some people … It allows for the bigots among that group and the incompetent among that group to maintain power.”
He said that governing bodies needed to take positive steps to make themselves more representative. “You can’t wait for the dinosaurs to die. They’ve been around for 100 years, they’ll be around for another 100 if you don’t act.”
The chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, Gordon Taylor, who coped well under tough questioning, nevertheless illustrated how far the sport has to go when he admitted that he would advise any 17-year-old gay player not to disclose his sexuality for fear it would damage his career.