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Why Was Out Pro Basketball Vet Denied Entrance to UK Gay Bar?

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Sep 15, 2010
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Openly gay retired basketball star John Amaechi alleges that racism played a part in his being bounced from a gay club in Manchester, England, the BBC reported on Sept. 13.

Amaechi, who is nearly seven feet tall, had gone to a gay establishment called Crunch with a group of friends on Sept. 8, the article said, but was denied entrance into the club. According to Amaechi, the man at the door referred to him as "big, black, and could be trouble."

Crunch manager Matt Taylor stated that Amaechi’s claim was "outrageous and unfounded," and said that Amaechi was refused due to safety concerns. Taylor claimed that another establishment had put word out that a group of patrons had been "argumentative and aggressive," and that the Crunch doorman thought Amaechi’s group might have been the same one that had caused trouble elsewhere.

"Whilst I understand it is upsetting to be turned away from a venue when on a night out, to justify a refusal of entry by provoking a racist debate is completely uncalled for," Taylor said. "Following a discussion with the staff that were present at the time, we are satisfied that there was neither racism shown nor bigoted comments made as suggested.

"Crunch is a large venue in the gay village employing people of all different groups: white, black, gay, straight and more," Taylor added, noting, "we do not discriminate on any grounds."

But the former NBA star is not satisfied. "I want an explanation of what happened--a real true explanation--and an apology, and they have not in any way been forthcoming with that," Amaechi told the news outlet. "I think when you go to the village or when you go to any venue in a progressive city like Manchester there shouldn’t be a policy on the door that says the way that you look means you shouldn’t be able to get into a venue.

"I’m going to pursue this through all the channels I have because when there are issues of bigotry we should pursue them very strongly," Amaechi added. The athlete also noted that while he was turned away, others from his party--local soccer players--were admitted.

American gay athletic sports news site Outsports reported on Sept. 13 that Amaechi gave voice to his displeasure on Twitter, posting the message, "I can’t believe it. I got barred from entering a bar because I was ’big and black and could be trouble.’ Wow."

The site also reported that Amaechi also posted a message at Facebook that he said came from Taylor. "Your group was stopped from entering the venue on Friday night as a message was received over the NiteNet radio system... that your group had been argumentative and aggressive to another venue’s door staff," the message read.

Amaechi commented at his Facebook page, "I just checked with Taurus and Via--they aren’t even connected to Nitenet! This man is a bigot AND a liar."

Amaechi and his friends had been in Via earlier in the evening. That establishment’s manager posted his own message at Amaechi’s Facebook page, reading, "Just wanted to add a point from VIA--John and his group were in our venue and were as always polite [and] respectful. I do not know John personally but i have a great respect for the amount he does for OUR community." The posting added, "I was on the nitenet system all night as well as my head doorman and i do not remember any messages that were connected to Johns [sic] party."

Amaechi publicly disclosed that he is gay in 2007, with the publication of his autobiography Man in the Middle. In a 2008 interview, Amaechi revealed that none other than openly gay actor and GLBT equality advocate Sir Ian McKellen had inspired him to step out of the closet.

Coincidentally, McKellen served as the Grand Marshal at Manchester Pride this summer.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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