Friday, March 2, 2007

John Amaechi - Principle and a US Basket Ball Player (Retired)

I was flicking around the channels on TV a couple of days ago and happened on an interview with ex-NBL player, John Amaechi. He was doing the rounds of the chat shows for his newly-published autobiography, 'Man in the Middle'.

There were two things that prompted me to do a post on this event. Well, three if you count the post-script.

Of course, the fact that he had come out as gay in the book was great.

But the thing that really caught my attention was his response to the interviewer's question about not taking up a multi-million dollar contract with the Lakers early in his career. And his decision to stay with the team he started out with for $600, 000 pa.

Amaechi said the choice was a matter of principle. His first team had taken a chance on him and he wanted them to share in the rewards when his career began to blossom. The interviewer pressed the point, asking if it was not a risky choice given that a less-than-absolutely-top team could impede his fame. Impressively, Amaechi replied that what mattered to him was acting on principle without reference to outcomes and surities, or the possibility of others not responding in kind.

Now cynics might say that what was lost on this Laker contract would be well-made up in sponsorships, advertising work, public appearances, and so on. But promising careers do not always fully materialise. Among other things, there is the real danger of career-ending injuries. And a multi-mill in your pocket is mighty tempting. Plus the not-inconsiderable kudos of being in the Lakers, a childhood dream of this player.

So bravo and all power to John Amaechi, a real hero!

As a postscript, there was a silly response to Amaehi's coming out from a fellow-retired player. Saying he didn't like being around gay poeple, that they shouldn't be in the world (now what does that mean!) and certainly not on his team. No need to say anything about someone just making a complete dill of himself. If you ignore someone like this long enough, then they simply cease to exist! What was that bigotted player's name? Just can't remember!

So it was John Amaechi's bigness of perspective here that caught my imagination. It gives me an alternative way of acting in situations like this. I find I can react too strongly and too directly. And I end up getting all riled up and not as effective in my necessary response - be it a letter, and email, a blog post, a chat with others, whatever.

So again, thanks John. A hero and a big man.

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