‘Now I feel comfortable’: Melbourne United’s Isaac Humphries comes out as gay in basketball first | Australia sport

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Isaac Humphries, a Melbourne United player, has been lauded for his courage after publicly coming out and becoming the only openly gay male professional basketball player currently playing in a top tier league, anywhere in the world.

In a social media video shot in the locker room in front of his teammates and through a statement released by his club on Wednesday morning, the 24-year-old centre announced he is gay, saying he had been through “extremely dark times” on his journey but is “now happy with who I am”.

“I have hidden something about myself my whole life, from everyone I love, and even myself sometimes,” Humphries said. “It is a truth about myself that I have wanted to deny for a long time, but now I feel comfortable in telling you all. That truth, is that I am gay.

“I figured out a lot about myself during this most recent off-season, and I have thought about this a lot. I knew if I were to join a team and start a season, I knew I would have to reveal who I am and not hide any more.

“I have finally come to a point where I know I can reveal myself as a gay man and still play professional sport.”

Humphries makes history by becoming the first Australian male basketball player, and first player in the NBL, to be openly gay. He follows in the footsteps of Josh Cavallo, who trod a similar path in the world of football 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-tier basketball leagues, after NBA veteran Jason Collins in 2013.

The Melbourne United chief executive, Nick Truelson, praised his “tremendous courage” and said he hoped Humphries’ bravery would inspire others to follow.

“Today is an incredible step in Isaac’s journey, and we as a club are wholeheartedly supportive of him,” Truelson said. “Not only as a member of our club, but as a person. This is a momentous occasion for him personally, but also for male sport on a global scale.”

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

“Isaac has conducted himself admirably today and over the course of his career, in dealing with what has clearly been a significant cause of distress and consternation for him personally,” Loeliger said.

“Basketball is a game that brings people together, and it is no more evident than today.”

Dr Erik Denison, research fellow at Monash’s BehaviourWorks research institute, told Guardian Australia he was glad to see widespread support for Humphries, but found the video recorded by him “heart wrenching”.

“Professional athletes should not feel they need to make the choice between taking their own lives, dropping out of sport, or coming out to their teammates,” said Denison, who called for more resources to be committed to driving behavioural change in sport.

“Leaders in sport need to start taking meaningful steps to stop the very harmful homophobic, sexist, and racist ‘banter’ that remains common,” he said.

Pride in Sport, an Australian national not-for-profit inclusion program, acknowledged Humphries’ decision to publicly come out would not have been an easy one to make, given those who do face potential discrimination, but said his bravery should be congratulated.

“His journey shows the unfortunate reality that many athletes face when they are not able to enjoy the sport they love as their true selves,” the national program manager for Pride In Sport, Beau Newell, said. “Like Humphries, many athletes self-edit their existence in sport and expend a good deal of their daily energy on hiding their true self from others. His statement highlights the fear that many athletes have in coming out.”

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