With thanks to players like Josh Cavallo, the landscape of sport is changing. Where it used to be celebrated as an intensely physical domain that celebrated toxic traits of masculinity like hyper-aggression and a win-at-all-costs mentality, players are now acknowledging that their place of work is one that needs to be open, respectful and most importantly, inclusive of all. Consequently, where sporting stars have long stood as aspirational figures of peak physical performance, they are now being celebrated for their human qualities too, including diversity and sexual orientation.
It’s why the announcement from Isaac Humphries, a Melbourne United player, who has come out as gay, is cause for celebration. In coming out, Humphries has become the only openly gay male professional basketball player currently playing in a top tier league, anywhere in the world. The 24-year-old centre made the announcement in a social media that was shot in the locker room, as Humphries addressed his teammates. The video was then released by the club, who has supported Humphries who said 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,” he 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.”
Humphries added, “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.”
Previously, NBA veteran Jason Collins had come out as gay in 2013, with Humphries becoming the second male basketball player to do so while playing in one of the world’s top-tier basketball leagues. However, he is also the first Aussie male basketball player to come out as gay, and the first player in the NBL.
As Melbourne United chief executive, Nick Truelson, explained, such actions take immense courage on the part of Humphries, and it’s hoped that in coming forward, Humphries’ bravery encourages others to follow and speak their truth, while also proving that in the world of sport, there is a safe space for all in which diversity can be celebrated.
“Today is an incredible step in Isaac’s journey, and we as a club are wholeheartedly supportive of him,” said Truelson. “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.”
For Australian national not-for-profit inclusion program, Pride In Sport, the announcement from Humphries is one that speaks to the changing nature of sport, as more and more players speak up for their rights and greater inclusivity. Still, it also highlights the discrimination that continues to pervade professional sport which can be detrimental to many, even seeing them drop out of sport entirely.
“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,” said Pride In Sport’s national program manager, Beau Newell. “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.”